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Gig Review: Fresno Grand Opry, 11/26/2011
There was a time when I liked to bash country music, mostly because it was easy, with guys like Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus and ... those "Boot Scootin' Boogie" guys around.
The truth is, I like good country music, both the old school stuff and those new-school alt-country guys. So, being part of the Fresno Grand Opry (the second of which took place last Saturday at the Rainbow Ballroom) is super fun and means a lot to me.
Bold Country: I don't know the whole story, but from what I gather they are a group of old-school country players, guys who used to make a living at it back when that was possible. They came off as such: A really, really good honk-tonk bar band. They were the only band to have a pedal steel and their cover of Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" was the hightlight of the night.
Karen Marguth and David Aus: Karen Marguth has an incredible voice. So hearing her do these songs (especially with the group of jazz players she put together) is a treat. Plus, the amount of fun they're having doing it is totally infectious.
Our set: This was another "show" for the project I'm doing with Jaime Holt (what we're calling Josh and Jaime). I use "show" in quotes, because we only did three songs. Mostly we were the eye candy for the night. We did a funny little bit and sang some songs and that was it. Done in 10 minutes or less. Still, we got a real sound check and I got to sing on stage at the Rainbow Ballroom. For a guy in a punk band, that's a score. Highlight: Doing the Mavericks' (by way of Bruce Springstein) "All That Heaven Will Allow."
Rev. Shane and the Promise Breakers: Where Bold Country played things traditional, Rev. Shane and company went uptempo and brought some rock-and-roll to the evening. Hightlight: Their cover of Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak."
Back in The Valley: I'm not sure if the organizers are tweeking the idea of what Fresno Grand Opry is, or if the band didn't understand the concept, but it seemed like Back in the Valley played more originals than cover tunes. The songs weren't bad and totally fit with the theme of the night, but they played the whole thing off like they were headlining the night. Like I said, maybe they were, but it just felt at odds with the rest of the show.
Mofo-Party Band: For me, these guys encapsulated what Fresno Grand Opry is all about. Obviously, Mofo is in no way a country-western band (afterward they said they felt out of their element) but there's is a deep love for the traditions and music and it shined through in their set. For my money, theirs was (acoustically) the most authentic set of the night.