Some of you know what an odd and wonderful musical journey I have been on since September 2011, when I accidentally attended my first bluegrass festival. I have written about it, I have talked about it, and I have positively baffled my friends with my discovery and subsequent fanaticism about this music.
What is so great about Bluegrass?
Collaboration. Mutual respect and admiration of musical greatness. Willingness to peek, grasp, and sometimes grab giant fistfulls of earth from outside the genre proper and mold it into something new and magical. Talent. Passion.
These are the things I see when I see live bluegrass shows. I have seen one of the best fiddle players ever just stand and stare, amazed, as Bela Fleck played a banjo solo.
So, now I have gotten to the stage in my fanaticism that I am actively seeking out live shows and festivals. I want in. This is my music. These are my people. They get what I get out of it.
And somehow, in all of this, one of the least likely bands ever reached out and grabbed my ankle as I tried to sneak by. I don’t like music that has “too much jamming.” I never was one for jam bands. Ever. Ask anyone, really.
So, imagine Mr. Thor’s surprise when I stood through my first Railroad Earth show, mouth half open. Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried. Sometimes I clapped my hands and closed my eyes. I have never heard music like this. I have never heard songs like this. I have never seen artists split themselves open on stage night after night and pour out what this band pours out.
They don’t fit into the tidy little slot created by the word “bluegrass.” But then again, neither do my other top contenders. They get served with bluegrass. If bluegrass is a backyard barbeque, Railroad Earth is that exotic but delicious dish that your new neighbors brought and you’re SO GLAD you tried.
They certainly aren’t the potato salad.
I have seen them late at night, I have seen them two nights in a row, multiple times. I drove 5 hours and burned an entire weekend to see one show of theirs. I recently went to see them in Lancaster, then Baltimore – two nights in a row.
It seems that I am planning my life around Railroad Earth concerts.
Right now, I am looking forward to this: in July, I will go to Colorado for the first time in my life. I will see Railroad Earth play Red Rocks, The Boulder Theater, and Belly Up. Three nights in a row.
They’re not the only band, but they are in my top three. This year, it works out that we will get to go to at least 9 shows, including one on my birthday. My brother has taken to calling me “hippie” and saying that I am going “on tour.”
I’m not though. I’m just living.