Some artists who write instrumental tunes claim that naming them is difficult. I don’t know. I’m always coming up with weird phrases that seem to have no other purpose on Earth other than to be a jazz or fiddle tune, some of which are named with surreal panache. Consider two of the tunes April Verch played in her show-opening set of Canada-inspired traditional music: “Spider Bit The Baby” and “Joke On The Puppy.” One has to wonder what circumstances way back wherever in time led somebody to affix those words to those churning bundles of notes and rhythms. In my mystery lies stories of our own making. That’s what’s fun about instrumental music in general; we can bring a lot of ourselves to a tune’s meaning when the singer isn’t telling us what to think. Even so, on this balmy March 1 night as we closed our winter 2017 season, the singers and songwriters gave us plenty to think about as well. It was a well-rounded, head bobbing kind of an evening that started in Canada and ended up in South Carolina.
April is a powerful fiddler with other tricks in her kit. She sings with sweet directness and dances with percussive power, sometimes while bowing away on intricate jigs and reels. Her tight trio swapped instruments around and produced a lot of energy. I especially loved the irregular shape and flowing groove of Swedish tune “Polska From Kumla.”
Our bookers promised I’d be impressed by Reuben Bidez and indeed we all were. With shades of Roy Orbison and Bon Iver and Chris Isaak, his set was musically rich and daring. The songwriter wished his wife a happy anniversary from the stage but the whole set had an air of romance around it, whether from his 12-string guitar or the organ or the big anthemic guitar solos by Seth Plemmons.
To go even bigger than Bidez, the Broomestix brought 11 musicians to the stage to do that swaggering soul pop thing they do so well. They’re Nashville’s youthful answer to Earth Wind & Fire and Chicago. New vocalist Madi Patin showed range and taste. But it’s the horns that really carry this ensemble, from well arranged combo parts to the searing solos on trumpet, sax and trombone.
Five piece Charleston, SC band Dead 27s took their slightly morbid name from the rock and roll heroes who perished at that tender age. But thankfully all the guys have made it past that threshold and none seem to be pursuing the lifestyles that led to early if mythical demises. Instead they focus on their groove pocket and chiming riffs and a classic soul/rock sound led by rangy vocalist Trey Francis. Nice work by drummer Daniel Crider (pictured).