Railroad Earth w/ Kyle Hollingsworth 12.30.11

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

Words By Nicholas Stock (phatphlogblog.blogspot.com)
Photos By Nicholas Stock & J-man
Audio Recording by Gerry Gladu

For the second time in two years I headed down to the Ogden to catch Railroad Earth for a night of their New Year’s run. Last year I saw them with Great American Taxi on NYE, this year I headed down on the 30th mainly because the show included a sit-in with Kyle Hollingsworth. Including my trip to Chicago, this would be the fifth time in a month seeing Kyle live. Amy picked me up from work and we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner before heading over to the box office. We hit up Pete’s Monkey Bar to catch a bit of the Phish live stream from MSG before walking back to The Ogden to see the opening act. On the MusicMarauders Live podcast, Tim Carbone talked highly of Dumptruck Butterlips so I figured we should get in early to catch them.

Hailing from Lawrence Kansas, this four-piece acoustic act was interesting to say the least. With an odd lineup consisting of three ladies on accordion, washboard and upright bass and a gentleman on guitar, the most striking element of Dumptruck Butterlips was their vocal harmonization. They had a Midwest hometown feel to their sound and they sang about heavy drinking without fear of throwing an f-bomb or two into their lyrics. At times, musically, they showed their freshness to the scene, but the overall effect of their performance was enjoyable. They finished their set with Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling. They were a good choice for the opening act and a group I will keep an eye on in the future.

Railroad Earth came onto the stage around 9:30 PM. Kyle’s keys were set up but he waited a few numbers before making his way to his rig. They opened with a funky "Walk Beside Me" led by Andrew Altman on electric bass. Here is the complete setlist from Archive:

Railroad Earth Live at Ogden Theatre on December 30, 2011.

SET I: Walk Beside Me, Lordy, Lordy, Bread and Water, Little Bit O' Me, Stillwater Getaway, The Hunting Song, Mourning Flies, Said What You Mean, Long Way To Go

SET II: Old Man and the Land, Head> Will it Go Round in Circles, Bringin' My Baby Back Home, The Forecast> The Man Who Invented Sin> Mighty River> Like a Buddha, Elko

Encore: I've Just Seen a Face, Bird in a House

Note: Kyle joined on "The Hunting Song" and stayed for the remainder of the show.

The first set ebbed and flowed as far as the energy level was concerned. The 16 and up age limit made for an interesting mix in the crowd. From screaming youngsters to old deadheads, the fanbase was as diverse as the music performed. The rolling and tumbling "Lordy, Lordy" got everyone’s juices flowing. The "Bread and Water" succeeded keeping the vibe at a fever pitch before the "Little Bit O’ Me" deflated the room a bit. Musically, Railroad Earth sounded as tight as I’ve seen them, but without the urgency of their opening set at Red Rocks this past summer.

They meandered into the show with a confidence and comfort often reserved for night two of a three night run. Carbone played the fiddle beautifully on "Stillwater Getaway" jumping back and forth between an almost symphonic presentation and an outright hoedown. Kyle Hollingsworth took his place at the keys on "The Hunting Song." Kyle added the ragtime feel of an old-timey saloon. Inherently there are certain gaps in RRE’s sound; them being a Newgrass band, Kyle’s keys filled them in nicely. It was great to see Andrew Altman really stepping it up on bass. He alternated between electric and standup and really seemed to be finding his footing in the band. I was also truly impressed with Sheaffer’s vocals, which went from clean and crisp to almost Dylanesque as in "Said What You Mean." They closed the set with a raucous sing-along on "Long Way To Go."

The second set overall had a much more consistent flow and vibe. Railroad eased into set two with a bouncy and scenic "Old Man and the Land" before ripping into a massive eighteen minute "Head." The jamming showed some serious tightness and ability from all of the members including Kyle. Everyone was ready to lock in and take the ride. They ripped into a Kyle-led version of Billy Preston’s "Will It Go Round in Circles." The haunting melody of "The Forecast" segued into the instrumental "The Man Who Invented Sin." The "Mighty River" went quickly before RRE exploded into a powerful "Like A Buddha." Again clocking in at over eighteen minutes this was by far the highlight of the entire show. They closed the second set with an equally strong "Elko." It was like the band just turned on the turbo boosters on the last four songs of the show.

They encored with a quick "I’ve Just Seen a Face" and a fun "Bird in a House." The crowd left happy and energized from this stellar show. While the first set came on slower, the second set, particularly the end, more than made up for it. As we exited into the cold night of Denver we were stoked on the whole experience. Railroad Earth has a habit of performing remarkably. They have such a strong fanbase and have continued to play exceptional shows out on the Front Range. I was happy to catch a night of RRE’s New Year’s run and would recommend that everyone do the same. However it was time to head home because I would be seeing The Motet and Euforquestra for New Year’s Eve in Fort Collins. That would prove to be another solid choice.

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