COMUSIC REVIEW – Big Medicine, Mercer and Johnson @ Mojo’s

It’s January 12, 2013. Columbia is still in winter break mode – quieter in some ways but with a sense that the students will soon return and things will adjust to normal after the Holidays and the hangover of sorts that accompany them. As the second weekend of the year arrives the weather is suddenly getting colder and there’s talk of snow. There’s also several shows going on around town in spite of the sleet and snow that came in the early evening.

Burrows was supposed to play but got either snowed in or iced in after their show in KC the night before, making this an all local band show.

Mercer and Johnson navigating the bittersweet

 

Mercer and Johnson opened the night off with a mix of original songs and covers of some roots/country (real country) favorites. Beginning with just mandolin and bass, their songs of life, love, and longing had a bittersweet tinge to them. A switch to acoustic guitar a little over halfway through the set shifted the aural textures but the vibe remained. A mix of storytelling and longing permeated their set by this road tested local duo. Readers who are into more grittier roots music and country will definitely want to check this act out.

 

Eddie and Craig of Big Medicine

Big Medicine came on shortly after for their first show in over a year. Taking advantage of the vibe, they unleashed a set of roots rock full of driving beats and a vibe that’s almost equally rooted in honky-tonk country as in blues or early rock’n’roll. While the set was slightly sloppy (very understandable given the down time they had) there was a lot of energy here that got the crowd who braved the storm to make it here. Driving drums and blazing guitars were in full effect here until the end. Good to see Big Medicine playing again.

After the show, the crowd hung out, paid their tabs, and made small talk in an attempt to avoid the inevitable venture into the winter storm situation outside Mojo’s. As we ventured into the inevitable snow and what that entailed, many of us had wondered what would be ahead. In the next week students would return to town and life would slowly veer back to business as usual. For now, it was winter weather and hoping things weren’t too bad tomorrow.

CoMusic Review – Roots N Blues N Bar B Q Festival Day Two

AUTHOR”S/POSTER’S NOTE: My apologies for the delay between posting the review of the first night of the festival and this post. It had been a busy week and I wasn’t fully able to get this done until now. Also, due to the reach of this day in particular the review will be in two parts out of necessity.

After catching a brief snippet of Sam Bush’s set over at Peace Park, I realized it was time to walk over to Flat Branch Park and the Community Stage to see Cabin Sessions play a fairly rare live show. The local collective of songwriters did an acoustic set that ranged from introspective indie pop to folk and country and back, all while maintaining some kind of group identity. Fresh off their latest recording session the previous week, the band played mostly old chestnuts but did offer up a new song or two along the way. It was a fairly breezy affair that stretched some of the roots and blues definition while remaining more true to the intent of both than some acts.

 

The Cabin Sessions at Flat Branch Park

Unfortunately, on the way back to the main stage, festival favorites the Music Makers Review were still setting up and not playing yet.so I wasn’t able to see thir set. However, after getting some dinner I did make it to Peace Park in time for Dale Watson to play. Backed by the Lonestars on fiddle and pedal steel as well as The Texas Two on upright bass and drums, Watson gave the crowd some pure honky tonk country in a uniquely Tejas manner. Twangy songs about drinking, women and the state of country music is Watson’s bread and butter and he delivered to a largely appreciative crowd. This was my first time seeing him and he didn’t disappoint. At a time when country music seems increasingly to be pop with a dobro or a fiddle, it’s always good to hear what real country sounds like.

 

Dale Watson

And now here’s the rash decision of the night. Robert Cray Band was playing the main stage while Los Lobos was playing the stage at Peace Park. Wanting to see both but knowing there was no perfect solution, I decided to see the first five songs of RCB (mainly cause it was supposed to start about 15 minutes earlier). While I couldn’t see the whole thing, Cray and his band laid down some take no prisoners electric blues with plenty of guitar and organ interplay and songs about betrayal, loss, love, and the like. If circumstances were different I would’ve stayed but when two really good bands are at a festival like this sometimes you have to see a bit of both. Will definitely have to see a whole set from Robert Cray sometime in the future.

Robert Cray Band in action

Made it over to Peace Park partway through Los Lobos’ set with Sam Bush was sitting in on violin for much of it. At the time I arrived, they were doing several Latin flavored numbers. However, the band’s diversity was on fire tonight as they played everything from moody ballads to uptempo rockers to even a covers of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and were joined by a member of the Music Makers Review for “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was one of those nights with a packed crowd at Peace Park, making it hard to move even though the music almost makes you do so. While the night was somewhat strange, the fact that a festival like this meant a collaboration few would expect (I know I didn’t) made it worthwhile.

 

Los Lobos with special guest Sam Bush

While getting a quick snack, I heard a bit of Fitz and the Tantrums playing on the main stage. While the song was catchy and fun, given a choice between that or Taj Mahal on the Peace Park stage meant the latter would be the obvious choice.

The Taj Mahal Trio kicked things into gear with a set of classic blues that wasn’t afraid to take the occasional chance.  Fueled by Mahal’s great guitar and banjo work, the trio delivered a journey to blues at its most primal using both electric and acoustic guitars to deliver the vibe throughout.  The crowd response was explosive as the set wore on.  In some ways this was a winding down of sorts, using Mahal’s knowledge of the genre and his history to bring the day’s events to a close.  Needless to say threre was something here that brought things to a close in a real sense.

Then it was all over.  As we walked to either our cars or our next plans it was clear that today had been a busy, somewhat expansive day of food and music.  As for me personally, spending much of the past 12 hours on my feet left me bushed but I did get to chefck out some acts I hdan’t seen before, even if only for a brief moment or two in some cases, and saw some artists I hadn’t seen live in a long time.  It was a long weekend but one that was eventful.