written by Dorothy St.Claire
The Florida run was wrapping up tonight, and with each show being better than the one before it, I must say that the expectations were high. Some of our favorite Kinfolk made the trek down from Georgia for this show, finally bringing more Kinfolk love to Florida. We watched the Falcons lose their sporting match, and I watched Eric go from a cocky sports fan to a depressed sports fan real quick. Oh, I love how much I don't care about sports! Eric changed his hat, and we made our way down to the venue. We hung outside for a while, reuniting with Kinfolk (ETF!) and just having a good time.
This was a hometown show for the Grandpa's Cough Medicine boys, and they played a ferocious set with a whole bunch of their diehard fans in attendance. It was a great way to warm up the room and get everyone real excited.
When it was finally Yonder time, the boys hit the stage with Jason Carter following close behind. We welcomed this slightly larger group to the stage and they started the party right with "Sideshow Blues", calling out all of the freaks. Tonight was not going to be a calm night, I could tell that right away. "I really enjoyed the sights and sounds of football today." Ben said as the cheering for "Sideshow Blues" died down. "It was a good ole Sunday in America. Here's a song called 'Town', hope you like it." Yes. I do like it!
"We'd like to play you a little love song we don't play that often cause you look like a crowd that's in love..." Hmmm, could it be "Romance Blues"? "but you like your loving rough." Ah, no. It was a feisty "Dominated Love Slave". They definitely don't play this one very often, and it's such treat when Dave decides to sing it for us. "Thank you everyone, and remember, love is pain!" Adam's "Long Time" was next, and I realized it had been longer since I heard that song than "Dominated Love Slave"! So good. Then it was "Too Late Now", and no matter how many times I hear it, no matter how much I try to convince myself that some songs no longer get to me, this one always gets to me. Maybe I can play it cool through most of the song, but once Dave gets into his solo and Ben changes up his bass line, I'm a goner. And then when Jeff sings "Sometimes you gotta hit the road to wind up back here at home" to a room full of screaming fans, that's it. That's the magic I came here to see.
Ben took a minute to ask us how we were all doing, but all that could be heard was this one voice screaming "River!" over and over again. The guys all looked down at their setlists, at each other, and out to the crowd, before Ben gave a resigned shrug and they started "River". I could tell they didn't really want to appease annoying guy, but the song was next up on the setlist, and maybe he would shut up after his song was played. It was a great "River", and I think annoying guy really liked it. It was time for Dave to play us a banjo number next, and he reminded us that "Banjos are for lovers!" before rolling into "Mental Breakdown". He was on fire tonight, and the combination of Dave and Jason on the same stage, playing back and forth to each other, was unlike anything I've heard. "I'd like to take some time right now and tell Jason how much I appreciate his plaid... Very sharp... Plaid bookends tonight, ladies and gentlemen."
"Dreams" was a nice choice to calm the room down and give us some time to sway together before the big end to the set. "Well we've been traveling with these guys all week, and we figured it's time - we might as well play some damn music together." Jeff welcomed Brett and Mike from Grandpa's Cough Medicine to the stage, and paused to say "I think the life raft has hit maximum capacity" as they all tried to find their place on the teeny stage for the storm that was getting ready to hit. "Death Trip" came in hard and heavy and got the crowd all riled up. This was a huge, 9-minute "Death Trip" that had us all holding our sides and panting for breath, but there wasn't even a pause before Jason came in with that wonderful hillbilly fiddle and slammed us with "Wheel Hoss". Holy cow. That's what I'm talking about! "Wheel Hoss" is always a welcome sight on a setlist, but this was bonkers. I was in the balcony for this part of the show, and was so glad I was because I got the best view looking down at the seven guys completely shredding it on stage while the crowd lost their minds.
Whew! That first set was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. People were partying pretty hard, and it was a constant struggle keeping people and their drinks off of me. But that's how it goes sometimes, and it sure wasn't getting me down. But all first set I kept looking around, wondering where in the heck Eric had run off to. I mean, the Freebird Live is a pretty darn small place, and I couldn't believe that he could be there and I wouldn't see him. Well, I found my answer when he found me at set break and let me know he fell asleep when he took his camera back to the room... and he missed half of the first set! What?! Silly (d)Eric.
I made my way back to the front (how? don't ask me) for the second set, which started with a laugh. ETF's friend had drawn a picture on Michael's whiteboard, and when she held it up, Adam showed her that he absolutely would not smile. But then he laughed. We all laughed. We all smiled. And we started the second set with some bluegrass in the form of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down". The mood was light-hearted and lively as this set started and yet again, Dave and Jason took over. "Welcome back everybody. How'd that bluegrass treat you just then?" Oh Ben, it treated us so right. He then sang us a John Hartford favorite, "Howard Hughes Blues". Damn. This set was starting off strong. "Northern Song" came in next and was beyond inspiring. I always love this song. The first half has its harmonies and the second half has its jams. But again, with the addition of Jason Carter on the fiddle, this version just soared above all others. I got goosebumps as Jeff started his solo. Then Adam's solo grabbed onto me as I bounced and swayed with each pick and bend of his strings. Jason's solo started soft and sweet before it swirled in and sent chills down my spine. Eye contact started shooting between Dave and Jason, over Ben as he so masterfully pounded out the low end, and then the storm hit. The music hit that perfect momentum and the crowd lost all control. As Dave took over the soloing duties, the goosebumps on my arms and the chills down my spine only increased and I could feel the electricity in the air, connecting all of us. Everything came together so perfectly in this song, and I blame Jason Carter. When the song ended, I looked over at Michael, and his whiteboard said it best: "Can we keep him?"
We got some time to calm down with the always great "Winds On Fire", then Jason's fiddle put some extra sass into "Cuckoo's Nest". This crowd was still fired up, and Ben definitely took notice. "From my perspective, it really sounds like you guys are doing a good job out there. I'm gonna sing you the newest singing song I've got to sing for you." I had my hopes up, and they were confirmed when "Smiles Like She's Always Been A Friend" came next. I closed my eyes and got lost in the song when all of a sudden the sound went out. The crowd didn't know what was happening, and Ben just kept singing while they all played like nothing was wrong. The sound quickly came back, and our guys didn't skip a beat. Pros.
It was around this time that I decided to leave the rail for more space and a new view over by Kevin. As I found my personal bubble and breathed in some not-so-sweaty air, I knew I had made the right choice. I took it easy and took it all in as Adam sang a crazy awesome "Jail Song", Jeff followed with "Fine Excuses", and Dave continued on with "Little Lover". Now, something was going on down front. I don't know what it was, but it involved some overly-rowdy folks, because Jeff did not look happy as he looked down at the crowd and said, "Hey guys, please calm the f*ck down, all of you. Just... what would make you want to fight in this situation? Is it the banjo? Is it fast bluegrass music? We're all good, man. Everything's good, we're all together in this. Right everybody?" Whew! Jeff then proceeded to lead us all in the chorus of "Sesame Street" to calm everyone before blasting off into "Peace of Mind". Things got pretty tense in there for a second, but like always, the music brought everyone back together. And it really came together when "Girlfriend Is Better" came in and brought with it a whole ton of funk. And when "Peace of Mind" came back in, it came back with a fury, with a vengeance, as if to say "I dare you to fight! I dare you to have a bad time!" But then, just as everyone was at the height of musical pleasure... the sound went out again. It was as if we were speeding down the highway and the car suddenly went into neutral. But as if on cue, we shifted back into gear and the sound came back right before Jeff came in, "Late in the afternoon, and the sun is setting low." Holy f*cking sh*t. Sorry for cursing. It was as if the universe just couldn't handle it and blew a fuse. Or maybe the venue just blew a fuse.
For the encore, I made my way to the back of the room to stand with Ted and Hines. Hines was not amused with the sound issues, and was just plain annoyed when Jeff pretended his mic was going out as he said his thanks to the crowd. He made sure that Jeff could see his lack of amusement as he maneuvered his little spotlight to shine on his face... cigarette smoke billowing up through the light. "If the PA system goes out at any point from here to the end of the show, you guys play the thing yourselves." Ben said. "You know it enough by now." They started "Holdin", and almost immediately, the sound went out. Ha! At this point, they were done trying to figure out what was causing the problem, and just rolled with it. In a couple seconds the sound came back, and I realized Jason had put his bow down and was picking at his fiddle. It added a whole new life to this song. They played "Idaho" with no further incident (other than rocking), and then sent us off into the night.
It was another successful Florida run in the books. We had four great shows. We had Jason Carter. What more could you ask for?
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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