Blueground Undergrass | 4.19 -20 | SC

Words & Images by: Mason Cummings

Blueground Undergrass :: 04.19.08 – 04.20.08 :: The Pour House :: Charleston, SC

Jeff Mosier - Blueground Undergrass :: 04.19
Blueground Undergrass made a two-day stop in Charleston where a handful of lucky bluegrass fans witnessed a pinnacle performance from the band's original lineup, which only a few short months ago was nothing more than vague remnant of a promising yet heavily conflicted past.

"We were fighting like cats and dogs in 2001," banjo player and lead singer Jeff Mosier told me before the show. "But now we can't even remember why we were fighting." The newly reformed original lineup seemed as though it hadn't lost a step. Not even two songs into the first set it became abundantly clear that not only were these guys playing on the same page but they were having a lot of fun doing it.

Saturday, 04.19.08

Saturday night at The Pour House was one of those shows that you just feel privileged to be a part of: small venue, sparse crowd, great band. The original BGUG lineup seemed to click in a way that the band's various "replacement" assemblages had failed to do. They were clearly comfortable putting themselves out on the improvisation limb and really seemed to know what they were doing in the process. Each member chimed in at the perfect moments, constantly playing off one another in a fantastic mosaic of well-orchestrated jams.

While the crowd was jumping boisterously to Johnny Mosier's lively guitar picking one second, they were swept away by the whirlwind of Mark van Allen's pedal steel the next. "That instrument should be illegal," one fan kept saying as he danced clumsily with his jaw dropped in disbelief.

Blueground Undergrass :: 04.19
The first set was graced with a number of BGUG originals, some old and others from more recent lineups. "Archeology" and "The Clock Goes On" both featured particularly notable jams that illustrated the complex musical dynamic and intricate connection of these musicians.

The drum-tight transitions that meandered through the first few songs of the second set reminded me why I fell in love with live music in the first place. Fast-picking newgrass style jams morphed slowly and seamlessly into spaced out psychedelic oblivion, which gradually accumulated into an elaborate and powerful melodic climax. It was very refreshing to hear such intricate and well-performed bluegrass-rock after seeing many of the beat-driven electronic jam bands that have visited Charleston in recent years.

A suitable review of any BGUG show would be totally inadequate without proper mention of the legendary fiddler David Blackmon. Towards the beginning of the second set he stood up and said, "Charleston, we have a problem." While the tone of his words almost sounded mechanical, the violin playing that followed was anything but. It's the kind of raw talent that makes you want to quit whatever instrument you play. He's just too damn good.

The show closed with a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Black Muddy River" - a staple of the BGUG repertoire - which seemed slightly hurried due to time constraints. The crowd had thinned out by then, however, those still present seemed to still be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Sunday, 04.20.08

Blueground Undergrass :: 04.20
It was an atmosphere very befitting a lazy Sunday afternoon in late April. The sun shone softly through the freshly budding trees as a few dozen patrons lounged casually with cold beers in hand. BGUG's "twang section" - consisting of Blackmon, Mark van Allen and the Mosier brothers – played a very informal yet impressive acoustic set to celebrate the inauguration of the Pour House's newly constructed back deck. Mark van Allen's pedal steel was replaced with a dobro in his lap, and the other three musicians were also fully acoustic. The overall ambience of the scene - and the day itself – was very conducive to an acoustic bluegrass session under the Carolina sun.

"So what do you guys want to hear?" Mosier inquired in a laid-back demeanor. The crowd sluggishly tossed around a few ideas, and they received several gems in return. "Friend of the Devil" was one of the favorites, again exemplifying the band's musicianship and capturing the overall mood of the afternoon.

Upon reaching the time constraints for playing amplified music outside, the "twang section" unplugged their instruments and relocated to the center of the deck for a couple fully traditional bluegrass numbers to close out the day. The short pow-wow-style jam session to close out the weekend was certainly a treat for those lucky enough to be a part of such an intimate experience with these talented musicians.

04.19.2008 :: The Pour House :: Charleston, SC
Set I: Forget the Past, Curve, Archeology, Man in the Glass, Copper Creek, Faces, Crawdad > Farewell to Lemmings, The Clock Goes On, Orange Blossom Special
Set II: African Hillbilly, Old Love Old Tune, Small Southern Town, Highwayman, Oh Death, Seven Daffodils, Jeff Davis > Deer, I Don't Want to Leave
Encore: Black Muddy River

JamBase | South Carolina
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[Published on: 4/29/08]

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Comments

ndant703 Wed 4/30/2008 06:01AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

ndant703

Nice! Some good Carolina Bluegrass. Last time I saw these guys in Raleigh, Jeff missed the whole first set because he was "stuck in traffic" or something. But I forgive and the second set kicked *SS. Keep Truckin'. Thanks for the article and pics JB!

Smittea starstarstarstar Wed 4/30/2008 07:22AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Smittea

First tour with original line-up since 1998?!?! Did anyone even see them outside the state of Georgia in 1998? Looking forward to the original line-up. Should be a treat.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/30/2008 10:36AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

YES the original line up was the best EVER!!!

mark van allen pedal steel, johnny mosier on guitar.. the best line up they ever had definitely!!!!

I loved to hear the electric guitar mixed with pedal steel and banjo and fiddle. totally cool :)

kaiserbun starstarstar Wed 4/30/2008 06:29PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

saw these guys last friday in atlanta. i liked them years ago, but thought the show was extremely average. maybe it was an off night, or i just wasn't into it. regardless its always good to see david blackmon on the stage. talked to him a few times in athens years back, real good guy.

fran832 starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 06:50AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

fran832

Blueground just keeps getting better. "Forget the Past" should be the theme of the new incarnation, since the first show at Smith's on 3/13/08 the band has gelled and grown exponentially. Go see them when they are in your area!!! Or take a road trip! It WILL be worth your time!!!! This weekend in Asheville was just another example. DayCelebration in Buckhead should be another experience that you won't forget!!!

Lunchbox16 starstarstarstar Sun 5/11/2008 08:38PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Lunchbox16

These guys are a real treat and it's great to see the original band back together. Mark Van Allen is amazing and brings so much to the band (like their version of Jimmy Webb's "Highwayman" - a real treat). Go see them when they're in town!