Darol Anger & Friends 3.31.12

Cervantes Other Side
Denver, CO

Words By Nicholas Stock
Photos By Nicholas Stock & Carly Marthis

J-man and I headed down early to speak with Darol and catch the opening sets. It was a full night of bluegrass ending with a giant clusterpluck that included Sally Van Meter, Grant Cordy, Enion Pelta, David Tiller, Brian Adams, Matt Gallagher, Emy Phelps, Adam Gailblum, Katie Glassman, and obviously Darol leading the show. But first it was Magnolia Row who opened the evening. Magnolia row is a delicate acoustic act lead by the stunning Daniella Katzir. They are very much focused on songwriting over shredding which made for a somewhat sleepy beginning to the night. At times it felt like they would be more comfortable performing at a coffee house in the afternoon rather than a bar at night. That being said their lyrics were beautiful and nicely accentuated by the picking of Paul Murin, Bill Browning, and Leslie Myers.

Next on the bill was Chris Thompson and Coral Creek. Having seen them once before I knew they were solid players, but they brought the heat that night for certain. With liveliness and power they displayed some top notch playing. The room began to fill in, getting to be about a third packed and the fans began to boogie. The main issue in my opinion was the fact that next-door at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom was an electronic show headlined by Michal Menert. There was a constant pulse of the whomp bleeding into the room, which I found to be utterly distracting. It became more of an issue when Darol Anger backed entirely by strings came to the stage.

Darol Anger is an impressive virtuoso by any standard, constantly pushing the boundaries of his instrument. With the passing of elder bluegrass legends like Earl Scruggs, performers like Anger are even more important to the preservation of this incredible style of music. The lineup was impressive, but at times it became a convolution of strings. There were some sound issues, causing Darol to even pull out a microphone cable to stop feedback. Despite all these concerns there were some incredible moments of music onstage. With all the players present together at the start Anger took the role as bandleader passing around solos like a busy pizza delivery guy on a Saturday night in a college town. With three fiddle players in addition to Anger, I was left scratching my head until they were left alone to play solo. Dubbed the fiddle squad they actually pulled off a great tune before the whole band returned to the stage. Emy Phelps sang several songs and with her whimsical almost Baez-like voice adding a great touch. Other pickers of note include Sally Van Meter and Grant Gordy of the David Grisman Quintet. All in all it was a fun night of picking that had to persevere over several issues to succeed.

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