Saturday, November 7, 2009

20 Days in November - Day 2: The Infamous Stringdusters

We were real excited for our 2nd night of the 20 Days in November (trying to see one show each night until Thanksgiving) ; The Infamous Stringdusters playing at IOTA Club - one stop on their Nor'easter Tour. Evidently we weren't the only people excited. I thought last night's show was crowded; tonight was a mob scene. Another good choice; people understood the talent within this band. Its hard to say where it starts - possibly with bassist Travis Book who sometimes acts as a ringleader. Or perhaps dobro-ist Andy Hall; or fiddler Jeremy Garrett; or mandolinist Jesse Cobb; or guitartist Andy Falco; or finally banjo-ist Chris Pandolfi. I witnessed this band for the first time last May at Jammin Java and vowed to make a determined effort to see them again anytime they routed through the area. The opportunity arose tonight.

Getting back to the band's talent - let's start with Andy Falco. Besides fronting various roots, blues and bluegrass bands in the past, he played in Alecia Nugent's band, as well as some shows with The Greencards, before joining the Stringdusters. Andy Hall, a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, is considered one of the world's top dobro players - which Travis Book usually explains as "it isn't difficult since there's only 15 of them". Hall also just released his first solo effort, Red Wing. Chris Pandolfi also just release a solo CD "Looking Glass", which I hear more on Bluegrass Junction than anything by the Stringdusters. Not to be outdone, Jeremy Garrett released solo CD "I Am A Stranger" this spring. How do they find the time, recording solo CDs, while touring constantly. Besides being a great fiddle player, Garrett has a soulful voice which blends nicely into the Stringdusters unique sound. Jesse Cobb plays a mean mandolin - sometimes you wonder how its physically possible with that short neck. He's the next Sam Bush. And finally Travis Book solidifies the band with his upright bass and great sense of humor. Most in our party agreed that he has the best voice of all the members.

The Stringdusters seemed energized by the packed house - it was a far better performance than when I last saw them. And I thought that was good. What makes the band so fun to watch is that even with the individual talent, each band member takes their turn fronting the stage and then moves back to allow another. Yet when they allow room for someone else to play the center, the band members circle around to support their band mate from behind. Usually watching to see what there has to be a lot of improvisation going on. And not just Andy Hall singing a little "skat" - which almost made the band stop from laughter. What's strikingly apparent is that these guys are professionals. While two band members may face-off against each other mimicking each others picking, the others are still playing as if they were on center stage - there is no let down. You would think that most of the songs would come from their latest CD, The Infamous Stringdusters , but the only one I recognized was Get It While You Can. Instead there was a combination of old school bluegrass, with straight-up harmonies, and new-grass - jamming away. My favorite song of the evening was the 20 minute version of "Midnight, Moonlight" - I'm was still humming the refrain: "In the Midnight, in the Moonlight". After an awesome night of music the band surprised the crowd with a cover of U2 - showing that they are as much music fans as anyone else. The Infamous Stringdusters return to the area very soon, with a co-bill with Sara Watkins at the Ram's Head on November 18th and on December 11th at the 9:30 Club - opening for Railroad Earth. We hope to see you at both shows.

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