Pert' Near Sandstone & Cabinet 3.10 & 3.11.16

Bluebird Theater
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

As a Pennsylvania transplant, Cabinet's Colorado shows are always a priority for me. As Denver is a relatively new market for the Keystoners, they have usually been squeezed in as an opener, or given the floor at a dive. When I saw their name pop up at the Bluebird Theater, I was excited about the venue. It also appeared they'd be joined by Pert' Near Sandstone. As I walked into the venue, I heard the familiar sounds of Appalachian bluegrass and knew that Cabinet was already on. They were the opener. My disappointment was short lived as I was immediately swept into the revelry.

With a smattering of newer tunes peppered through some staples, the Pennsylvanian sextet traded riffs, harmonized, and shared their songs with an enthusiastic theater full. The faithful came out in force to hear Scranton's sons. At one point, I found myself marveling at the consistency of their brand. Everything from their attire to their sound had an authenticity that was born in the history of their own coal-crackin' region of Pennsylvania. And though these boys haven't mined a day in their lives, you wouldn't know it to hear them sing those Appalachian tales. The thing about coal mining was that it was incredibly hard work. Likewise, their music was a nicely refined labor of love that reflected their commitment and dedication to the craft. Every time I've seen them, they've made progress, worked harder, raised the bar, and outdone themselves. They haven't given up, and for all we know, they haven't even gotten started yet.
Wrapping their set with the Pappy led, "Heavy Rain," I was excited to journey up to Fort Collins and see them again the following day.

I wasn't familiar with Pert' Near Sandstone, but they looked like people I'd like, so I stuck around. Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, the group took the stage and I was immediately struck by the instrumentation... Particularly their rhythm section which was anchored by a clog-board instead of a drum kit. Watching the talented Matt Cartier dance his way through shuffling bluegrass numbers really added a unique element to the show. Movement was actually a very engaging aspect of their performance on the whole as one microphone was used by all the vocalists. Singing harmonies involved some footwork as different singers sang different parts. There was a smoothness that stretched through their harmonies and into their fabric. While I was definitely reminded of Midwest Newgrass badasses, Greensky Bluegrass, this band excelled in different areas.

Pert' had some guest musicians sit in, and as the music heated up, I checked my phone. It was just after midnight. With a 7:30 am shift to make, and another night of 'grass ahead of me, I threw in the towel. I found my way to my car, fired her up, and drove straight to work. I knew it would save me a precious hour in the morning. I keyed into the office, spewed my thoughts on a page, and settled into the couch, feeling 'grass-stained and happy as I drifted towards slumber in my office lobby.

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The Aggie Theatre
Ft. Collins, CO

On Friday night, after a sleep deprived day of work, we ventured an hour north to the charming college community of Ft. Collins. As I was surprised that Cabinet was the opener the previous night, we made every effort to be there early. As a result we got to take in the local talents of The Lineage Music Project. Their picking was proficient, singing complimentary, and songwriting inspired. With hard work, they could have something special. It was quality entertainment, and it was a great appetizer before Cabinet took the stage.

Cabinet's set leaned a bit more on JP's vocal offerings than the previous night which was more heavily on Pappy's shoulders. The room had filled in a bit by the time they started, and the Pennsylvanian pickers provided the crowd with a swirl of psychedelic melodies. They had a way of interweaving their lines in a similar way to what the Grateful Dead did live. The band cohesively dropped out at various sections, all coming back in on the same beat, and adding dynamics to some of the more familiar tunes. Every time I've seen the band, I've become more impressed with different members. Each of them adds a layer of spectacular individual talent, yet they always serve the whole over their own ego. From harmonies that blended like Chivas Regal to rhythmic fidelity that could be used as birth control (with a very low success rate, mind you), the band was a well-oiled machine that seemed to roar to life in a ramshackle barn, burst through the weathered doors, and squeal down the dirt road in search of whiskey. Their small town start had left a casual, familiar, and down-to-earth impact on their lyrics, their melodies, and their camaraderie. They were a joy to watch in the Aggie Theatre. They're really a remarkable band, and one of my favorite Bluegrass acts on the road today. I couldn't wait to see them again as soon as they left the stage.

For the second night in a row, the headliner was Minnesota's Pert' Near Sandstone. They were energetic, smooth, and tight. They reminded me a lot of the Lineage Music Project but with more years of experience under their belt. Undoubtedly the most unique thing about this band was clog dancer Matt Cartier. His footwork ranged from fancy to sedated, and was attention grabbing regardless of what else was happening. At times impressive, and at others, borderline comical, no one was immune to his art. Fortunately for him, his string section was also capable of keeping our attention musically as we absorbed the show. The soundtrack to "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" seemed like it was their forte, and although they didn't play any of those songs, I wished they would have. They've probably played a pretty good "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Driving back down 25, we safely navigated our way to our home before crashing harder than a toddler after a sugar rush... Drained and 'grass- stained!

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