Del McCoury Band :: 02.15 :: Cervantes' Masterpiece :: Denver, CO

Don't you love it when your favorite band takes control of the energy in the room and dictates the path of the evening? Yeah, that's great, but how about when the audience makes the rules?

Del McCoury by Chris Starnes
That is exactly what happened when the Del McCoury Band came to Cervantes' Masterpiece in Denver.

The venue, owned by the operators of the legendary "Dead Bar" Sancho's Broken Arrow and the jazz club Dulcinea's 100th Monkey, is most definitely a jamband venue. It makes no bones about this with the neon blacklight paint glowing on the backdrop and the "Steal Your Face" logo emblazoned into the rug that covers the stage.

Cervantes' is every inch a jamband haven, playing host to bands like New Monsoon, Reid Genauer, RAQ, Lotus and plenty more. However, on this particular night they welcomed bluegrass legend Del McCoury and his band.

The night opened with local band Hot Lunch pickin' and singin' around the pair of mics that sat center stage. They more than warmed up the crowd with a blistering set of bluegrass numbers that ranged from originals to the oft-covered "Wheel Hoss" that closed their set.

Shortly after Hot Lunch disappeared behind the curtain, Del McCoury and his boys were introduced to the eclectic audience, who immediately crowded as close as they could get to the stage. A mixture of old and young, tie-dyed and Poloed, everyone was here to listen to the high lonesome sound of some honest to goodness bluegrass music.

From the moment they started picking, I knew they hadn't lost a step since I had last seen them play several years ago. Del was right on with his vocals, and Ronnie was wowing the crowd with mandolin playing that would make Mike Marshall or Chris Thile do a double take.

Ronnie & Del McCoury by Chris Starnes
After a couple of choice numbers, including "Hard on My Heart," "Hillcrest Drive," and "Nashville Cats," Del asked the gyrating crowd if they had any requests "because I always like to play a few requests." The room erupted as everyone from the balcony to the bar tossed in their two cents. It was clear that this band had a loyal fan base present that had their opinions on what the band should play, including some who wrote their requests on napkins and passed them through the crowd up to the stage.

From originals such as "Henry Walker" to Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," the audience demonstrated their knowledge of McCoury's cannon.

Letting the nature of the crowd consume him, Del read the requests and did his best to fill them. He busted out a tune that the band hadn't played in countless years and even honored a request for "50/50 Chance," a song he wrote more than 30 years ago for which he admittedly doesn't remember all the words. The band and the crowd were unified in their passion for the music.

Del McCoury Band by Chris Starnes
As he attempted to tackle "50/50 Chance," Del stumbled repeatedly over the lyrics but continued to sing. After a full stanza of "Nah, Nah, NaNaNa," he asked the requester for help, admitting it had been about five years since he had last sung the song.

It was refreshing to see an artist who wasn't afraid to admit that he wasn't perfect, to admit that he didn't know the words to his own song, to admit that he was human. The crowd loved it. Cheering for every misstep and blundered lyric, they stood behind the man.

With this admission of his faults, Del created an even stronger connection with the audience than he already had. Letting someone else take the reins is the ultimate sign of respect, and The Del McCoury Band let that happen at Cervantes'.

If making music is a job, and playing music is a passion, then this band truly showed how passionate they are. They gave up their security in favor of giving the paying customers what they wanted. They let down their guard and welcomed us in. Though they are at the forefront of the formal bluegrass movement in Nashville and have graced the stage of the Ryman Auditorium on countless occasions, The Del McCoury Band let a jamband club in Denver take them for a ride that I am sure they will never forget.

And neither will we.

Tim Dwenger
JamBase | Denver
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[Published on: 3/8/05]

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