By Tina Campbell
Strangefolk kicked the night off with an old classic, "Lines & Circles." Anyone who'd ever seen or heard Strangefolk is probably familiar with it, as it's one of those songs that everyone seems to like instantaneously. It had been elevated to the status of "the quintessential Strangefolk tune" back in the day because of it's vast popularity, but in the past year it's become an anthem: "People come and people go, winds that howl and winds that blow and you... gotta let it go". The crowd exploded before the first chord had finished echoing through the theatre. Maine is without a doubt my favorite place to see Strangefolk, the energy is always through the roof. I don't know if it's because Jon and Erik are both from Augusta, or if there's just something inherently Maine-ish about their sound, but it seems to seep into the brains of the people here the same way Phish's sound found it's first home in the college students of Burlington, VT.
"Who I Am" was a surprise, it's one of those songs that I never think about hearing until they bust it out. "See Too" followed, another one that I had all but forgotten about. This one had a pretty decent spot in the regular rotation for a long time, but it seems to have fallen into the cracks lately. A friend of mine flashed me a smile as he'd mentioned wanting to hear this one earlier in the night. I do love the harmonies on it, always a quality I considered to be one of Strangefolk's best. The segue into "Lost My Way" was completely unexpected - a nice surprise. "Rubberband" was up next, and from the crowd's reaction, they've been doing their trading homework. This tune debuted not long ago, one of the songs added to the roster after Patchen and Scott came aboard. It's got a great sound to it - playful and catchy... until they launch into that monster bridge, emersed in power chords and intensity.
When the next song began, I didn't recognize it right away as it was one of the brand new ones, hot off the presses from Eden just 3 weeks before. As soon as Scott started going to town on those ivories, I recognized it as Water. I like the sound of this song a lot, Scott takes the spotlight right away, which makes for a great intro. "New Glock II" closed the first set, this one is an old favorite... can’t complain whenever it shows up on setlists.
Set II began with one of those moments that you're glad you were there for. Luke began tapping out a simple beat on the kit. Not a few seconds went by before he was joined by each band member in succession, leading into a completely unplanned jam as an intro for the smokin'-est "Like You Anyway" I have ever heard. I wasn't the only person in that theatre standing in awe at what I was hearing... there never was before, nor do I think there ever will be again a version like the one played that night.
"Like You" was quickly followed by one of the Eden debuts that ranks in my Top 5 of favorites as far as the new ones go: "Wind Won't Blow." It starts off sounding like it's going to be somewhat mellow, but then Erik rips into the vocals, backed by a matching change in the mood of the music that switches from calm to calamity in an instant. I love it. As is the case with another favorite "Glock tune" of mine ("First Time"), this tune's strength lies in a slow, methodical build from a bare bones bass line into an all out, all-inclusive jam brimming with all the passion and fire that is Strangefolk. This song is going to be a classic, I can hear it already.
The next song had all the Widespread Panic fans in the audience out of their seats, "Porch Song" illustrated the overall vibe - "Havin'a good tiiiiime here today!" "Grip" followed, another Eden debut working it's way into the rotation. Although it was written for and dedicated to the fans who stuck around through this, their most trying year, there is something very poignant and relevant in the lyrics that makes it work on so many levels now: "Everything will be alright, you must remember this... don't hold the world too tight in your grip." Coupled with the American flag that's serving as the backdrop to every show on this tour, the parallel was too powerful to go unnoticed.
Yet another brand, spanking new Eden debut followed - "Anodyne." Love this tune, everything about it is A-OK in my book. Keyboard fans will fall in love with this one as quickly as they will with "Water," Scott's quirky sound throughout just makes this tune shine. Being an English major, I tend to lock onto lyrics that do something for me, and this one definately has ‘em... "What's good for you... (Scott's keys)... is the right thing... to do." I like that a lot, I'm a big fan of following the beat of your own drummer.
"There is beauty here
"Escalator." I can't not smile when they play this one, great song. I remember this was one of the first "Patchen tunes” that started roping in people who had previously been on the fence about the new incarnation of the band. One of the things that had appealed to the masses about Reid was his ability to bear his soul on stage through both lyrics and stage presence. He's not the only one who can do it though, you just have to adjust to seeing it done in a different way, with different lyrics. It doesn't hurt to have a rippin' guitar solo coming from the same man who can wail into the mic with every thing he's got too, Patchen's above-par guitar skills were a welcomed surprise and a perfect addition to the band, in my humble opinion.
When the sky is clear,
I look at the stars at night
They shine just like me,
but no one else can see
this luminosity of mine..."
"In Deep" was next on the list. This one's made some huge strides since it's debut last winter and it sounds incredible on their new album, Open Road.
The opening "BAAAAAOOOOOW" chord to "Shakedown Street" rang through the theatre and seemed to immediately set everyone in motion, heading towards the floor. I've never seen walkways fill up so fast! Some may say that no one should cover the Dead, as if it's sacreligious or something, but if they had been there that night and saw the smiles on all those faces and how into it everyone was... they might have to make an exception for my boys' rendition of this classic. The segue into "Dancin' in the Streets" was smooth as silk, and again, I had to smile to myself as Patchen wailed out "Are you ready for a brand new beat?!?!" I was born ready, baby... bring it on!!!
They left for the encore and everyone in our little section was getting pretty damn pumped for the "Mary Jane's Last Dance" that was written on the setlist, but then I checked my watch and saw that we might be disappointed. Sure enough, they returned to the stage and threw us a bone with... As, the world's shortest and weakest encore. It sucked to have the energy go from such a peak with the "Shakedown->Dancin'->Shakedown" like that, but when the venue says you gotta go at a certain time, sacrifices have to be made.
Having averaged roughly 50 Strangefolk shows a year since 1997, I’d like to think when I say “That’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen” that it means something. This show was definately up there in the top ranks, in my humble opinion... it’s hard to believe how much improvement we’re seeing in such a short period of time. To quote Ferris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”
The 2nd half of Strangefolk's national fall tour kicks off on Oct. 24 at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, CO (check www.strangefolk.com for the full tour schedule). Their new CD, Open Road, was just released and is now available for purchase through their web site as well as at all live shows.