Railroad Earth 9.13.12
Words By J-man
Photos By J-man, Nicholas Stock & Carly Marthis
Video By Nicholas Stock
The sun shined down on Boulder, CO as the first few leaves of the season began to fall. We found ourselves on the Pearl St. Mall scouting a location for an exclusive session that we would be doing with Railroad Earth. With the location being selected and the band wrapping up their soundcheck, I made my way backstage to provide some assistance in rounding up the group. As we walked down the alleyway from the backstage door of the Boulder Theater to the mall, I could hear Tim Carbone's fiddle bouncing off of the brick wall as he warmed up. "Today they would perform the exclusive session, tonight they would play the sold out Boulder Theater and tomorrow they would play Red Rocks alongside Umphrey's McGee," I thought to myself as the crowd on the mall came into my view. I was thrilled to see so many familiar faces and as the band tuned and prepared...
Following the session, folks made their way towards members of their favorite band to say hello and show their appreciation for the couple of songs. We made our way to the front of the venue to gather our credentials and found a moderate-sized group already assembling in a loose line to claim their space on the rail. A couple of hours later and the doors opened at The Boulder Theater.
Inside of the theater the frenzy had begun and the elevated energy was already palatable. Folks hugged, shared laughs and dipped into bags of glitter, which quickly spread throughout the floor section like a expensive party favor. As is always the case at Railroad Earth shows, the crowd ran the gambit of age groups and social backgrounds. Maybe more than any other band on our scene, RRE draws one of the most diverse crowds. There is something about the ageless music that so many can relate to. Maybe its the band's sonic output, timeless lyrics or heartfelt sound. Whatever was driving the train and all of it's passengers, it managed to sell out the 1150 person capacity venue.
Railroad Earth Live at Boulder Theater on September 13, 2012.
At first, only John Skehan III and Andy Goessling took the stage informing the crowd that Bill Monroe would have been 101 on that day. The duo began with "Ashland Breakdown" before the rest of the band joined transitioning into "Old Dangerfield" and opening up the room with expansive instrumentation. "Just So You Know" came next with consistent energy, as the crowd swayed back and forth to the music. Railroad turned it up a notch with "Drag Him Down," featuring Todd Sheaffer's characteristic folk vocals. Railroad's unique sound derives from the deep instrumentation and solo work, breaking through the usual bluegrass confines. The set slowed down for "Little Bit O' Me," only to bring the energy back with a Tim Carbone led "Daddy-O." The ever-so-beautiful "Potter's Field" followed triggering the rhythm section of Andrew Altman and Carey Harmon to shine brightly through compositional transitions. "1759" went into "Mountain Time" with the two songs clocking in at over nineteen minutes.
With the first sets conclusion, a mass exodus towards the doors ensued. Sweaty faces poured out onto the street in front of the theater as folks headed in all directions into the beautiful Colorado night, only to return a mere twenty minutes later for the second set.
Railroad eased their way back in with a thirteen minute plus "Birds of America." "Lordy, Lordy" came next and was followed by "Been Down this Road," which slowed the show down once again and reflected Railroad Earth's range. "Came Up Smiling" kept the tempo slow, as did "A Day On The Sand," "For Love," "Black Elk Speaks" and "Way of The Buffalo" before the band transitioned into "Stillwater Getaway" to keep the energy alive. Tim Carbone's solo on "Stillwater Getaway" was absolutely stunning and blew the minds of most in attendance. It seemed that the band was reserving it's energy and barn-burners for the following night's performance at Red Rocks as they fired back up with a slow "Long Walk Home" that transitioned into the powerful Irish-sounding "The Green Roofs of Eireann."
The next transition sparked an energetic rush in the crowd as the opening notes of "Smiling Like A Buddha" kicked in with instrumental brilliance. In that moment, most knew that the highlight/climax of the show was upon us as "Smiling Like A Buddha" slowly turned into "Give That Boy A Hand" to close the second set. The whole run of transitioning songs clocked in around twenty eight minutes. The encore came in the form of "I Ain't Got No Home" featuring Andy on the sax. Just prior to the final song of the evening Tim spoke up and said "We can't decide if we want to play a fast one or a faster one... Fast? Faster?" with the crowd going crazy after Tim said "faster!" Then the band went into a moderate tempo version of "Ragtime Annie Lee" that built and built to an all out string frenzy to close the evening.
The show had it's moments, but overall reflected a band just getting warmed up. The following night at Red Rocks would be a whole different ballgame. Railroad Earth fans seemed satisfied, however, many Umphrey's fans who had purchased the three day pass seemed puzzled with the band's slower song selection. Overall the production was flawless and on par with everything that I have come to expect from Railroad Earth. I felt grateful for the exclusive session on the mall, appreciative of Railroad's ability to bring together the community and mostly satisfied with the show. As expected, the following night's show at Red Rocks would reveal a different side of Railroad Earth.
Carly Marthis' Photo Gallery
J-man & Nicholas' Photo Gallery