Luray - This is the second time I have seen Shannon Carey perform her songs on banjo and vocals with assistance from an upright bass player and a keyboardist/guitar/back-up vocalist. Her songs are delicate, contemplative folk, which made a pretty poor match for the Black Cat on a Friday night. Acoustic music is a real challenge here and the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, especially on the weekends as dozens of people believe their conversation is at least equally important to what is going on onstage. Standing up front, there were like-minded fans of this music and the band did a fine job of delivering smooth, involved patterns of thoughtful and focused folk music. Standing behind the crowd (grown to over 70) was a big mistake as the conversations just took over. There seem to be some minor tuning and equipment issues, but the band handled that well enough. I really enjoyed this fine band at the Velvet Lounge and I hope to see them in a better environment next time.
The Torches - This is a really good crowd for a local showcase and has swelled to well over a hundred making for a comfortable environment at the big stage. And this band has a nice loud active rhythm section to overwhelm the crowd noise. The rest of it is mostly acoustic but they play an active gypsy folk punk style in the manner of Gogol Bordello (I wish I had a dollar for every time I have written that phrase in the last three years). The energy is good as the drums and bass really have a pounding, throbbing style. The vocals are strong and the music is fun. There are violins, cellos, accordions and plenty more. If anything, I would like to see fancier arrangements where these instruments weave around in more fascinating patterns. But this band has good heart and makes for an entertaining Friday night set.
Junior League - And Banjo Night continues with the third appearance of this American classic sound. This time, this quintet has a sound that nicely fits in between the two previous bands. They have core rock instrumentation with violin and banjo giving off a country-rock, Americana vibe. Wil, the bassist, is doing double duty as he played the upright for Luray, but has gone electric here. He and the drummer lay a nice foundation that is controlled but allow for a relaxed, loose band feeling as the songs roll out. I really enjoy their music a lot when they head toward a 60s jam rock sound as opposed to the more mannered country songs. But it holds together well enough and they have enough good songs for just about everybody here tonight.
Quote of the Night: "Shhhhhhhhhhhhh..." heard twice during the first set. I am always happy to see that many agree with something I often complain about. The world is a better place when everyone strives for full awareness of their environment.