November 29, 2008

Crooked Night

Crooked Still at the Narrows Center for the Arts

Crooked Still performing at the Narrows Center

Last night, my favorite alternative-bluegrass group Crooked Still played the Narrows Center in Fall River and it was a blast.

The doors were scheduled to open at 7PM, with the show starting at 8. Younger daughter M agreed to accompany me early to wait out in front of the door, in the cold. We bundled up and got there at 6:15. We were first in line by about 5 seconds. (Technically, we were second in line, but a young lady and her mother fled to the Waterstreet Cafe for a drink after finding out the doors were closed.

The folks behind us were not dressed for the slight chill in the air, and there was a lot of goodhearted joking about talking our way into the venue early.

Ryan and Shanna arrived with a friend (whose name I sadly cannot recall) followed by Maggie and K soon after. When the doors opened and we all tromped up to the third floor stage.

We occupied a couple of tables off the corner at stage right, which were about the best tables that were not reserved. (There was one smack dab in the middle -- but only one table, so that was no good).

As soon as we got settled in, we unpacked a bounty of wines, cheese, bread, popcorn, and beer. Maggie got the girls hot chocolate from the concession as Ryan and crew tucked into the subs they'd brought.

The show was simulcast on WMVY and streamed online as well. It might be available there eventually in the archives, but I don't see it there now.

Here are my impressions of the performance: Most notably, Brittany Haas, their recently-added fiddle player, is amazing. Switching between a four-string and five-string instrument, she is a fiddle-playing powerhouse and a crowd pleaser. A perfect compliment to the group, I did not realize that she'd contributed to a couple of the songs on Hop High (you can hear some of her fiddle playing here and I learned that her fiddle can be heard in the PlayStation game Karaoke Revolution Vol. 4 on the song "Dust in the Wind"). In any case, we all agreed that she's a crowd-pleaser. And it was amazing how steady she held her fiddle as her bow seemed to fly.

Sitting off stage right, it was interesting to see her interact and coordinate with the new cellist, Tristan Clarridge. Tristan is used to working closely with a fiddle; you can hear his work as part of the brother-and-sister duo of "Tristan and Tashina Clarridge." Beautiful stuff. Turns out Tristan is also a kick-ass fiddle player himself. See (and listen) here.

On Tuesday, the group performed (somewhat lubricated by tequila) under the name "Solid Steel" at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. A fellow who books gigs for the band in Europe insists that "Solid Steel" is their name, so i guess they decided to embrace it for a night.

As last time, the band was great fun to watch, relaxed and cheerful during what must be a pretty busy time, right after Thanksgiving. Aoife O'Donovan's voice is almost like an instrument itself when we hear the band live. It's so ethereal, it's often difficult to make out the lyrics, but she punctuates the performance with emotion, from sorrow to excitement.

Ryan mentioned that he liked them better in person than he does on the recordings, and I have to agree. While I love the recordings, their live performances are energizing. I think Dr. Gregory Liszt's banjo playing is more enjoyable live. And the addition of Brittany and Tristan have improved the songs I already loved from Shaken By a Low Sound.

I was glad to hear "Little Sadie" this time, since Maggie was there and both K and Maggie named it as a favorite. They finished up with my favorite "Come On In My Kitchen" and the night was complete, but for one encore of "Baby, What's Wrong With You?" because when they exited stage right, they found themselves trapped in the corner amid a standing ovation.

If I had more free time, and fewer responsibilities, I'd try to catch more of their shows when they're around Massachusetts.

Beverage Report:

  • Ryan brought a bottle of the Newport Storm '08 that we found when we were in Sturbridge. He even brought it in the STEM conference bag.
    • Tasting Notes: We were told not to expect much from this year's offering. WRONG! It was definitely a departure from the usual special releases, I thought I tasted fermented honey. It was unusual, but not unpleasant. We'll compare it to '05, '06, and '07 in December. Yes, I still have 4 years of the stuff in my beer cellar. I only have one bottle of '08 and '07, though, so there may be some disruption of the tradition next year. We liked the '07 so much at last year's party that I think I opened too many bottles of it.
  • I brought a bottle of the new release of Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.
    • Tasting Notes: Sweeter and slightly more noticeably chocolate-flavored than the previous release. They've changed the type of chocolate, according to the label. It's noticeable. Also, I felt it had slightly less body than the original release. It might actually be more drinkable this way, although slightly less interesting? I certainly enjoyed it.
  • I brought a bottle of House Wine (red)
    • Tasting Notes: I like a red wine that you can open up and drink right away. This one was just that. I found it a little more interesting than the Red Truck Red I've been drinking lately. At around $10 per bottle, this stuff is cheap and a good accompaniment to the sharp cheddar and spicy jalapeno cheese that Maggie brought.

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Posted by James at November 29, 2008 1:12 PM
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Lucky you, sounds like a great show and a great venue! And thanks for the wine tip.

Posted by: Karen at November 29, 2008 2:50 PM

"The Wine Trials" called "House Wine" red "a dead ringer for a high-priced Bordeaux."

Posted by: James at November 29, 2008 2:57 PM

I found the archive links on WMVY's website:

I knew they had performed at the nearby Cantab in years past but I had no idea they still stopped by. Drat.

Posted by: Mike at December 11, 2008 11:25 AM

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