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Friday, May 24, 2013
REVIEW: Wakarusa Music Festival: Infamous Stringdusters rock their audience, JAM on bluegrassPosted Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at 8:35 PM
Infamous Stringdusters -- the most talented bluegrass band in the country touring right now -- put on an amazing showcase of what happens when a bunch of young dudes who have clearly spent a lot of time listening to jambands play acoustic instruments and fairly traditional-sounding bluegrass music, but with slightly more modern lyrics: They rock their audience, and they really know how to JAM.
First performing at Wakarusa's Outpost Tent late Saturday evening, after several other very highly respected and well-loved acoustic-leaning and bluegrass acts, the Stringdusters carried the night easily as the stage's Saturday headliner.
The group's energy is almost unmatchable in any bluegrass act on the scene; its members are constantly moving around as they play, and they openly share their interactions with each other with the fans close enough in the audience to see their expressions -- almost as in a silent conversation with their fans and with each other.
It's fascinating to watch; but it's even more fascinating to hear, because it's simply beautiful music. And the Stringdusters are especially skilled at making nearly every song they play magical in its own individual way, using alternating crescendos combined with key changes and minor notes that make each song progression call out hauntingly, like a Greek Siren.
I have never heard a band so skilled at creating that elusive thing I call Music Magic, nor one who does it so often.
They hit the level of "Magic" -- in my book at least -- during three different songs on Saturday night.
After warming up with a cover of U2's "In God's Country" (off "The Joshua Tree"), Jeremy Garrett, lead vocalist and fiddler, attacked the melody on both counts with "Fork In The Road," losing bow strings in the process and setting the crowd on fire.
One of my favorite things about this band, the talents of dobro player Andy Hall, also stood out immediately as the 'Dusters began to let their skills really shine and have some fun.
Shortly after, the first Magic moment came during their song "Well, Well," with a centerpiece group jam featuring crescendo after crescendo that left me breathless and felt a little like climbing a musical Mt. Everest. It was unbelievable, and the audience went nuts, especially over the killer duel between guitarist Andy Falco and Chris Pandolfi on banjo, bringing the jam session to a head before the return to the second verse. Goosebumps are an understatement.
Then upright bassist Travis Book sang lead on a cover of "Walkin' On The Moon," very nicely done.
In between some songs, now and then, three of the five members would leave the stage and the two remaining would play a duet. Here's a sample of that action, featuring fiddler Garrett and Pandolfi.
The show ended with a song that never fails to produce Magic when I hear it, whether it's live or a recording of a live show: "Getting' Down The Road." There is a part toward the end, at the end of a great, juicy "jam section," where they start singing quietly, "Doo-do-do-do-do...," and their singing grows louder as they instruments do as well. They're always in perfect three- or four-part harmony, and perfectly in unison as far as volume levels, both vocally and instrumentally. Their music crescendos (I told you they are good at it, and they really are) and then they all drop off, the fiddle hits a fancy lick, and the song ends.
And in that first moment of silence, you realize you've been holding your breath, listening. It's something else, and like me, the audience was beside itself after staying for every last minute (and an encore) of the Stringdusters' two-hour set.
These cats have this down, and it is just awesome to behold. This show alone was worth the whole trip. No wonder they were nominated for a Grammy last year and have been regulars at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for five years running now!
Kristal's Northwest Arkansas Music Blog
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Carroll County News Managing Editor Kristal Kuykendall is a longtime music writer and live music follower in Arkansas. In addition to her full-time journalism career, as a hobby she has formerly has covered live music around the state for Citiscapes magazine in Fayetteville; the statewide Celebrate Arkansas magazine based in Rogers; The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas; Little Rock entertainment website Do501.com; LoveLiveMusic.com; KATV Channel 7's "Good Morning Arkansas"; and Nightflying, the statewide entertainment monthly; as well as her own music blog formerly located at http://mojo-management.com/kstarsmusicblog. With Kristal's Northwest Arkansas Music Blog, she now writes about live music primarily in the Eureka Springs and Carroll County regions, and includes major shows coming to nearby areas such as Fayetteville and Branson as well.
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