Free Grass Union, Fadeleys Deli Pub, Patchauge, NY – 4/20
There’s nothing better than some Free Grass on 4/20, Free Grass Union that is. With show time approaching, inside the venue was still rather empty as friends, fans and band members mingled in the pubs backyard smoking area. The assortment of brews at Fadeleys was impressive and the overall atmosphere was extremely laid back. Like eager fans with their eyes locked upon the stage, many of our musical heroes lined the walls trapped in time by an 8×10 frame just waiting for some picks to hit the strings. Looking and feeling nice and loose Mitch Erdman (Double Bass), Greg Butler (Mandolin/Vocals) and Kim Humphrey (Guitar/Banjo/Vocals) stepped up to the stage in the Free Grass Union Trio format as the remaining members Eric Morgan (Percussion) and Happy Cassie (Vocals) were unable to make the show.
Full band in tow or not, this crew showed up ready for a good time and it was apparent from the get go. After some comedic bantering (a steady fixture throughout the night) the guys opened things up with an appropriate tribute to the recently deceased Levon Helm as they played “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. Written by Bob Dylan and first recorded with The Band, Free Grass gave the tune a fitting little bluegrass makeover as it gently swayed like a calm breeze before the fury of mandolin came in like a whirlwind.
The first original tune of the night happened to be the first track off their first album, Circles. “Fishing in the meadows of your mind” contains all those classic bluegrass staples from the simple earthy lyrics, steady bass line chugging along and of course, some fancy-fine finger work on the strings. Not a group to over do things, the tune was short and sweet with not a note of unnecessary show(off)manship. From the old to the new, next up was “Be here now” which is slated to appear on their newest album due out soon. Dedicated to the two unknown new comers about to enter the venue, sticking close to the time tested formula, the number was another short but sweet gem. Kim has a great story telling, true Americana edge to his vocal delivery but don’t think that’s all. His guitar work is sharp and his runs are full of creativity yet focused, which they need to be given the fiery mandolin work of Greg weaving in and out… talk about chemistry.
Some bands get up on stage to play music and they take their role extremely serious while others seem to have crawled out of a week long bender and can barely manage a simple scale. Free Grass Union manages to keep the vibe loose yet play like they are at the Grand Ol’ Opry. The joking and stories in between songs were priceless and at times left you wanting more as was the case before the guys jumped into “Lost Indian”. Questioning whether or not the crowd was having fun Kim volunteered that he sure as hell was then inquired if we wanted to see Greg play fast or slow. As “Lost Indian” opened up it appeared as if slow had won however like the little engine that could, Greg built up some impressively fluid speed. Playing pace car was Mitch who is as reliable as they come on that big ol’ double bass and can handle the speedy tempos that his band mates like to run away on. Mitch sure had his work cut out for him as the song hits warp speed before coming to an abrupt end. Declaring that “this one may be a little more high than lonesome” they took to the classic song, infused it with some Long Island looseness and had the fans getting down.
Equally comfortable tearing apart timeless classic or introducing newcomers to their original repertoire, Free Grass Union have plenty of material to keep the parties going late into the night which they often do. They become tighter in a musical sense the more they loosen up and just enjoy themselves on stage and that sentiment surely held true through out the night as they celebrated our favorite holiday in fine fashion. Be sure to get out this summer and enjoy some fine tunes courtesy of Free Grass Union and you will absolutely be back again with your bare feet shuffling about an open green field at one of the many northeast festivals they are billed on this season.