But even in the chills of January, the inside of the Pageant last night felt nearly as perfect as that summer dreamscape. Railroad Earth is a band whose name is clearly justified by its sound. Forward moving and steady, the band uses traditional folk instruments to have a pleasant musical conversation.
Local act the Pernikoff Brothers were first to take the stage. Bringing funky acoustic sounds in the style of Dave Matthews Band, the trio invited attendees to leave their worries at the door for the sake of a good time. The group also hinted at traits reminiscent of another, more southern, set of rock 'n' roll brothers. Yes, that's right: Kings of Leon echoes expanded just as the crowd did throughout the set. However, it would take more than passing pigeon problems to send these guys packing. Their three-part harmonies were perfect and the crowd was wowed as bassist Rick Pernikoff blew an outstanding harmonica solo as he steadied an intricate and funky bass line.
By the time Railroad Earth took the stage the crowd had doubled in size and the familiar smell of cigarettes and beer had been washed over by a patchouli tidal wave. All six members of the band were miked and calmly took their positions as they waved to the crowd. Beginning with a smooth bass line and spacey mandolin tones the band eased into the night with a deep breath that would later be released in a shout.
Everything began to work together. The sights, sounds and smells meandering throughout the building removed the weights of the week and freed shoulders to sway along. From the view at the back of the bar, the crowd in the packed pit looked like coconuts floating on gentle ocean waves. These waves kept in motion with the music as the band transitioned from song to song and offered up both older favorites and more recent tunes throughout their two-part set.
Following their easy intro with fan favorite "Been Down This Road," the group's third jam, with its fast-paced bluegrass sound, had everyone "going down like bread and water" as the crowd pushed towards the stage with joy. Railroad Earth continued with another easy tune and fans joined them in a sing along of "Good Life."
Throughout the set the band members displayed their vast musical talent as they switched and exchanged instruments. At times one would move from slide guitar to banjo or banjo to mandolin or fiddle to electric guitar. The obvious close relationships the players shared afforded some fantastic improvisation. The smiles on stage were reciprocated among the crowd.
During the intermission the smiles continued. The typical griping about pained feet, excessive crowding and poor weather could barely be heard among the roaring laughter and friendly exchanges. When the band took the stage for their second set, everyone was still locked in, and the group launched straight into a series of excellent jams as the members dueled from solo to solo responding to the audience. They even featured the epic instrumental "Stillwater Getaway," which proved to be a highlight of the evening.
After a very brief exit from the stage, Railroad Earth returned surrounded by the most colorful light display of the night. A whirlwind of hues and sound sustained a solid 15-minute improvisation as the crowd roar in response. The band expressed their deep love for St. Louis and finally bid us farewell, but the cheers continued. Now all that remained on stage were these simple folk instruments, the signs of a spontaneous, musical hurricane.