Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

January 4, 2015 at 4:33pm

Words, Photos & Video: The Oly Mountain Boys live at the Franciscan Polar Plaza ice rink

The Franciscan Polar Plaza ice-skating rink crowd enjoyed awesome bluegrass and cold temperatures Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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The best music has never been about noodling around, proving what a virtuoso one is as a player, or simply trying to fill up one whole side of an album with a 22 minute plundering of one marginally interesting idea. No, the good stuff pushes the fringes of what had been heretofore accepted within the realms of popular music, thrusting it as far as possible into the arena of legitimate art. Like Brian Wilson did on Pet Sounds. Like The Beatles did on Sgt. Pepper. Like Ray Davies did on Village Green. Like The Oly Mountain Boys did on White Horse. Nothing like White Horse had existed prior to its release. The Olympia bluegrass quintet produced the first bluegrass concept album, the life and hard times of Charlie McCarver in Washington state during the early 20th century. White Horse gallops to traditional bluegrass influenced by the music of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs. The album, The Oly Mountain Boys' fourth, draws from the mildew and forlorn, straight from the Olympic National Forest. This is the best brand of bluegrass: energetic and thoroughly heartbroken.

Last night, The Oly Mountain Boys performed live at the Franciscan Polar Plaza ice-skating rink in downtown Tacoma. The concept of their concept album didn't sink in with the skaters. Why would it? The band didn't perform it front to back, but instead teased with six White Horse songs, among songs off their other albums and several cover songs. The skaters didn't carry Charlie McCarver's fall from grace on their shoulders. No, they skaters were busy falling themselves ... over and over and over. But, unlike McCarver, the skaters were able to pick themselves back up and continue skating in circles to the complex and melodic bluegrass these five chaps have mastered.

The Olympia-based band performed at the ice-skating rink as part of the Weekly Volcano's "Rhythm & Ice: Down Home Holiday Hoedown" music series. The Tacoma Art Museum asked us to produce the live music stage at the rink every Saturday night during its run. In conjunction with the "Art of the American West" exhibit across the street at TAM, we booked seven Saturday nights of bluegrass, country rock and old-timey bands. The Oly Mountain Boys wrapped up the series in fine style ... cowboy hats.

I shot a little amateur video last night, which features "Sky Fell Down," "Chased Away" and "It Rained For Forty Days," all off White Horse. The video also includes an intermission at neighboring Indochine.

The Franciscan Polar Plaza ice rink at Tollefson Plaza is open to public ice-skating sessions across the street from TAM daily through Jan. 11.

Enjoy a few photos and a video (above) from The Oly Mountain Boys live at Polar Plaza Jan. 3, 2015. ...


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Words, photos and a video from The Cottonwood Cutups' live performance at the Polar Plaza ice rink

The backstory and band schedule for the Weekly Volcano's Rhythm & Ice music series at the Franciscan Polar Plaza ice rink

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