As vocalists, and de facto leaders of Boris Garcia, Bob Stirner and Jeff Otto, regaled Puck’s audience with a warm banter fitting for autumn’s crisp winds, the stage came to life with the kaleidoscopic dance of overhead lights. Opening with the pithy punch of “Other Shoe,” the contrasting vocal textures of Otto and Stirner complemented their bluegrass backing, lending a sense of authenticity to this back-porch, ho-downin’ syndicate from New Jersey. Speedy triplets at the capable hands of mandolin player, Bud Burroughs, gave the song a decided intensity befitting of a jamband rocker, warranting the jamgrass label.
Highlights of the first, largely acoustic set came by way of an apt cover of the 18th century folk traditional, “Shady Grove,” with an upbeat tick that harkened to Bill Monroe’s classic version. “Through The Window,” a song off the band’s latest album – produced by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone – brought Stirner to dawn Bob Weir-like vocals that were apropos for a cut vaguely reminiscent of The Dead’s, “Sugar Magnolia.” Largely abandoning the roots vibe for pop sensibilities, “Good Bye Joe,” “Nine Fine Wines,” and “Holiday,” brought the audience to their feet and dancing with the group’s most radio-friendly cuts off each of their three albums.
The second, electrified set highlighted Boris Garcia’s interchangeable skills as keyboardists, mandolin players, bassists, guitarists, and even bouzouki-lute players. Not featured, however, were the vocals of Donna Jean-Godchaux-MacKay and Buddy Cage’s (New Riders) pedal steel, recorded on the album, but noticeably absent here; “Other Side” was conspicuously de-clawed. “Red, White, & Blue,” Jeff Otto’s topical protest piece, met with head nodding en masse, but it was Stirner’s electric leads during the final songs that heightened the overall energy of jams, and punctuated the evening with a memorable exclamation point of outright rawk. Stirner sings, “You need a break from the every day, in so many ways,” and Boris Garcia did a fine job of providing that.