01 December 2016 - The Ogden Theatre - Denver, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Band Members: Silas Herman - mandolin, guitar, vocals; Mackenzie Page - guitar, tenor banjo, vocals; Matt Cantor - bass, vocals; Andrew Conley - cello; Omar Mansour - percussion
The Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO, is a good get by any estimation when it comes to gigging bands. As far as indoor venues go in a city filled with many others, it does very well on many fronts, but mostly serving as a great room for live music. And grass music is no exception. Add to this the long and prestigious list of others who have shared that same stage and you get a formidable venue. This is why Nederland gypsy grassers Gipsy Moon felt especially grateful to be playing the space for their first time last Thursday opening up for Greensky Bluegrass. And this was a gratitude they not only expressed over the mic but most assuredly through their fantastic playing that night as well. Suffice it to say, they proved to be one hell of an opening act, delighting the packed room with a well-rounded and extremely enjoyable set. The Ogden was humming with the anticipation energies of hundreds of music lovers all gathered to plug into that amazingness of sound and sight and wonder. It was with a definite sense of pride and satisfaction that I watched them take the stage, knowing full well some of the meaning of this gig’s importance. We all love to see the bands we love succeed, right? And right before our eyes? Always a wonderful experience to share with them. Always. But, I do suppose we ought to talk a little about the music, right? Well then, let’s get moving right along!
After taking their places and grabbing the requisite instruments, GM struck up the first chords of “Mama” and took immediately off into the fabric and texture of gypsy grass and scooping us all up alongside for the ride. Mackenzie’s distinctive and gorgeous vocals entrance from the very get-go each time, weaving story after story for you in mellifluous melody and song, this time accompanying on her guitar. Serving as the perfect counterpoint to Mackenzie’s stunning vocal lines, Silas’s mandolin cuts through the night like the blade of a brilliant and mad musical samurai, ripping loose with note after note after note to the delight of all. Then, on the other end of the timbre spectrum, Andrew enters on his cello, obviously an instrument unique to the world of grass musics. And what a lovely and individual sound! The non sequitur nature of it really wakes up the ears, adding a real and palpable freshness to Gipsy Moon’s overall sonic framework. (In fact, I had a chance to talk with Andrew after the show for a little while about this very thing. Have cello, will rock. Love it.) And we were only one song in! They followed up “Mama” with “St. Jane”, Omar’s drums and Matt’s bass providing a bouncing and bolstering introduction setting the song proper up in fine fashion. This one is a dance song, through and through. Nothing but incredible beats from Omar throughout providing those oh-so necessary dance rhythms. Once again, I have to touch on the subject of Omar’s inclusion in the band and how very well I think it has been going for him and for GM as a result. Pure and simple, Mr. Mansour brings some seriously intense and raucous energy to the ensemble which he gives freely to the rest of his bandmates and to the crowd equally as well as that metronomic backbone for the group to dance upon themselves, instruments in hand and succumbing to those rhythmic temptations as only we humans can. And the audience at the Ogden was just eating it all up. As well they should. It certainly felt good to get the blood moving on that chilly December night. And that sweet, sweet bass solo from Matt didn’t hurt the vibe whatsoever, either. Funky! Seriously. Matt was proving the show’s powerhouse early on, as he stepped forward for a big and baller bass solo intro to get things going for “Banish Misfortune”, their next number. The band all joined in one by one until everyone was playing this lively jig, an instrumental dominated by that booming bass. I just love it when this ensemble skews Irish. Really takes me back. And I love listening to a great tune where everyone shares the melody line back and forth amongst all the instruments. Musically, I think it’s rather enjoyable to hear the melody played through the various textures and timbres on the stage. And GM’s fantastically one-of-a-kind instrumentation really makes for interesting and new and exciting versions of old favorites, such as this one. And more dancing in the crowd — you know it! How couldn’t you? It was a jig for goodness sakes! I mean…a jig. Right? Well, if you are tired from all that dancing, the next one is just for you! We managed to capture some world premier footage of a brand new Gipsy Moon song — and we’re bringing it straight to you today! So sit back, relax, and check out this new favorite around the TLS offices, “The Show Must Go On”:
How great is that one, am I right? Looking very much forward to hearing it again sometime soon. Mackenzie set her tenor banjo down and grabbed up her guitar for “Daybreak” which followed their new song debut. Silas delivered a sweet and sonorous mando intro taking things into the tune itself, each member of the band gently joining in to create this light, lithe, and livelybit of enjoyment for band and audience member alike. Another great instrumental from this extremely talented group of instrumentalists, this one is a favorite of mine for all the right reasons. Much like “Banish Misfortune” we see the trade off of melody from instrument to instrument once again with such adept skill and ability, making for a truly wonderful musical experience. High marks to the entire band for this one, creating the perfect midway mark for their fiery set. And then there was Omar’s total and complete percussive onslaught of a solo to set the blood a boiling in all the best ways possible. Magnificence! But, where would a night of grass music and revelry be without a little “Gin”? The seductive first few words sprang forth from Mackenzie in a mesmerizing and lilting spell enticing the listener into the greater song to follow. Truly, the feeling is a masterful and magic one. Definitely a stalwart standard of their repertoire, this song is always welcome for its bright and boisterous nature. Silas had this particularly choice little section of solo work that popped right out in a delightful manner, mando shimmering in the stage lights, and it really just illustrated the true nature of this band and its superb style. There seem to be thousands of little things, important things that make up that very nature and style. And, it is the amalgam of all these countless, incredible details that produce the very gypsy grass sound that we have come to know and love from this quickly-rising Colorado band. They continued the great fanfare of the evening with “Come With Me” another one with which I was happily familiar. And another favorite to be sure. Talk about your vocal harmonies here! Mackenzie and Matt were nailing some truly gorgeous vocal lines for us all over the top of Silas and Andrew trading things back and forth, each man masterfully embracing his instrumental skill for our enjoyment. Omar had this great big bass drum in his kit this time which was new to me…and it was spectacular. What depth and massive tone he was getting — and what this was adding to the band was nothing short of perfection. The band followed “Come With Me” with “Some Days”, getting a bit funkier and groovier, dropping things back to this mellow march of intensity and energy. And funky and groovy it was, too, my friends!! The fabric of your average GM setlist is always so interesting to watch unfold. For example, “Some Days” was a contrapuntal addition to the mix in contrast to so many of the other songs on the setlist for the evening. But, this band loves to take you places. And in style, as well. They love to lead you on a journey through music and form and sound and texture and song and, if they don’t change things a bit from time to time, that journey tends to wander around aimlessly, right? Not with Gispy Moon. No, with them, your wandering is all focused and free at the same time, lighting up the soul with wonder and merriment. And that is part of the joy of choosing to travel with these magical musical gypsies on their journeys through time and space — you go places both musically and metaphysically. And that is why we come to shows in the first place, right? But then, sadly, it was time for GM’s last song of their set. However, what a set it had been! Andrew led in on his oh-so charming cello, spinning out a gypsy melody of the highest order heralding in “Dark Eyes”, an exotic and mysterious song of intriguing sound and spirit and just the right way to close things down Gispy Moon style. Especially when the whole thing kicks into double overtime about halfway through and Silas goes to town on his mandotar, once again that savage musical samurai from earlier on. Of very worthy note as well, Matt threw down a serious solo on that big beast of a bass of his which whipped the crowd into a frenzy. What a way to close down this Ogden show! The crowd erupted into huge applause and cheers as soon as the last notes rang out, the packed house in full approval of what they had just witnessed, the perfect precursor to a band such as Greensky Bluegrass. Once again, Gipsy Moon had proven just what kind of band they are: talented, skilled, driven, youthful, fun, intense, and veritable musical monsters in their own right. And on and evening of a couple of firsts, as well. Just the kind of show I love to attend. A huge round of thanks and congrats go out to the band as well as all the hardworking folks that make GM happen! So much phenomenal music, such a fantabulous set! Bravi, bravi, bravi, my friends! Thanks so much for the magic!