There’s something so therapeutic about bluegrass and folk, something that (at least for me) turns all the faucets on in my brain – letting pure joy and enthused focus take over. Whether it’s the finger-furious sound of a banjo being played at full speed, or a bass being slapped and spun around on stage – this music fully consumes the space that it’s contained in. Each plain of pitch is covered from bass lines to upper octave vocals, and while your ears are processing so many unique sounds – your eyes are feasting just as much watching the sights on stage. That’s this genre in general, but the acts we got to see at the Palace Theatre this week took things to new levels in their unique ways throughout the show. We had the chance to see The Dead South, featuring opening acts: the Tejon Street Corner Thieves and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.
There are so many ways to measure musical quality. Whether it be the lyrics that get us thinking, or the sound emitted from the instruments – these are just a couple of examples of how I’ve evaluated my previous concert experiences. It shocks me to say (yet pleasantly surprises me) that a new category must be introduced now, in order to truly measure the experience I had at the Palace with The Dead South and company; the spooky/chill-inducing factor (no irony intended granted this is also the “Served Cold” tour). So, how did this conclusion come about? It’s best explained in context.
Starting out the night in Saint Paul we had a band that caught my attention immediately with how engaged they were with the crowd: Tejon Street Corner Thieves. The crew was V-O-C-A-L and had pure confidence on stage as they jammed through their set. Their beautiful harmonies and (admittedly) relatable lyrics about having romanticized relationships with whiskey really struck a chord with me, as well as how appreciative they were of the crowd and chance to play; doesn’t matter which profession you’re in, folks – humility is always a positive sign. So, I was intrigued and saving some of their songs on Spotify while they were wrapping things up. Before they left us, though, they got myself and the crowd to sing parts of their songs and it was an overall excellent way to kick things off.
Up next we had badassery to the highest degree thanks to Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band; it was awesome, and that was when the spooky-chills started for this guy. It was definitely the bearded, buff, cigar-box-guitar playing frontman, Reverend Peyton, that got me wow’d at first. Then we added in the enthusiasm of Max Senteney and washboard-playing (yes like laundry) Breezy Peyton, and things were wild. Max was drumming his heart out a few songs in when the stage tapestry behind him had lights flicker on – acting as the headlights of the car image hanging behind them; talk about thinking the whole thing through and being creative, eh?
I only loved and knew one or two songs of The Dead South’s before their show in Minnesota – I won’t lie. So when I tell you that their set list was absolutely fire from the get-go, I’m telling you without any bias; their music is really good. You can find and read about a lot of modern folk bands claiming to be “traditional instruments with progressive style” or something of the sort, but The Dead South was the first band I’ve ever seen rock out without even having a drummer (at no loss of powerful sound). This boot-stomping folk group had a heavy, dark side to it that gave me the Halloween-spookies as their bursting energy and cryptic harmonies charged off stage and into the crowd. Heads were bobbing and hairs were standing up on necks all night, from the beginning, as these guys killed it. Whether it’s their big hit “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” or their “Chop Suey” heavy-metal covers, these guys folk’d me up and gave me the chills with their delivery and performance that night. Stellar musicians, great stage setup, and an awesome show overall.