Monday, March 24, 2014

Jeff Austin And The Here And Now @ The Cabooze

Jeff Austin and The Here and Now 3/5/14 @ The Cabooze, Minneapolis , MN

     After infrequently frequenting the Twin Cities over the past several years, Jeff Austin has graced our lucky presence twice now in the past four months. First, of course, with Yonder Mountain String Band at First Avenue, and most recently he opened the winter mini-tour with The Here and Now at Minneapolis’ The Cabooze on March 5th.
     With Jeff on mandolin, the “incomparable” Danny Barnes on banjo, and the duo of Larry and Jenny Keel on guitar and bass, the musicianship was phenomenal. The show could have been a class on how to dominate your instrument, play with passion and how to feel connected to your fellow musicians and the audience. It wasn’t super packed and with no photo pit it was very easy to feel like you were on stage with them. Aside from a few small audio issues with Danny’s mic, the sound was thick, warm and deep, contrasting perfectly with the crispness of Larry’s incredibly fast flat-picking. And there’s no way to experience the stage presence of Jeff Austin without being up close to watch him pour all of his energy and soul into his music.
     I won’t bore you with a run through of the setlist, mostly because it’s incomplete and not quite right! Even the stage setlist was a rough guideline as the song titles I knew were rearranged according to my notes. In addition all the taper shows available from this tour have partial setlists or no track names at all! At least I’m not alone.
     After starting with a few straightforward, more traditional bluegrass tunes, they dove into a song called, (I think,) “Don’t Give Me Up.” This turned out to be one of the two bust out jam vessels for the evening. As it stretched it’s legs with a heavy reggae backbeat provided by Jeff, Larry began using his effects pedals to add ethereal, trance-y tones. Not that I wouldn’t think it possible, but the shows I’ve listened to were by far not this jammy, and it wouldn’t be the only time in the show that things got out there, no this was just a precursor to stranger times.
     The other jam of the night was “Rag Doll.” Very interesting to hear it in a different arrangement than usual with Yonder. The mid-section of the song got very far from the core with heavy, dark riffs and experimental tones. Compare it to the jam in Mike’s song or maybe even a Free if I may. After twelve minutes I thought it might segue, but all of a sudden, out out the depths, came the chorus reprise. Huge moment for the night, every lucky person there went nuts. Again, fairly unexpected but definitely appreciated.
     These two were the big anchors coming in at nos. 4 and 9 respectively out of a 14-15 song set. Surrounding them were more standard bluegrass tunes, with duties of singing shared by everyone. Danny and Larry got their tunes in and Jenny even led one or two towards the end.
     All in all a great night. Fantastic musicians loving life and loving playing together. Huge thanks for blistering our butts on one of the last coldest nights of our nasty winter, we needed it. Feel free to stop back anytime!

audio link thanks to Tommy The Beard: