The Brummy Brothers, Mexicali Live, Teaneck, NJ – 3/21
Photo by Mike Geller
For any band, established or emerging, there are local venues that you gotta pay your dues at while dreaming of the bigger stages across the country. For The Brummy Brothers, the hometown moment came as they stepped up to the stage at Teaneck, New Jersey’s Mexicali Live for the first time to take part in the venue’s Bluegrass Festival.
With everyone lending their voice for the opening of “Wise and Jaded,” the band kicked things open right out of the gate. Defying the songs advice to “take it down slow, have a real good time” the song quickly builds up a good tempo, accelerated by a rolling banjo courtesy of Russell Gottlieb and strong rhythm section. The atmosphere at Mexicali was festive as it was a birthday celebration for two of the Brummy faithful, thus earning acknowledgment by the band and many drinks from his friends. Keeping the energy high and showcasing their impeccable knack for songwriting, they settled into “Manuscript Massacre” and all of its staggered, layered vocal arrangements. For the more open minded folks that stuck around the venue for the final act of the festival, the smiles were glued to their faces as they playfully danced and grooved along with the Brummy Brothers and friends.“Bottom of the Bottle” was up next, and being a song about drinking whisky it was the perfect reminder for bassist Dave Brumberg to encourage some complimentary drinks for the birthday buddies. Like a wall of sound smacking you in the face with dark growling vocals, the song starts off pretty intense. The whisky demons take over and demand that “it’s a whisky kind of day” and actually, it turned into a whisky kind of night as well with the drinks flowing from bottle, to the mouth and at times the floor. Three songs in and it was obvious that the wheels were greased well as the Brummy Brothers kicked things into the next gear. Intricate instrumentation was balanced perfectly against the fluid mandolin runs by Eric Brumberg and guitar leads of Andrew Morris. Up next was a very well executed and creative version of “Money” by Pink Floyd. The band’s ability to fill the venue with sound while doing the classic song justice was impressive, given the standard bluegrass instrumentation and lack of electronic toys. The tempo of the song was cranked up a few levels and lead vocalist Dave was right up for the challenge, as was everyone else for that matter as a flurry of fingers could be seen racing over their instruments. The crowd was stoked from the opening notes and as the song closed out and segued into “Weed, Whisky and Women” where those familiar with the tune were just as excited as they were with “Money.” Plenty of hoots were heard as the song declared that there is “nothing like being horny, drunk, stoned and laughing” and even more were heard as some serious jamming was put on display. With “Weed, Whisky and Women” you really get a sense of where this band stands now, and where they can go if they keep up the creativity and build on their already impressive fan base.
One of their more laid back numbers, “Cruisin”, came later in the set and although it isn’t as in your face as some previous songs it tends to satisfy on a different level. The bands knack at arranging vocal harmonies can be heard throughout and although there is denseness to the music, the tune has a very airy and open feel. A well-placed mandolin solo provides a nice break towards the middle and it perfectly complements the general feel. This is absolutely one of those songs that you will catch yourself humming along to even after the first time hearing it. Featuring a steadily rolling banjo and lead vocals by Russ, “Mountain Song” chugs along next, telling the tale of courting a girl from up in the mountain. One facet of the band that is easily picked out, even upon the first time seeing them, is the diversity of their sound. Although they are defined by their bluegrass instrumentation, they can deliver and stand just about any place along the bluegrass continuum. One thing they have a knack for is reworking choice covers into their own that calls for a reference to the Michigan bred Greensky Bluegrass.
An unexpected take on the Beatles “Day Tripper” got those dancing feet shaking, drinks spilling and crowd singing. The main themes were present and fairly reflective of the original tune but then the Brummy Brothers deconstructed things a bit and jammed like hell. As the madness ensued and built to a climax the energy was roped in and with all band members repeating “day tripper, day tripper, yeah” the song slowly came to a close. A brief, set closing “Sins and Lies” was a fitting way to wind things down. The song is very well composed and allows for a great deal of energy to build up as the repeated line, “All day, all night, everything is going to be all right, tonight, tonight, tonight,” settles into a soft song closing verse.
Not letting the band leave, the crowd demanded more and the birthday guests made their final birthday wishes known as they screamed for more. Perhaps foreshadowing things to come, they decided to come out and lace into the classic “I Know You Rider” as an encore. With their first gig at Mexicali (a Tri State Area mainstay) under their belts, the boys seem to have their good foot forward as they head into a busy festival season. For those fans who have their feet planted to the ground and can not do too much traveling, they sure will miss these guys when they’re gone. Thankfully, The Brummy Brothers carry on the tradition of many bands in the scene and encourage the sharing of their music via the internet. As a result, the unfortunate that can not catch them live can still shake their Brum at home, work or in the car as the band is building a nice catalog of shows on Archive.org.