Charm City Junction - This Baltimore quartet starts off the banjo night with said instrument along with standup bass, accordion, and one fellow switching between mandolin and violin. Of course, as you can guess from that instrumental array, we should call the last instrument a fiddle. These guys proclaim that they will show the connection between Ireland and bluegrass through way of Appalachia and they back that up with a nice varied set of tunes. There is also a balance between instrumentals and songs with vocals. The vocals are not terribly strong with the instrumentals faring better. They play well and do some playful runs that are easy to enjoy, but there is not a lot of power and drive at the core. All in all this is a likable opening 45 minutes, but I would like a bit more fire from a lineup like this.
We Banjo 3 - This Galway band wastes no time in reminding the cynics that yes, they know there are four of them and there is only one or two banjos at most. All the better, as the banjo, the mandolin, the acoustic guitar, and the violin all create a rich sound brilliantly shaped by these masterful musicians. They lock in, but still allow room for each instrument to breathe and resonate, even while they play their fastest passages. They have Irish music nailed down, but also explore American music as the opening band did and created a variety of moods within these forms. The vocals were strong and the band was so sharp, that they did not need to do much prompting to get the audience clapping or singing along. There was even a dance company that came out during some of the reels. I definitely need a fix of Irish music now and then and it is all the better when you catch a group doing it this well. And it is good to see that after playing for the President and various dignitaries in DC a month ago, that they returned to play for the rabble, or at least a crowded club. They fully deserve these wide audiences.
Facebook Grab of the Night: Keeping the Celtic theme, although from a different universe altogether: