Mallett Brothers Band - From the lovely city of Portland, Maine comes this six-piece alt country band made up of two brothers and four other fine players. They have a rocking rhythm section and rotate among various acoustic and electric guitars along with the occasional lap style acoustic guitar played standing up. This was usually employed when the songs really rocked and the slide moves fit in perfectly. I enjoyed it much more than a steel guitar which can become too dominating and cloying if overdone. Of course, you could not dominate the speedy runs from the lead guitarist, unless you had the soundman cheating on your behalf, as he was flying. Particularly fun, was the point where one of the vocalists asked during a pause in a particularly fast rocking number if we wanted to see their two lead guitarists shred even faster than that? Of course, so they did. There were some slower cuts which offered nice contrast and still had plenty of heart and melody to keep the set moving forward. This was a solid and occasionally exciting 40 minutes here.
Turnpike Troubadours - This quintet has a strong fan base, well represented here tonight, and builds nicely on the opening set. They do not rock quite as much, but it is very close and they show plenty of pace and excitement when they want to turn it up. There slower numbers feature top notch vocal work and there is some violin in the mix to keep things interesting. The banjo comes out and again, does not dominate but fills in well with the rest of the standard instrumentation. This is accessible music, but well beyond cliche with a deep emotional groove established. They remind me a bit of an American Fairport Convention in that respect. They keep a firm hand on their sound and have the songs to make for great success. It was no surprise to see the positive response from the crowd and there was even some quality dancing in the back that fit the second stage at the Birchmere perfectly (this was a standing show in the main bar area). Good blood pumping music tonight!
Ridiculous observation of the night... The first band had a ratio of three baseball style caps, two cowboy hats and one hatless player. The second band (as shown above) had two cowboy hats, one cap, and two hatless players. I wonder if these percentages can work as a predictor for rock speed and volume in a band (say more caps, more rock). Of course, this is almost assuredly complete nonsense as the hard rocking lead guitarist in the first band was one of the cowboy hats, but at least gives me something to play with for future shows. I do like the mix as it removes the uniform component that some bands employ.