Cabinet 12.1.12

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, Co

Words By Brad Yeakel

This Saturday, a small coal powered musical freight train came through Denver's Capitol Hill area and collided with Quixote's True Blue. The resulting carnage brought the critters out of the hills and you could smell gopher stew wafting down 13th ave. Pennsylvania's coal crackin' cordiality oozed out of the evening as former Pennsylvanians, current Pennsylvanians, and friends of Pennsylvanians swarmed to see their pride... A relatively unknown band called Cabinet.

I hadn't seen them in a few years, since I left PA for the Rockies. They have been hard at work crafting a bluegrass experience that defies many labels and is uniquely Appalachian. Much like Pennsylvania's farmland and mining towns, there was a party beneath this humble exterior. I almost got vertigo thinking about this band... In one sense, they're a traditional group stretching the limits towards innovation and in another, they're pure innovation clinging to some hazy recollection of tradition... Like the sons of farmers, miners, and moonshiner's re-telling their parent's stories while sneaking off to burn one with their friends. Good folks and good times. There were three great vocalists, but the Biondi's (JP and Pappy) were truly remarkable. Their harmonies were of a quality you rarely find in newgrass, and their musical sensibilities were sharp and palatable enough to be found on a major country record.

But not so fast, they aren't quite ready to be put in that box yet. There was still the matter of all this colorful energy they spew. Obviously that is not ready to be packaged for mainstream consumption. So, where do you go when tradition's trail gets boring and daring's drive is roughshod? You forge new ground, blaze new trails, and create a new way to get to new places. That is what Cabinet is doing now. There are few bands who do what Cabinet does. They have a similarity to Yonder Mountain String Band that can be found in their lyrics, songwriting, boundless playing and general sound, but I personally have a better appreciation for Pappy's banjo than most Yonder I've heard. JP also knows how to bring a lot of energy to the tunes without going Jeff Austin overboard. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Yonder, but there is something about Cabinet that smooths out the rough edges... that feels more authentic and less deranged. They also utilize an Appalachian kick to their bluegrass that has kinships to Railroad Earth. I know a lot of people are head over heals for RRE, and others think they are overrated, but they do bring a regional sound to their jam grass and the Cabinet has grabbed some tricks from the same bag. While I wouldn't say they remind me of RRE, they definitely share some space, both in location (PA/ Jersey) and also with their musical inflections that hint at coal mining and trail hiking. I think when it comes down to it, Cabinet is a little more calculated and consistent than RRE which has a looser style. Cabinet is just built a little sturdier.

At the end of the night, I was thankful that this band had invested their own money to finance a trip to CO, just to spread the word and the music. I bought a copy of their debut self titled album, as well as their new release, "Leap" on my way out because this band deserves to be paid and I wanted to make sure they had a little gas money from me. The show was truly one of the most enjoyable concert experiences I've had at Quixote's and I am anxiously waiting for their return, which is rumored to be in March. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to leap into my Cabinet... Care to join me?


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