Concert review: Railroad Earth (with WhiteWater Ramble) brings warm Americana sounds to the Pageant, Saturday, January 26
“I look up at blue sky of perfect lost purity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me.” An influential passage from “October in the Railroad Earth,” written by Jack Kerouac, sums up the exultant vibe of Saturday night’s Railroad Earth show at the Pageant.
Folks from a variety of walks of life slowly filed into the Pageant with a contagious excitement for the entertainment to come. White collars, blue collars, old hippies and young hippies filled the venue with that certain pleasant energy that you can only find at a good folk show; where the small town ways of old take hold and everybody knows everybody and a new friend is just a glance away. Tall cans of PBR were raised in toast of life, stories and laughter were shared, and the outside world was forgotten for just a little while.
WhiteWater Ramble warmed up the crowd with a slew of stringed instruments and a drummer who kept a solid beat under the watchful eye of a giant psychedelic owl perched in the darkness on the wall behind them. The Colorado-based bluegrass band put on a lively show that sent much of the pit spinning into a swing dancing frenzy, taking them on a journey through extended jam sessions that included an intense battle of a pair fiddlers and a country-style guitar solo that could only be described as “epic” by the younger hippies and “totally awesome” by the older hippies.
Ramble’s powerful finish slowly built up like a locomotive and exploded into a good-old fashion hoedown. Upright bassist, Howard Montgomery, finished his final bars somehow standing atop his instrument, strumming away in a display that much of the audience, judging by the hoots and hollers, had likely never seen before. WhiteWater Ramble band took its final bows and received a boisterous applause, marking the end of the first act.
A concert intermission is always an interesting time to survey the crowd, especially after a set as powerful as one that had just transpired. People wandered around aimlessly, momentarily dazed and confused after the complete sensory overload was turned off like a light switch; the crowd finally realized that it needed to kill 30 minutes before their next dose of decibels. Some went off to procure more ale, others went to check on the Blues game, others reflected on the musical phenomena that had just taken place.
One group sat down in a circle in the middle of the pit with a cocktail placed on top of an illuminated cell phone, creating an almost campfire-like effect; an orange glow poured out from the glass and red stirring straw flames shot out from the top and made for a great way to pass the time waiting for the headliner.
Suddenly the lights dimmed, the fog machines raged and the air became a little more festive. An explosive roar of the crowd greeted the boys from New Jersey, Railroad Earth, as they took the stage. The Americana sound of some 27 collective strings — strung across a mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, violin and an upright base — accompanied imaginative lyrics and superb falsetto harmonies that reverberated throughout the now fully-packed Pageant.
The psychedelic owl came to life in an incredible multicolor light show that had the mural shifting hues endlessly; the display provided an incredible stage show along with the music. Andy Goessling’s banjo skills stood out the most amongst the lineup of gifted musicians, with fingers of fury plucking away woes and worries as the six-piece band merged individual talents. Railroad Earth’s songs ranged from a smooth, gentle sound that had the audience swaying, to ferocious newgrass melodies that energized fans; we could feel it from the bottom of our souls.
The sounds kept the audience moving and cheering late into the night until the final song was played, and the good thing came to an end. The audience members left that night with smiles on their faces and a great buzz from the show.