I made it out to catch Greensky Bluegrass at The White Eagle in Portland this past Saturday night. It was my first time seeing this band perform and my expectations were high due to all the hype I’ve been reading online. We arrived early, due to the small capacity of the venue I did not want to risk being shut out.
While we relaxed and waited for the band to get set up I had the opportunity to meet a couple of the band members and they seemed friendly enough. It did take awhile for the crowd to materialize but the turnout was impressive, I’m sure it was nearly sold out if not completely. The music was superb and did not disappoint. However, the overall atmosphere and crowd energy was far from ideal. First, the band had a terrible time during soundcheck, it took about an hour for them to reduce the mic feedback to a tolerable level, I’m not sure they ever were able to eliminate it completely. Then during the performance they were plagued by the mics “snapping” whenever the vocals would get too high. There seemed to be little they could do about this problem and continued the show despite this irritating problem. I commend the guys for carrying on like professionals but I wonder if there wasn’t something more that could’ve been done to remedy the sound issues.
Before they even started though there was another annoyance: the opening act. I don’t know who booked this show, but a loud garage rock band is not an appropriate opener for a bluegrass band to follow. In addition, because of the extended setup time it seemed silly to have to clear the entire stage for this large band to play a short warm-up set when it was obvious the crowd wanted what they came for – bluegrass! The late start time created a palatable tension in the air while we waited for the openers to set up and play through their set. In all fairness, I’m sure they were excited for the gig and thanked the Greensky boys many times for the opportunity. Sadly though, another downside to this billing was that after listening to a loud electric band for nearly an hour the acoustic volume of the bluegrass seemed unusually quiet.
By the time the main act hit the stage we were more than ready, but the aforementioned sound problems made for a rough ride.
Despite all I’ve written here so far, the worst part of the entire experience was a group of rowdy fans up front were dancing so rambunctiously that it created an annoying distraction and thick anxiety among everyone within range of these people’s antics. Everyone in the vicinity feared either being crashed into or perhaps that one of these drunk goons would fall into the stage. When confronted they showed the usual arrogance one would expect from these kind of insensitive jerks. In fact we even noticed what quite possibly was outright thievery by this group of four travelers when they oddly “stripped” a wallet of it’s contents and stashed the money, cards, and wallet itself all in separate pockets – I can’t say for sure what they were up to with that but it was indeed strange behavior. I can’t even really blame them completely, as the lack of any real authority figure in the venue made for a “devil may care” attitude through out the crowd. When I complained to a bartender about these individuals and that they’d already broken one glass on the dance floor – all she did was get a broom!
In the end we actually left before the end of the show. During the second set I’d given up my prime seats up front in an effort to escape the madness of the crowd, but the damage had been done, my night nearly ruined by the drunken debauchery and poor management of the event we made our way home.
I do look forward to seeing this band in a more condusive venue where there’s room for everyone to have a good time.
I’d rate this show:
Musically: above average
Technical issues: annoying & distracting
Venue: nice room, too crowded, unorganized.
Audience: majority great people but a few bad apples can ruin it for the whole group.
I will see this band again and would recommend them to anyone who loves bluegrass, but if it’s a small venue be prepared for the potential problems of overcrowding.
Thanks for the review Muppet. Sorry to hear about the technical glitches, opening band incompatibility, and the obnoxious folks up front.
I saw Greensky here in Humboldt on 4-20, and I'm one of the Zoners who posted rave reviews about their recent performances. Give 'em another try, and hopefully the circumstances will be much more conducive to an enjoyable show experience for y'all !!
I was there and as you said the band played really well. Highlights for me were Sittin in Top of the World, Pig in a Pen, and a few of their originals. The mando player is a good songwriter/singer. I talked to the dobro player at setbreak and he said there wasn't anything they could do about the sound problems. It was the venue's fault. I also saw those wackjobs up front (hard to miss). They made trips to the bathroom a bit of an adventure to say the least. Don't really get people who dance like that in such close quarters. Hopefully it will be a better environment when they open for RRE at the Crystal on 6/20.
thanks for the positive reinforcement. I could have focussed more on just how great the music truly was - despite the difficulties.
My observation was somewhat skewed since it was my first exposure to these guys so I didn't have much to compare it to. They sound a lot like Yonder - which is not a bad thing.
I shouldn't have let those goons bother me so much, it was just that we were right near them and by the time I moved away it was too late - my adrenaline was through the roof.
It took me hours later to wind down and get some sleep that night. I wanted to kick their asses or at least kick 'em out!
I sure hope they are not indicative of where the current bluegrass craze is headed.
Reminds me of late era GD or Phish circa 1998 or SCI around 2000-01...sad really that some kids think it's cool to be so rude and insensitive. Cest La Ve.
Look for them to return in a couple weeks opening up for RRE, I'll be out there, awwwwwww yeah ...
and again 7/17 at the Goodfoot and that weekend at NWSS.