Railroad Earth 1.17.14

The Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

The weathered barn was at the end of a windy road. It's drafty, abandoned, dusty contents reflected long forgotten hoedowns, and barn parties. The smell of hay and wood were sensory compliments to the broken, battered, and rotten remnants of pitchforks and shovels, banjos and fiddles. As the years passed, the instruments were ultimately buried in a field behind the barn. Then one spring, the sun and rain brought sprouts from the ground, and up grew the most organic band in all the land.

That was how I like to imagine Railroad Earth was formed.

Truthfully, Friday night I thought they really sounded like a farm. Each player was a different flavor from the garden, and took turns seasoning the songs. From time to time, there was a pretty tasty soup cooking. On the other hand, there were some downfalls to being so terrestrial. For starters, from an entertainment perspective, I never felt like any bounds were pushed. Everything had the feel of a bunch of friends going through the motions rather than a band that was trying to "turn on our own heads." Unfortunately, there were points where I would have been similarly entertained by listening to some background music and watching the produce aisle at King Soopers.

That was a little harsh. It's not that I don't appreciate Railroad Earth. I have seen them raise the energy through the roof, but those moments seemed to be few and far between. It was a shame that the energy wasn't sustainable, because Tim Carbone's fiddle playing and Todd Sheaffer's songwriting were truly remarkable. Carbone also seemed to be the most down to earth musician I have ever met. His whole purpose seems to be to spread goodness and joy. If it weren't for Tim, I doubt I'd have seen this band more than once. The community that supports RRE was friendly, jovial, and really fun to be around. They were a noticeably more polite, refined jam-band crowd... Not the typical spunions I have regularly encountered at some of my favorite haunts. In that regard, the show was far more pleasant to enjoy than some. It reminded me of a String Cheese Incident crowd before the electronica influence.

Perhaps I've been spoiled. I have seen hundreds of shows, many of them featuring virtuosos, poets, and artists of staggering talent and ambitious showmanship. Not every band was intended to blow the doors open, knock you backwards, and melt your brain. Some bands were meant to provide a mellow mood. When it comes to songs of substance to ease your mind and soothe your soul, RRE hit the mark.

I stayed through the encore, "The Promised Land," which seemed to be the perfect ending to the night. The lyrics, "we will all be together for ever and ever when we make it to the promised land," said more about the RRE experience than I could hope to convey... It put into words the idea that I had been thinking about... That this band was as much about the community that grew around it as it was about the music. There was a real feeling of family, and hope that if we all stuck together, we would be able to see a brighter day. That's the beauty of Railroad Earth and why they have been successful. At the end of the day, all they really do is try to put some feel-good music in the air, and brighten your day a little bit. There's nothing wrong with that.

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