New Years Eve: Railroad Earth 12.31.11

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man
Audio Recording By Gerry Gladu

How could they top the previous night's performance? The second set closed out with a run of songs that many had never heard back to back. One classic went into another as the band ventured from "The Forecast" into "The Man Who Invented Sin" into "Mighty River" before closing with "Like a Buddha" and "Elko." Then they encored with "I've Just Seen a Face" followed by "Bird in a House." What was left to play on New Years Eve? Additionally, the music was elevated by The String Cheese Incident's Kyle Hollingsworth. That Friday show was a barn-burner and there we stood in anticipation of what the band could do to surpass Friday's show for New Years. Three sets later we would have a clearer understanding of how it is that Railroad Earth has become one of the most sought out bands on our scene.

Coming off of Friday's show, we were buzzing. The previous two night's shows had already been uploaded to The Archive, so we listened as we got ready for the evening's show. I felt like a kid on Christmas, which I had never felt before about Railroad Earth. There was nowhere else that I would have rather been that evening.

Out front of The Ogden Theatre the line to gain access to the most desired NYE party in town extended down the block. There were a lot of folks looking for tickets and not many tickets to be found. It was a sellers market. The Ogden was delayed approximately thirty minutes in opening the doors which led to an even higher level of anticipation. Finally, the doors opened and in we went to be greeted by smiling security and a bunch of balloons in the lobby. I felt a feeling of relaxation and happiness overtake me as I entered the main room. We found a spot directly in front of the soundboard on the rail and settled in for the night.

I was eyeing the limited addition poster the previous evening and had decided to purchase on that night. I called Tim Carbone and had him meet me at the backstage entrance to have the band sign the poster. Just before showtime I received a text back letting me know that the poster was ready. I was thrilled that Tim was able to help me out as the print was pretty cool!

Railroad Earth Live at Ogden Theatre on December 31, 2011.

Just prior to the first set many of our friends turned out to ring in the new year. Dressed in business/party attire, we came to get down and get down we did. The lights dimmed, the crowd roared and the band hit the stage. The energy level couldn't have been higher and the euphoric environment came to life with the first few notes of their self-titled track, "Railroad Earth." At that moment, the lyrics and melodies touched me and I felt like crying tears of joy.

The crowd sang along passionately... What a great way to start the evening! The music picked up and the crowd broke out into dance with "Happy Song." The crowd sang "Yeah, yeah, yeah" with lead singer Todd Sheaffer. The instrumental "Carry Coal to Newcastle" went into another instrumental song, "Mission Man." The instrumentation was incredible as Railroad Earth dug deep into the music. An uplifting "Everything Comes Together" came to close the first set.

"We'll see you in a little bit" said Todd, triggering massive motion in the crowd as folks headed in all directions in search of some set break action. The first set was short, but truly sweet giving us just a taste of the music to come...

The second set opened with "Right in Tune" to ease in before the Irish/Celtic sounding "The Green Roofs Of Eireann" into the bass heavy "Birds of America" led by Andrew Altman. The transition was solid and the contrast in songs made for an interesting change of pace. One of the more entertaining moments came when Todd gave a shout out over the webcast.

"Alright, well it's already New Years on the East Coast and we've got some friends watching on the world wide web. We want to send a shout out to the folks at The Cool Spring Farm. We know they got it tuned in... Happy New Year, Cool Springers. Hey Cool Springers, get off your ass and dance!"

I smiled at the thought of the folks at the farm celebrating and yelling as they heard the shout out. "Dance Around Molly" sounded fantastic as it segued into "Dandelion Wine." A slow somewhat menacing "The Cuckoo" followed to change the flow of the set. "Sometimes A River" welcomed the penman of the song, Keith Moseley to the stage. With Keith on electric guitar, the band soared through the song. I was impressed with his guitar playing, as I am used to seeing him play bass. His vocals were great and the band really seemed to enjoy his sit-in. Keith exited the stage as Railroad Earth played "Gold Rush" to close the set.

The second set was amazing! As I reflected on my previous notion of wondering what the band would play following their previous evening's show, I realized that I had neglected to recall more than half of their material. Again, the set break scramble ensued. This set break, preparations were made for the ringing in of the new year. The bar was selling twenty five dollar bottles of sparkling wine that began to pop up throughout the crowd. The excitement was peaking as folks shuffled around to find their friends, use the restroom and get their drinks for the final set of music.

The band came out with a tribal theme, both musically and in costume. It was then that I realized that the temples on stage were meant to be Mayan temples. Then, the Mayan god, Kukulkan (RRE's stage manager, Phil), entered the stage in what appeared to be a Mexican poncho with an exotic headdress somewhat larger than the ones the band was sporting. In his hand he clutched a bamboo staff, strewn with feathers and a fake snake. The phase of transformation began...

It was a magical moment of celebration and utter chaos. The cloth bag that housed the balloons failed to open and instead came down on the crowd. The crowd grabbed the bag and ripped it open creating an outpouring of balloons into the audience. The band segued into a disco-esque "Son of Mr. Green Genes" into another bass-thick tune, "Spring-Heeled Jack." Tim went crazy on the fiddle elevating the song to unimaginable heights. The chemistry within' Railroad Earth was incredible.

"Give That Boy A Hand" was followed by "Magic Foot" that went into "Luxury Liner." Carey Harmon's drumming added a great layer to the string oriented music and gave the band the drive that it needed to venture into some very intense material. John Skehan III's picking on the Mandolin and Irish Bouzouki blew my mind. His ferocious style let to some fast-paced picking and instrumental trade-offs. "Warhead Boogie" went into "Storms" to slow the set down a little bit before the closing breakdown, "Water Fountain Quicksand."

The crowd erupted. The band returned to the stage for "Hard Livin'" with the crowd's insisted participation. Andy Goessling's instrumental range was mind-blowing. Was he going to pick up the saxophone, the banjo, the guitar, the dobro? It was anyone's guess. The slow "All Things Must Pass" followed to let us know that this experience too would pass, but not before "Peace on Earth."

I was overwhelmingly impressed more and more as the show went on. After listening to the first night of the New Years run, attending the second night and celebrating NYE on the closing night of the run, I realized how large Railroad Earth's repertoire truly is. Without a single repeat over the three night's, Railroad Earth performed seven sets of incredible music for adoring Denver fans. It's been a great experience for me to watch this band grow over the years and with objectivity in place, to still fall in love with what Railroad Earth does. I will now and forever consider myself a huge Railroad Earth fan and I consider that night to be one of my best experiences with the band...

Carly & J-man's Photo Gallery


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