I called my significant other and said goodnight as I was on my way to a show Saturday night, but it was only about 7:30 or so – why did I do this? Well, I knew this band was about to get weird with us at First Avenue, and I had a hunch I’d want to have a few drinks to match what we were in for with Yonder Mountain String Band, Chris Castino, and Chicken Wire Empire. You see, this is no ordinary bluegrass or folk show – these guys are one in a million, specifically Yonder Mountain. What makes them all so different? Let’s begin now
For starters, we cannot overlook the fantastic opening acts of both Chris Castino and Chicken Wire Empire. These two artists gave us a grand ol’ folking time starting with Chris Castino (of the group “The Big Wu”) took time to entertain and sing with us and perform. This guy from the Wu gave us a “Wow!” alongside Chicken Wire Empire. Don’t let the name fool you – this progressive bluegrass band from our state’s neighbors to the east were a hoot with their plucks and clicks of the banjo, bass, mandolin and more. Check out Chris Castino who is very active on social media with updates and fan interactions HERE! Chicken Wire Empire has an awesome social media presence as well, and they can be followed on their journey HERE!
Back to my initial point – Just how weird did we get? Well, Yonder came out with a song of rebellion and absolute tomfoolery (that’s a personal connotation), which many of us know the intro to but was more folked up. This group has been redefining bluegrass music with each cover and rendition they manage to produce, alongside dozens of their own signature, traditionally-instrumented-yet-curiously-not-traditional folk music. From covers of country legends like Johnny Cash, to reggae-like tunes that sound like some other shows I’ve been to – this band is a jack-of-all trades while using fiddles, banjos, and guitars…Oh My! With a smaller yet intimate and dense crowd of folk-loving and moonshine-esque fueled cheers and screams, it was clear to me that this band has an immensely loyal fan base. The group took the stage like a family of Fun and Confidence and were able to jam like a rock band, yet look and sound like they were performing in the land of Moonshine. We were dancing in the moonlight all night before it was time to leave the often hip-and-hopping venue of First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.
I haven’t found myself attending a ton of folk or bluegrass shows, even though that is what I started my obsession with music in genre wise almost twelve years ago with the likes of Punch Brothers and NickelCreek. Since then, I’ve been able to find so many other bands through things like spontaneous research and saving songs in Uber rides from the radio. However, with this writing and seeing so many awesome shows like this one, I find myself not only revisiting timeless acts such as Yonder Mountain String Band, but also finding new ones to catch again when they make it back to our cold, cold city such as Chris Castino and Chicken Wire Empire. As for how my night started out and how it actually ended up going – my ambition got the best of me as I was put on my butt after about 3 drinks; my inner college-kid was shaking his head as I ubered home from the show ready to hit the hay and get writing the next morning. If only there were actual moonshine at First Avenue – maybe I would have gotten as Folk’d up as the music on stage was.
“It’s not new, and it never gets old – that’s why it’s a folk song.”