Greensky Bluegrass with Spirit Family Reunion, Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY – 11/13
Driving to Southpaw in Brooklyn from the Bronx seemed like a good idea, but two hours later I came to the realization that for now on it’s the subway for me. The website stated that show time was at 8:30pm when the Spirit Family Reunion would kick things off, Greensky Bluegrass the main event of the evening (forget the Manny Pacquiao fight) would follow. At 9:15pm I got to the venue and figured Greensky would soon be taking the stage but fortunately I was wrong as the Spirit Family Reunion was setting up and about to get down.
Normally, I try to get settled in and walk around the venue looking for a good spot to check out the main act as the opener plays but this old timey/bluegrass band demanded attention; they sure as hell got it from everyone in the town they currently call home, as Southpaw quickly became one hell of a hoedown. Their sound can be joyous, solemn, stripped down and uniquely their own with out the help, or burden, of over the top electronics. “Take Me Back Sweet Anna Lee,” “When My Name Is Spoken” and a version of “Woody Guthrie’s America” attest to this group’s diversity and talent for being able to deliver a damn good time. The guys and gal ended things with a call for everyone to join in on “I’ll Find A Way” which soon found the entire band out in the middle of the crowd singing and playing. Although it was a short set, which may have been due to the late start, they quickly won over all in attendance and are definitely worth checking out as soon as they hit your neck of the woods.
With an abundance of microphones set up to ensure not one bit of sound gets lost, Greensky Bluegrass took the stage. One of the earlier songs in the set, Traffic’s “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” was just one of the well played covers amongst the night’s awesome set list. After sitting in over an hours worth of traffic to get to the show, some good Traffic was much needed. Wasting no time and offering cheers to the crowd, Anders Beck led the boys into “Bottle Dry” with some haunting slides on dobro. The song features exceptionally beautiful, rustic vocal arrangements delivered by Beck and Paul Hoffman whose mandolin playing is a real treat.
One highlight of the night for many of the fans that may have been a little unfamiliar with Greensky’s originals was the set closing duo of Pink Floyd’s “Time” and Peter Tosh’s “Stop That Train.” “Time” featured some stellar banjo work by Mike Bont and the way the band put their stamp on such a classic tune was quite impressive. I for one do not like to hear a straight up replication of a cover song and I was definitely digging their take on “Time.” “Stop That Train” was simply on fire and everyone in attendance had a ball dancing away. Mike Devol held things down on the upright bass, which allowed for some fine solo work by Dave Bruzza and Paul Hoffman. It’s clear that these guys love what they are doing and that sentiment translate to the crowd.
Set two followed after a quick break and seemed to be a reward for those that stuck around. Dave Bruzza can sure play some mean rhythm guitar and he didn’t miss a beat all night long. For the first song in the second set Dave would state a lyric and then a band member would take a little solo and then the lyric would be repeated until each of the guys had their turn. After tearing through the first couple songs they busted out “American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad. Paul Hoffman’s vocals on this classic tune were spot on and Dave Bruzza gave the tune a heavy bluegrass feel. “Can’t Make Time” was a standout for me. Beautiful lyrics and a sway that reminded me of a cool breeze, I truly felt that contrary to the lyrics they could make time slow down. “Head Above Ground” is a song that anyone can relate to in these tough times as the band reaches out to us all and asks that we keep on pushing forward despite the many obstacles we will encounter.
The musicianship through out the evening was flawless and this relatively new fan has now become obsessed. Anders stated earlier in the night that he never imagined that he would be playing bluegrass in Brooklyn, but we are all here to tell you that you need to come back as often as possible…better yet, come play the Bronx.