01 October 2016 - Boulder Bandshell - Boulder, 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
It was a beauty of a brisk fall evening in Boulder, Colorado, as we made our way downtown to the bandshell on Boulder Creek. We were glad for the warmer clothing we’d seen fit to wear as the sun disappeared behind the mountains just to our west. The Boulder Green Bear Fest was in full swing with vendors of all kinds assembled to wow us with their wares, brews, and other sundry interesting things all in celebration of the protection and restoration of our planet’s oceans. It made for a merry atmosphere and also meant a growing crowd being drawn to the bandshell in time to hear those oh-so-unique and wonderful stylings of Colorado’s own gypsygrass band, Gipsy Moon. The MC persuaded the majority of those present to leave their seats and get up and dance along to this lovely one-of-a-kind string band from Nederland…a job he did very well for the grand majority of us did, indeed, dance and shake and groove for the full two hour set. It was both a heartwarming and impressive display of those times when Humanity just gets it all perfectly right for a spell. And what a show from Gipsy Moon that night — what a show, indeed! Gratifying, satisfying, mystifying, and I ain’t lying!! But, lest we put the cart before the horse, leave us away to all things in the appropriate order. I mean, we are civilized, are we not? To the music!! Excelsior!!
Under the glowing rainbow bands of the shell above, Gipsy Moon set the tone for their CD Release Party by letting loose the first notes of the evening’s pleasure, a slowly, softly building texture of minor chords and Mackenzie’s velvet voice. First choice for the night? Well, “Stolichnaya”, of course! And why not a song about vodka at a beer fest? Why not, indeed! A seductive and swelling ensemble sound grew and embellished and became a gateway to sounds of select musics from Eastern Europe and beyond into Mother Russia, herself. Andrew’s haunting cello solo early on only served to solidify this strong feeling of slavic song from far away. And, when things kicked into double time midway through, all became one with the dance and romance of this perfect example of Gipsy Moon’s extremely diverse and very wide-ranging repertoire. Lovely work from Silas on his mando, who proceeded to pick out the tune with perfect precision. What a start to a wondrous show! They followed such magic up with Mackenzie relating that, having just played at a dispensary earlier that day, they were inspired to play the next song, “St. Anne’s”, apparently written to the patron saint of such goings on. Luckily, we have some mighty fine video of that song just for you! Please enjoy.
Next up on the setlist was “Mama”, a song characterized by musical balance between the instruments creating a wonderfully unified texture amongst all the musicians on stage, to include Mackenzie on vocals. And there was so much more incredible solo work from Conley and Herman all buoyed up so masterfully by Cantor on his deep, abiding bass and Mansour, the madman of percussion, who lends his own metronomic backbone to the entirety of the group. This was only my third time seeing them since they added Mr. Mansour to the roster and, I must say, I just love the reinvigorated vibe of the whole shebang. Omar’s contributions are already cementing themselves delightfully into what was already an incredible band. Bravo! “Come with Me” was our next offering of the evening, which featured Mackenzie on lead and Matt on vocal harmonies from the very beginning - always amazing and easy on the ears. All this was marvelously counterpointed by Andrew’s silken cello line underneath. This group has such an astute mastery over the best arrangement of their musical assets and this song was exemplary of this fact, no doubt. Lots of great energy for dancing and keeping that crowd in the groove. They slowed things down for “Blue Sky” which followed, taking things to that gorgeous place of gentleness and soft beauty that is such an easy space for this group to access. More sweet and lovely harmonies from Cantor and Page ensued sliding over the mellow intensity of the harmonic instrumental framework being woven by Herman and Conley, Mansour keeping things light and airy from behind Mackenzie. It was a truly gorgeous moment in an evening of just such moments. “Dying of Days” came after “Blue Sky” and put the energy of the night back into dance mode. This one is an old favorite of mine and one that definitely evolved into something all the more special with the inclusion of Omar’s drums. As I intimated before, this is a really good marriage here. Excellence all around to be sure. And then we had a treat for this reporter: an old tune from his Traditional Irish Music days: “Banish Misfortune”. Nothing like getting an actual jig to kick your heels up to! Matt took the melody line on his bass with his bow and it made for the perfect intro. Yet one more example of the varied song/tune roster this band has mastered in spades. Passing the melody off to Silas on mando, Matt returned to the bass line only to come back in for some particularly tasty harmonies and then back to the solo once more. And the crowd was eating it up! Clapping and dancing and clearly enjoying themselves to the full, it was great to be a part of such a happy gathering. A little on down the set, friend and fiddle player Etienne Cremieux (The Caribou Mountain Collective) joined in the fun for a few numbers, the first of which was “Dark Eyes”, a great standard from this crew. Taken at a much slower and seductive a pace at the start, the song had nowhere to go but forward and fabulously more intense. What a disciplined and steady build, too. Made for quite the new musical creation from a familiar song. And the addition of Etienne’s fiddle to the mix, you ask? Like a fish to water, that was the fiddle poured into the mixture of Gipsy Moon’s stringed goodness. Mackenzie was in really fine voice for this one, it must be said. Just lovely work, good lady. Conley’s back-and-forth with Cremieux, cello to fiddle and fiddle to cello and back again, all ending in harmonic excellence — what a ride that was!! Much to the utter delight of the crowd…and why shouldn’t they have been delighted? What stupendous musicianship! And at a free show, too! Oh, did I forget to mention the show was free? Sorry about that…yeah, life is really good sometimes. And everyone at the concert got a free (yup, that word again) download card for Gipsy Moon’s latest album, Sticks and Stones. Pretty sweet, right? Exactly. Etienne remained for the next piece, a Greek song from the early 20th Century whose name I missed. What a delectable Eastern Mediterranean feel this song had. Instantly we were all transported to distant lands filled with exotic sights and sounds and aromas blown in on the trade winds. More incredible fiddle tone sprinkled into this recipe for musical deliciousness made for a perfect rendition of this song in this moment. Quite the adventure for those of us with our feet still planted in Boulder, CO. Magnificent. A bit on down the set from there came a Herman-written instrumental called “Daybreak”. Hard to say anything else about this that doesn’t have to do with its pure and utter beauty. If you have ever basked in the stark and amazing loveliness of a tune or a song, then this is one for you. Great energy and some supremely fine writing make this one a pleasure, through and through. Bravi to the entire band for making this version so fine for all of us! “Once in a Dream” was the follow-up to “Daybreak”, another song that trades its deceptive and mellower intro in for the upbeat tempo of a dance song. I, for one, love that about Gipsy Moon’s music…it takes you places. All sorts of places. Internal, external, metaphysical. It’s really rather remarkable. And we were off on yet another trip it would seem with the following “Caravan” whose instant energy was palpable and dance-worthy. Mackenzie and Matt shared the vocals throughout most of the song in a delightful display of adept harmony. I loved Silas’s prolific solo near the two minute mark. His mando fit the entire musical framework of this one so well!! Not to mention Conley kicking some serious ass on that cello of his. That man never ceases to impress the hell out of me. Certainly one of the fiercer cellists I have ever seen…his playing is really pretty wild and wonderful to behold. Another favorite of mine was the next on the list that night, “Away We Go”. And what an intense and deep version of this song it was, too. Without even being able to put my finger completely on it, there was just something delightfully dark and mysterious this time around…and it was to be found in Silas’s mandolin, Mackenzie’s vocals, Andrew’s cello…all throughout the band. The attitude in Matt’s bass playing was nothing short of nasty good and, my man, Omar, was nailing down beat after beat with liquid energy. And then, just like that, sadly it was all over. Time for the last song of this magical night with Gipsy Moon. And, when you start a show out with vodka, what do you end with? The only logical answer is “Gin”. Of course. What a sound epitomizing the very essence of this band and their supremely unique style! Mellow to start and whiz-bang to end, this is another musical roller coaster steeped in the musics of a dozen nations and myriad folk the world over. And, why not have Omar step up for a baller solo on all his drum friends? Nothing short of spectacular. One helluva way to close down a monster show like this! But, wait, there’s more! You guessed it…encore time! “House of the Rising Sun”? Are you joking me? Perfection! Slow and sultry and sweetly melancholy to start, this one beguiled and bewitched from beginning to end. And then the upbeat hit us like a bullwhip as the song hurtled into higher gear unleashing a deluge of delightful notes from each and every instrument on stage, all hands a blur as they so deftly plied their trade. Etienne was back in on fiddle for this one as well, lending his own brand of marvelous musical madness to the fray and it was the perfect icing for this Gipsy Moon cake. A huge end to a huge show! This truly may have been the best I heard and seen them yet. No kidding! By the last note, my gratitude and joy at having made this show were through the roof. Such stage presence, such energy, so much of all that is good and awesome and mesmerizing in music. And all under those glowing rainbow bands adorning the Boulder Bandshell — certainly made for a mighty confluence of wonderful things on the stage below. A huge congratulations to the band on their new album and their very successful CD Release Party concert! And a giant round of thanks to all five members of Gipsy Moon for their brilliance that evening! So much gratitude to go around!! And, all thanks toMackenzie, Omar, Andrew, Matt, and Silas. Bravi!!