03.31.2004 Whiskey Friday The Skelig, Waltham, MA
Whiskey Friday plays bluegrass. That alone is major cred in my book. Bluegrass is more alive than just about any form of music there is, and it’s a hard sell in Boston. This six piece band (there were only five members performing tonight) plays with polish and poise, and most of all, a tremendous energy.
Their performance was excellent despite some real tough impediments. Let’s start with the monsoon weather running through Waltham for the last three days without much of a break and expected to last up to another week. Not just temperatures in the low forties, but rain, wind, cats and dogs.
Then. The venue. No words express how horrified I am that The Skelig offers this space for performance artists (they have an actual stage in the rear of the bar) but I’ll try. The speakers were mounted so that the performers had to face the front entrance in order to avoid feedback. But the tables lining the wall were facing the entrance as well, so the band had their backs to the audience. And moving to the bar only resulted in a side view of the band, so still little chance of watching the instrumentation. The mic was placed in front of a vertical support column so whoever was singing at a particular moment was serenading the pillar, and the space was small so they band members had to manuever around each other to take their solo turns. The forty-five minute set showcased original tunes, including “Hard Sell” as well as classics dating back to before any of them were born. The harmonies were terrific, and Tom’s strong baritone carried through the room on its own strength, bypassing the mic. “Ruby” brought the show to a rollicking close.
It was amusing to watch patrons enter the bar to their very own bluegrass performance. Equally amusing to stand behind the band and watch them strut, we were literally talking behind their backs. But they gamely performed and purely from an aural aesthetic, it was a rewarding performance, even if the visual element was stunted by the venue itself. The Skelig must do more solo acoustic performances than band because there was no other possible explanation for a design like that. Whiskey Friday made the best of a wet night and a constricted stage. That, too, is major cred in my book.
Live and Let Live
I Never will Marry
Mean Old Wind
Molly and Tenbrooks
True Life Blues