Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

February 22, 2008 at 7:59am

Wintergrass review: Day One

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Wintergrassebonyhillibill A lot has changed since last year’s Wintergrass Festival: The bathrooms are no longer pink, there is glass art all over the damn place, and the carpet doesn’t make me nauseous anymore.  With these Hotel Murano factors present, my first night of bluegrass, banjos, and southern hippies couldn’t go wrong.

Typically there are bands and musicians set out in various areas of the hotel, and one must plan out what they’re going to see, or simply accidentally stumble upon it.  Fortunately for me, last night had only one stage open, and one line-up of artists.  The Weekly Volcano hooked me up with a stunning red “Press Pass,” and I was good to go.  I asked the innocent volunteer who handed me my pass what my limitations were as “press” and they gave me the answer I’ve always wanted to hear: No limitations. 

Hell. Yeah.

Wintergrass_sarah4 Wintergrass_sarahandaoife2 Eventually 5:30 p.m. struck, and I was stoked.  Sarah Jarosz took the stage and while she was at it she took my breath away as well.  As I listened and felt my soul sway to her voice, I tried to think of the appropriate vocabulary to describe it.  What first came to mind was “soulful innocence.”  Then I realized how difficult it was to describe how she sounded when actually it was how she made you feel.  This became the standard for the rest of the night.  You didn’t hear the music, you felt it.

The intimacy of the venue, and the wholesomeness of each performer set the night’s tone as an amazing one.  Aoife O’Donovan from Crooked Still joined Sarah as they did a particularly remarkable version of Tom Waite’s “Come On Up To The House.” 

Honestly, I nearly cried. 

Wintergrass_markandemory4 Mark Johnson and Emory Lester were up next.  From that set it was Emory’s mandolin solo that I adored. 

Wintergrass_russbarenberg Wintergrass_russbarenberg4 I caught up with Russ Barenberg backstage before he started his set.

Wintergrass_wineandtopramen By this time I had made friends with the backstage staff, and they began to find humor in my incessant picture snapping.  One of them even jumped up on me and scared me as I focused on a drum set.  To them I say: Very funny ladies, very funny.  While I was back there I scoped out the “Hospitality Green Room” to see what sort of special treatment Hotel Murano hooked these folks up with.  Lemmie tell ya, it’s nothing but premium grocery for our Wintergrass artists: Fine wine and Top Ramen.

The legendary Laura Love stole the hearts of everyone in the room, and it was at this point the party really started to happen.  With Laura included, along with the next two artists, the trio of bands were appropriately named: Black and Bluegrass.  That’s right, black musicians playing bluegrass.  I damn near had a heat stroke as my blood flow was drastically increased for the next three and a half hours.

Wintergrass_ebonyhillibillies After Laura Love, the Ebony Hillbillies made love to us with old school, down home dancin’ music.  People were up and out of their seats.  From corner to corner you could see waltzes, jitterbugs, and maybe even a little running man if you looked real hard.  These guys came straight from playing in the New York subways to our delicate green city.  One of the songs they so eloquently described as “ a song written by a French soldier walking backward.”  They were incredibly brilliant, and incredibly adorable. 

Closing the night out with the biggest “bang” I’ve ever encountered in a Hotel Murano (insert sexual innuendo here) was Ruthie Foster.  Words cannot even begin to describe how powerful her spirit shines through in her music.  I grabbed a beer, sat back, and put my mind into the groove.  It was the last show of the night and I was done chasing the story for you guys.  That’s right, I said, “Screw the Spew!” and let myself loose. 

Song, after song, after song Ruthie pulled at my heartstrings.  Laura Love joined her on stage and tore it up.  I’ve never seen a girl move the way she did, and boy oh boy, she worked that crowd up into a serious frenzy.

Wintergrass_ruthiefoster_2 Wintergrass_ruthiefoster6 Wintergrass_ruthiefoster12 For an encore Ruthie belted out an amazingly gorgeous version of “Oh Suzanna.”  I know, hard to believe, right?  You have to hear it for yourself.  This time I didn’t almost cry, I did cry.  I shimmied my way right up into the front row, and watched her face as she held back her own tears.  She was so lost in the music that she actually forgot the words.  That moment is etched in my memory, and I will never forget.

Who’s with me tomorrow night?

LINK: Weekly Volcano's Wintergrass Central.

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