Hot Buttered Rum & The Brothers Comatose 11.14.14

Aggie Theatre
Fort Collins, CO

Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Audio By Terry TLP Lapointe

Circa the year 2002, Hot Buttered Rum was a nascent jamgrass band from the Bay Area exciting audiences across the country. Now, 12 years later, they are still comprised of the same four core-founding members and playing top-notch progressive bluegrass. Matt Butler, their original drummer, has moved on to conducting The Everyone Orchestra. They finally settled on Lucas Carlton on the kit in 2008 and he has been with HBR ever since. Despite their almost constant touring and regular appearances at major festivals across the country, they seem to have fallen off people’s radar. While the turnout at The Aggie was decent it was nowhere near capacity. The cold weather was a deterrent, not to mention that Juno What?! was hosting their CD Release show down the street at Hodi’s Half Note. Nonetheless, Hot Buttered Rum began their two-night run with gusto and the vibrant energy they are known for. They brought along fellow San Franciscans, The Brothers Comatose, to open both shows.

Following a recent series of tours that included supporting Yonder Mountain String Band as well as The Devil Makes Three, The Brothers Comatose are continuing to make a name for themselves. Their blend of authentic string music with rich harmonies is absolutely intoxicating. Their set at the Aggie was a great introduction to the band. They opened with a lighting fast rendition of “Pig In A Pan.”

Set One: Pig In A Pan, Brothers, Pie For Breakfast, Modern Day Sinners, Strings, 120 East, To Be Young, Roots, The Ballad of Tommy Decker, The Van Song, Trippin On Down, Pennies Are Money Too, Freedom, The Scout

The band formed around brothers Ben and Alex Morrison and their song “Brothers” talks about how music cured them of their rowdiness. Musically, this band is incredibly tight; their study of traditional bluegrass is evident with each original song. They have only been together for four short years, but they play like a band that has been on the road much longer. The vocals on “Modern Day Sinners” were arresting. The rail remained clear while I shot my photos. Eventually people took the hint and began dancing along to the music. The Brothers displayed their storytelling side with “The Ballad of Tommy Decker” about a homeless man who would wander into their house in the Haight and try to play Rolling Stones songs with the band. They closed with a fiddle-heavy tune about staying young entitled “The Scout.” The Brothers Comatose are a fresh breath of acoustic air drenched in talent and authenticity. Their show at the Aggie definitely earned them a number of new fans.

Hot Buttered Rum was all smiles as they emerged from the darkness of backstage. As they opened with a heavy “Busted in Utah” the dance floor filled with all those that braved the cold.

Set One: Busted in Utah, The Crest, Blue Night, Own my name, Cumberland Blues, Ramblin Girl, Got A Feeling, Desert Rat

Set Two: Angeline the Baker/Cindy, Another City, Let the Love, Life During Wartime, Blue Ridge Mountain Home, Butch and Peggy, When that Lonesome Feeling Comes, Mighty Fine, Anarchy in the UK, A Great Many Things

Encore: 3.2*, I’ll Fly Away*

*Performed acoustic at the edge of the stage with The Brothers Comatose

Hot Buttered Rum Live at Aggie Theater on November 14, 2014.

Hot Buttered Rum still sounds fantastic. They exude positivity in their music that seems to be a rarity these days. Not to mention their amazing talent as musicians. Erik Yates pulled out his flute on “The Crest” which is just another well-written song in this band’s vast repertoire. “Own my name” is a weighty self-reflective tune featuring some powerful vocals from Nat Keefe. They treated us to a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues” before going into the banjo-tastic “Ramblin Girl.” Hot Buttered Rum indulged us with an extended version of their gospel grass opus “Got A Feeling.” They closed the first set with a striking “Desert Rat” that again saw Yates on flute performing a musical ballet with Redner.

“We’ve decided to play all of our face melting songs.” - Bryan

Despite Bryan’s assertion they began very traditionally with an instrumental version of Stephen Foster’s “Angeline The Baker/Cindy.” “Let the Love” was a huge highlight of the entire show as Yates both belted out the lyrics and soloed on the Dobro. Bryan Horne channeled his inner David Byrne on “Life During Wartime.” HBR treated us to The Foggy Mountain Boys’ “Blue Ridge Mountain Home,” also known as the “Blue Ridge Cabin Home.” “When That Lonesome Feeling Comes” became a sing-along. Their rendition of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK” was unexpected, but very welcomed. They closed in classic high-energy Hot Buttered Rum fashion with “A Great Many Things.”

The band returned to the apron of the stage with The Brothers Comatose to perform a pair of acoustic songs without the aid of the PA. Those that remained crowded around the pickers. They went into “3.2” before they ended the night with a beautiful “I’ll Fly Away.” Hot Buttered Rum still has that magic that sucked me in all those years ago. They are sheer positivity and take an almost spiritual approach to bluegrass. While some fans have moved on, Hot Buttered Rum continues to innovate while still remaining true to the sound they originally cultivated over a decade ago. If Hot Buttered Rum has fallen off your radar it’s time to take another look. Not many bluegrass groups touring today can have a set that includes the Sex Pistols alongside Earl Scruggs, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

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