Concert review: The Deadly Gentlemen’s Ball (Peter Rowan, The Deadly Gentlemen, Joy Kills Sorrow, Chris Eldridge & Julian Lage) (1/25/2014)

Saturday night was the first-ever Deadly Gentlemen’s Ball, a one-night bluegrass festival hosted at the Sinclair right here in my hometown of Cambridge. The Deadly Gentlemen are a local bluegrass-ish band, and they were playing host and curator for the whole night as well as contributing a couple of sets of great music. The other acts on the bill included a duet of Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage, a band called Joy Kills Sorrow, and the Boston-born bluegrass legend Peter Rowan.

First up was Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge – I’d seen each of them separately (with Gary Burton and the Punch Brothers, respectively) and thought they were both excellent guitarists, so I was looking forward to seeing them perform together. They did a great set (maybe even my favorite of the night) with music representing a variety of genres (mostly on the bluegrass<--->jazz spectrum), some instrumental and some with vocals. As an encore they did a lovely version of “Someone to Watch over Me,” which I filmed in spite of a rather chatty crowd:

The next band to grace the stage was Joy Kills Sorrow, who have a bit more of a pop-vocal take on bluegrass. Another local band, they were all very talented musicians, and I especially liked the lead singer, Emma Beaton – I remember realizing during this set that in spite of seeing so many concerts, it had been at least a couple of months since I’d seen a band with a really great vocalist (or even a halfway decent one, frankly). After having kind of a rough couple of weeks at work, I was very much ready for a light and fun set of music like the one they played. Here’s a song from their most recent release:

The third act of the night were our hosts, the Deadly Gentlemen. I hadn’t heard them before, and they turned out to be a surprisingly lyric-heavy bluegrass band, with dense lyrics featuring a lot of clever wordplay. Definitely not traditional, but I really liked that aspect of their music. I have the feeling the majority of the 500-odd people at the sold-out Sinclair show were there to see this band in particular, as the audience responded very enthusiastically and seemed to know all of their songs. I filmed one of the tracks they did from their newest album, Roll Me, Tumble Me.

The final act of the night was Peter Rowan, backed by the Deadly Gentlemen. I have to admit that I didn’t quite make it through his entire set, although I liked it very much – I’d arrived at the venue at 6:45PM to get my favorite balcony spot, and they were still playing at half past midnight, when I left to catch the last bus home. I’m hoping I didn’t miss too much! Rowan focused mainly on more traditional old-school bluegrass songs (and some fun stories), which was a perfect way to end a night full of very modern-sounding and genre-bending young bluegrass bands – by getting back to their roots. Here’s a couple of songs that I filmed:

In addition to the bands on stage, in the intermissions between bands they had a few acoustic acts in the bar and audience area. I’m not sure how well that worked – it’s a cool idea, but since I was in the balcony I couldn’t hear one of them at all, and the other I could only barely hear in spite of them playing literally right underneath me (which is quite a strange angle from which to watch a band):
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Overall, the night was such a success that they were already talking about making it not just an annual event, but maybe something more frequent than that, which I think is a great idea. I’m looking forward to the next one!

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