Railroad Earth in Royal Oak, MI 3.5.11
Words By Brandon Picard
Photos By Brandon Picard & Amanda Totten
Another snowy night in Michigan and we're set to enjoy it. I had been looking forward to this show for a couple months and was excited to spend it with some of my good friends. Walking only a short block from my friend Scotty’s house, we arrived promptly at 9 p.m. The Royal oak Music Theatre has been home to many of my Michigan musical experiences, so I knew the layout quite well. The Ragbirds were into their set when we arrived. We caught a few songs and retreated to the back of the venue to catch up with everyone else. I have seen the Ragbirds multiple times and was pleased with the songs I did hear. Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth made an appearance for a couple, an extremely entertaining start to the night.
Walking the venue taking photos, I noticed an over abundance of red-shirted security guards scouring the place for any “mishaps”. I remember security at the theatre being somewhat tight in the past, but nothing like what I had seen tonight. The lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and Railroad Earth took the stage. A few of the folks I was with hadn’t seen RRE before and I was excited to see what they thought. We claimed an area three steps up from the main level, overlooking the dancing crowd, and face level with the musicians.
As I’ve said before in previous reviews, the first song of a show is extremely important to me, it sets the tone for the evening. Tonight, I was disappointed. Opening with the lullaby of “Long Walk Home” the crowd seemed as irritated as I was. For the first time in my live music era, I dipped for a bathroom break during the first song of a show. This gave me a chance to check out the crowd from an elevated spot. The stage level area was almost completely full while the remainder of the venue, not so much. The venue retreats like a staircase with each level a few steps up from the last. I made my way back down towards the stage as the second song kicked in. I didn’t recognize the song, but the tempo definitely picked up. Smiles ensued. Happiness is a contagious thing, and I could tell it was spreading quickly.
Railroad Earth is a band that my girlfriend and I came to notice a few years ago. I found it was one of a very select few groups that appealed to both of us. There’s not constant shredding or endless lullabies. Railroad Earth finds a way to incorporate many different moods and tempos throughout their sets. Tonight was no different. The show continued just as I expected with an array of dance tunes, accompanied by a mellow vocalist showcase every so often. Mellow isn’t for me. I find myself getting restless during these times. Now, I understand it may be unfair to judge the sound and quality of a band by their tempo, but personally, I can’t avoid it. I’m constantly looking for new ways to tickle my musical fancy. Simply put, there is no room for nonsense.
The night rolled on. More than once during the show, I was saddened to see security guards escorting people out for smoking. Throughout the entirety of the night, I saw no less than eight people get booted for having some harmless fun. I tried to not let it affect me, I couldn’t help but think about the people who were removed. The first occasion happened in the middle of the first song. $25 for one track doesn’t add up to me. Now I’m not trying to be a downer in this write up, and I know this is a “musical review”... I just want to tell it how it is. Sometime during the show, a couple friends of mine returned from the “designated” smoking area telling me how there were hassled and wrongfully accused of smoking pot. The security guard outside approached my friend and said, “Put that out, I know your smoking, I saw you hit that joint like six times!” My friend had not been smoking pot. The security guard walked away and thankfully that was the end of that. It’s just really upsetting to me. It doesn’t have to be like that. Enough, I’m sure you get the point.
“Like A Buddha” was next and the dancing feet were again given a chance to express themselves. I made my way towards the front for some pictures and found a few of my friends happily frolicking around. Moving swiftly through the crowd, I got my sidewinder dance going and made my way from left to right snapping what seemed like hundreds of photos. People were digging the music. Everyone was dancing... or at least tapping a solid foot. At this point, I realized the banjo player had turned in his banjo for a guitar and was now flat picking. It was awesome. It was clear to me that he was a guitar player. With each of the songs build up and drops, the crowd threw down expressing their excitement with palms in the air.
As the show progressed I began to notice how big of a stand out the violinist Tim Carbone had become. He really stole the show. Song after song Tim was spotlighted. All of the first time Railroad Earther’s I was with pointed that out to me as well. Job well done Tim!
The lights became a big part of the show, with the strum of each new instrument, a different colored light fluttered. Something musically appealing is enhanced tenfold with the addition of a remarkable light show. It becomes breathtaking. The lights become an instrument of their own.
I was happy to hear a throw down of “Mighty River”, and by the sound of the crowd, so were they. Looking around and I could see the majority of the crowd rallying off the lyrics from start to finish. This gave me a good idea of the support that Railroad Earth has, a TON!
As the show came to an end I was surrounded with nothing but happy smiling folks. I can say that I had an awesome time at the show. Dismiss the security guard debacle and it was a successful night. All I have to say is loosen up Royal Oak.
The feedback I got in the moments walking out of the venue was priceless. My friends were as stoked with the show as I was.