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"Santa Dawg (show review)"
posted October 7, 2006 @12:36a
Tonight, I saw Grateful Dead's bluegrass cousin. They were a group of five, and they were infinitely talented. A mandolin player, a flute player, a guitarist, a bass fiddle player, and a drummer.

Tonight, I saw The Grisman Quintet.

When I got there, the show had already started. I'd never shown up late for anything like that before, but it ended up being kind of exciting. Everybody was sitting quietly, music was playing... it was like they had specially prepared for my entrance. I felt like yelling, "thank you for playing my theme song!" as I took my seat on the eighth row.

The Tennessee Theater is a pretty small venue, but something about The Grisman Quintet made it seem even more intimate. I had assumed there would be no shortage of talent onstage, and my assumption was correct. The way they played absolutely floored me. And the band made it look so easy; it was like their instruments were extensions of their bodies. They WERE their instruments. And for the first eleven minutes of the show, I had a smile stuck on my face.. but then my face started to hurt, so I stopped smiling... Although I never got a chance to see the Dead, I imagined that this is how they would jam if they were a bluegrass band.

What I hadn't prepared myself for was the energy. These guys were old, but their performance showed no evidence of that fact. It's rare that you see a show involving the word "quintet" where one of its members end up getting so into the music that he's on the ground, wailing on the bass fiddle like Jimi Hendrix. And the dueling-banjo-like exchange between Grisman and the drummer was spontaneous and genuine.

It was a great show. My only problem was that the guitarist's pants were entirely too high. About six inches lower and I would have been much more comfortable looking his way. But he's from Argentina, so he had a good excuse... By the way, his solo during the first set was incredible. He sounded like two guitarists at once.

...maybe his high pants gave him special powers...

What struck me the most was the legend of Grisman himself. As he stood there, on stage, with that one red, bottom lip parting that face full of white hair, his mandolin resting on his round belly, and that shoulder-length hair, he seemed as humble as Santa Claus coming to town. But with a history of collaboration with heavy hitters like Jerry Garcia, and his nonchalant anecdotes of appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, it was hard to miss that big man behind the beard.

A memorable artist is more than just his body of work.


Jason, long time man....glad to read you are still doing ok. I have always liked bluegrass music. Can only handle a little of it at a time, but it's in my roots. My family are not mountain people, but valley people, but boy are they country. And I grew up getting excited when my dad would whip out his guitar and play the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. His hands would be moving so fast I would always just have to laugh. I still like for him to do it to this day and I am almost 30. But I also love bagpipes too, so I guess I have a very broad taste in music. To me the real art of music is when you close your eyes and just feel it, then maybe years down the road you hear that music again and it triggers those neurons in the brain, and takes you right back. I am glad you experinced it at the TN Theater. You take care man, I will be keeping up with you thru the site.

posted by Tina on 10/16/2006 @7:56:48 AM

Yeah - even the Beverly Hillbillies theme song can be music. I have to be in the mood for bluegrass, too, but... to see those hands moving so fast is crazy impressive. Good to hear from you!

posted by Jason Wells on 10/22/2006 @11:13:49 AM
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