Grant Farm, Frogs Gone Fishin' & Gipsy Moon 2.8.13
Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel
Saturday night I entered the Boulder Theater intrigued by what I might find. The show was promoted as an event featuring Keith Moseley of String Cheese Incident, and I was really curious what Grant Farm would sound like. But before I had a chance to think too much, Gipsy Moon distracted me. This four piece featured guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bass. The first thing I noticed was that their guitarist was a beautiful young lady with a very pretty voice named Mackenzie Page. It was at times light, airy, and delicate and at others, soulful, rich, and powerful. And she wasn't just a pretty face or voice... She played the guitar well also. Nothing too flashy, but solid, consistent, and timely. Second, I noticed that the bass player, Colin Huff, playing a stand-up, bore a slight resemblance to Les Claypool. He also had a voice that reminded me of Roy Orbison at one point. His playing on their high energy song, "Flying" was some of the finest stand-up playing I've seen. His slap-happy rhythm drove the song like a locomotive with turbo charges. The banjo player, David Matters, (rocking a French-braid of dreads) sang well also. His vocals reminded me of YMSB's Ben Kauffman. Smooth, strong, clear, and confident. This combination of three talented vocalists was refreshing, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of their voices. Their songwriting was also very good. Lastly, I can't forget to mention their mandolin player, Silas Herman, (son of Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman) who tore up several solos throughout their set. Speedy picking was his talent, and it seemed the audience was impressed. He would later appear as a guest of the headlining Grant Farm as well.
Frogs Gone Fishing took the stage, and it was the first time I'd seen them without their horn section, "the Horny Toads." While it lacked the authentic funk feel their horn section adds, it seemed to free them up for more exploratory rock and roll. The roles seemed to be pretty well defined in the band. Bassist, Alex Scott, seemed to perpetuate the grooves. His style was funky, motivated, driving, and complex, yet served the drums as an integrated part of the rhythm. While his lines were busy, they weren't extraneous, nor self indulgent. Jeff Jani, drummer, worked well with Scott, and they laid down a pretty sturdy rhythm. Jani's drumming leaned towards the energetic rock/funk side of things, but I have also seen him drop reggae, electronica, and bluegrass influenced rhythms. Andrew Portwood fit the classic songwriter, rhythm guitar role that many bands employ. His songs were unique but had hints of familiarity. His role in the band was critical. The Frogs also had a new addition to their lineup... "The Scientist" as they called him, was a key player who appeared to be in the process of getting acquainted with their songs. He didn't detract from their show, but his additions were sparse and not quite dialed in. For instance, some effects he used oscillated at a different frequency than the song's rhythm, which made for a sound that lacked synchronization at times. This was a minor setback at most, but as he gets more familiar, I expect those types of things will be better coordinated. Keyboards were necessary to stretch their psychedelic limits. Lastly, there was Trevor Jones. Trevor had great tone, fleet fingers, and made a lot of great choices musically. He appeared to have more exuberance to his playing and his stage presence. He regularly hammed it up for cameras, the crowd, and band mates as he danced, smiled, and jumped his way around stage while he delivered lightening licks and super charged solos. The one thing FGF could do is work on their flow. At times I felt the songs took hair-pin turns with no warning... A mark of talent, sure, but sometimes the change would have sounded better with a little smoother transition. This was also true of some of their song endings. To call the endings abrupt would be an understatement. On the whole, Frogs were a good time, and I was getting really excited to see Grant Farm for the first time.
Tyler Grant brought his band out and ripped into some down-home, western music... Not quite cowboy tunes, not quite bluegrass, not quite country or folk. Mountain music perhaps? Either way, their sound confirmed my expectations. I expected a rural sound that would be at home with String Cheese Incident's Keith Moseley. As they began I thought the opening song could have been a Moseley tune. It shared his good vibe, positive message, country-funk sound and had lyrics I could imagine Keith singing easily. Guitarist and band leader, Tyler Grant had quick fingers as he picked out lines that reminded me of Jerry Garcia's countrified tunes. Adrian Engfer had a great personality that showed in his playing and his facial expressions. His long hair and styled mustache triggered thoughts of Duane Allman, and his playing was simply lively. Sean Foley kept up on keys, and really impressed me with his accordion work. One tune seemed to have a mountain vibe until Sean's accordion added the feel of a serenade aboard a Venetian gondola. Somehow it worked, but it was slightly unusual. Chris Misner's drums were quite impressive also as he kept intricate beats and played a solo that utilized dynamics to display his precise touch as he increased and decreased the volume of his drum roll again and again.
The band brought out their special guest, Keith Moseley, part way into their show and let him thump some bass before switching to guitar. It was unusual for me to watch Keith play guitar, and in his role as featured guest, they let him play a couple of solos. His playing was better than I expected, but wasn't the confident, inventive, and captivating solos that I've come to expect on the SCI tunes they played. I did enjoy the show as it was exciting to see Keith step outside his comfort zone a bit. Amid the Grant Farm originals, they played "Sometimes a River," "Up the Canyon," "Look at Where We Are," "Soul Rebel," and "Maggie's Farm." Grant Farm stepped right out of Moseley's play book to create good feeling music. Their organic blend of happy sounds emanated from their positive outlook. As Tyler introduced his band, he said that each member of the band, doesn't do it for the fame or the money, they do it for us good people, and for the joy of entertaining us on their respective instruments. When he got to Keith, he said that String Cheese Incident was also in it for the right reasons, and that they have done a lot to spread love through their music. I couldn't have agreed more. In the end, Grant Farm was less mind blowing than some acts I've seen, but they were solid, had good musical talent, and projected songs that were simply happy. I'm not sure what they've been growing on that farm, but it sure made me feel good.