A friend recently wrote a blog post about the use of jargon to instantly identify participators in your preferred sub-culture. In her case, she was referring to nerdy lovers of "Firefly" and Broadway musicals (represent, yo!). I can completely relate, I've likewise loved seeing "RRT" and other shorthand on people's facebook profiles, and I've enjoyed discussing the relative merits of Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford and Sons with my friends.
So, even though I'm well aware that this blog post is arriving behind schedule, here are my impressions of the Railroad Revival Tour:
The Train: So Cool.
|Here's my own messy picture of the train. As you can tell from the lettering, these are some beautiful, authentic vintage cars.|
|Here is a better one. Photo credit to the good folks with the railroad revival tour: http://railroadrevivaltour.com/posts/alllllllll-aboard/|
Tommy, who arrived a few minutes before M and I did, got to watch the train pull in, with band members waving out the doors, windows, and back of the caboose. What perfection!
The Company: Awesome.
|Is this happy face or awkward face?|
The Crowd/ The Venue: Huge/Appropriately Gritty
|These are all the people behind us.|
Earlier this spring I went to my first "real" concert (i.e. not Jamfest, or someone I personally knew performing) to see Vienna Teng perform, but this was an entirely different experience- loud and huge and buoyant and accompanied by lighting effects. There were so many people, some in "railroad" inspired costumes, some in overalls, some dancing, some drinking, some smoking, some goofing off- all jovial. The mood could appropriately be described as infectious.
Old Crow Medicine Show: So Fun
OCMS, it seems to me, is a very regionally-specific band in terms of style and mythos. If you didn't grow up appreciating the nuances of Tennessee bluegrass, and if you aren't entirely sure that dating a girl who wears perfume "made out of turnip greens" is an appealing option, then you're not entirely going to appreciate how good this band is at what it does. But that doesn't change the fact that they are absolutely are great at what they do, nor that they are energetic, friendly and completely a class-act. They had no trouble filling their set with one great song after another, which is not something Edward Sharpe can claim. After seeing that only the front third of the crowd could sing along, it made me sad that they're not a more popular group.
They also were the band that suited the idea of a railroad themed tour best. They played the music that felt the most attuned to that particular yester-year, and included a song in their set about the tour and the train itself. Go team!
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Meh?
And here's the real kicker for me- when the audience was less than completely overjoyed with what was clearly a less than completely prepared performance, and some unpleasant feedback, Edward-actually-Alex reacted peevishly. He criticized the audience for not putting their "bleeping hands in the air", and generally acted either freakishly hyper or vaguely annoyed at the audience. And he kept asking (over the microphone) how much more time they had to fill- it created the impression that he couldn't wait to go do something else.
Sure the music was happy and interesting enough- and the moment when one of the band members, Jade, had her father come onstage and play guitar with her was very sentimental. But here's the deal: for a band that's supposed to be about happy feelings, and good vibes, and "Home"- with a front man who purposely cultivates the whole caftan-wearing, I'm-too-much-of-an-artist-to-comb-my-hair, musical messiah thing- I would have expected them to perform more gracefully and less frantically under pressure.
Mumford and Sons: Woah Daddy Hot Damn!
As a white person, a European mutt bred on American shores, I feel like I have very few "cool" cultural things to be proud of. I don't get quinceneras, or dragon parades, or awesome spicy food with exotic ingredients- what I get is music like this- that hearkens back to a scrappy race with a love of the fantastic and the epic, who fought and strived, and gave their sweat and blood to the American Industrial Revolution, who lent their somewhat less than legal persuasion to Australia and New Zealand, and who created an evocative history in their own Irish and British homeland.
Feminine Aside: really, Mumford just looks like he walked out of a black and white photo, with his boxer's jaw and rakish suit. (Excuse me while I pause to fan myself).
Anyway, sure, Mumford and Sons is a young band- but with some seriously multi-talented members (I love it when bands hot-potato instruments, don't you?), a front man who is obviously both respectful of his audience and really good at cultivating an evocative aura, a maturing, developing sound (the new music they played sounded like it was written for larger audiences, they're coming into their own and they know it), and some smart lyrics (re: Shakespeare above) what's not to like? Based on this performance, it looks like they are making all the right moves, example: can I hear it for the newly-added horn section? Plus they take this great story- this Irish/English inspired folk music, and wrap it up in South African, rock, and jazz influences and becomes something special, something unique...
Fine, I'll just say it, I love this band.
The Vibe: Perfection:
I am well aware how lucky I was to get to see this as my first concert. The bands themselves were clearly pumped to get to have such a life-changing creative experience, and it's always special to peak over the shoulder of someone who is clearly a master. And all of the bands, even Edward Shape, are clearly masters of the art of folk/bluegrass/rock/pop/jazz fusion. This train is truly bound for Glory (at least in the memories of all the people who saw it riding the rails).