Cabinet & Horseshoes and Hand Grenades 11.18 & 11.19.16

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

Friday, November 18:

The Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

As a transplant to Colorado, I enjoy many things mountain, but I also have a soft spot for the finer points of my home state, Pennsylvania. One of those fine PA products is Cabinet, a Bluegrass septet who's songs are every bit as relatable as they are precise. I have seen them at backyard parties and on stage at some of the country's most celebrated festivals. No matter the venue, they're always professional, energetic, and unique.

For their current tour, the band was paired with Wisconsin pickers, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. I had no expectations going in, but immediately found myself marveling as they gathered around a single mic (donning a grenade), each stepping up in time to wow the foothill venue. The singer rotated as often as the soloist, and they appeared to be having more fun than Mike Pence has ever had in his life. Particularly guitarist, Adam Greuel, who's smile was infectious and ever-present. Adam's vocals sounded effortless, neighborly, and poised. Russell Pedersen provided a lot of impressive vocal harmony in addition to his banjo mojo. Sam Odin slapped an upright bass like it had done something to deserve it. And fiddle player, Collin Mettelka, was the lighter fluid that set the group on fire. It didn't hurt that Jake Jolliff of YMSB sat in for a chunk of their set. As if their pickin' skills didn't impress enough, they ended their set with an a capella ditty that was blistering in speed, intricacy, and talent.

Pappy took the stage and picked up his banjo to start things off on his own. Shortly after he got things moving, he was joined, one at a time, by the rest of the Cabinet crew. For their first trip to Boulder, I was impressed with their draw to the Hill's famous Fox Theatre. A sizable crowd enthusiastically hooted and hollered for what was quickly moving out of the Bluegrass box. Founded in their traditional sound, the band seemed to be striving for a more inclusive style. The new addition of a second drummer, Josh Karis, kicked a Rock-and-Roll attitude into the rhythm, and the band responded with souped up tone, distortion, and adventuresome playing. Karis and Jami Novak locked into a rhythmic groove and kept the engine chugging. JP's vocals were ethereal at times and added to the Appalachian hypnosis. Mickey's guitar playing was articulate, understated, and dynamic on their original work as well as the covers they played. Dylan Skursky's bass playing was organic and adaptable. He seemed to glide along the surface gradually and structurally moving the band from sound to sound. But it was Pappy and fiddle-demolishing Todd Kopec who spent most of the evening raining fire. Todd's fiddle hung on for dear life as he exploded in colorful fits of melodic fury. Pappy's fret work was slick, natural, and rich. On the whole, the band used dynamic alternatives to make different sections pop. These moments spoke to the talent and artistic maturity they've developed.

For the encore, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades joined Cabinet on stage for Little Feat's, "Willin'." The vibe turned to that of a camp fire sing-along with friends, and the camaraderie that existed between the members was obvious, and the affection bled onto the floor. I left the theatre happy that I had another night of Cabinet so close. And close counts with Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

Saturday November 19:

The Bluebird Theater
Denver, CO

Arriving on East Colfax, the line from The Bluebird trailed down the street towards Atomic Cowboy. This bill really brought folks out to the party. The show sold out.

As Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (HaHG) took the stage in Denver, I was excited. The prior night's show had been phenomenal. The Wisconsin-based group was giddy with excitement to play in Denver, and took no time to rip into a set of relentless jug-band magic. The harmonica playing of David C. Lynch was simply stunning. His melodic choices were ambitious and his tone was superb. He wowed me vocally and on accordion as well. This band was rich in talents. I thought (much like Cabinet) the band had paired their sound with their subject matter, singing songs of farming, fishing, and life in the country. They just seemed like a bunch of good kids who love playing music. Horseshoes undoubtedly made a fan of me over the course of the weekend.

By the time Cabinet took the stage, the theater was swelling with a boisterous crowd. Once again, Pappy led the team on to the field, and was gradually joined by the whole. With a larger crowd on their hands, Pennsylvania's Appalachian gold peeled back the amplification and romped through a much more traditional sounding set than the night before. Mickey stuck with an unfettered acoustic clarity to his tone, rarely using pedals to manipulate his timbre. While Pappy did play his electric banjo, the song choices maintained an antiquity that limited reverb and distortions.

In their natural state, one that could have practically gone unplugged, the band was left to rely on their impeccable mechanics. The set was sincere, engaging, and laden with riffs that left me laughing in wonder. Having watched them develop over years has been truly amazing. Each year their craft has a bit more polish. A few more intricacies and nuances.

While their repertoire has grown, they've found new angles to explore in their classics. "Oxygen" seemed an appropriate choice for their set in the Mile High, with it's chorus, "if you can't breathe oxygen you gotta get help." Much the same as their Boulder show, the set swirled to a head and peaked with the intro to "Heavy Rain." This tune has become one of my favorite Cabinet tunes, and they tend to really deliver on it live. The vocal harmonies were layered like Mom's lasagna, and the jamming was more adventurous than an Everest Sherpa. When the song ended, the crowd enthusiastically reacted with applause, whistles, and stomps. Watching the room throughout the show was a blast as a blend of Wisconsin and Pennsylvanian transplants became acquainted and shook their tail feathers.

As the fans turned to friends, we realized that the 2 bands had formed a bond as well. The encore featured members of both bands, and HaHG guitarist, Adam Greuel asked us to give them a moment as they exchanged gratitudes and appreciation for their new found friendships. Then they played "Ripple," "Shady Grove," and a unique take on "We Bid You Goodnight." The camaraderie, song choices, musical integrity, and sentiment made for one of the most tingly, feel-good, and happy musical moments I've ever experienced. Truly a joy to watch. I look forward to seeing both of these bands grow through the Colorado venue ladder, as neither one seems to be stopping any time soon.


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