You Need to See Gangstagrass!
I am in love with Gangstagrass! There, I’ve said it… This writer, who has seen a lot of bluegrass bands but never a hip-hop band, loves the hip-hop bluegrass that is Gangstagrass!
They performed to a less than sold-out, but very enthusiastic, crowd at Church of Boston on Saturday night.I first saw Gangstagrass about six months ago at a different venue; I did not know their music at all but thought that the combination of hip-hop and bluegrass was too unusual to pass up, so I went. Since then, I have listened to their three albums repeatedly, and know them well. I knew what to expect this time, and that probably made this show even better.
The band is composed of founder Rench, guitar and vocals; Dan Whitener, banjo and vocals; Landry McMeans, dobro and vocals; Melody (who may not be their regular fiddle player – I saw a different one at their last show and he is still listed on the website), fiddle and vocals; Dolio the Sleuth, vocals; and R-Son the Voice of Reason, vocals.
As soon as the band walked onto the stage, they launched into one of their audience participation songs, ‘Put Your Hands Up High’. Dolio and R-Son certainly know how to get a crowd going and they do it superbly. Most of the audience waved an arm during that first song.
Most of their songs are structured with the four instrumentalists playing and singing in a somewhat traditional bluegrass style; then either or both Dolio and R-Son take the lead after the first verse or two, and the song ends on a bluegrass note.
I presume that the rapping is never performed exactly the same way it was recorded; during this show, they brought Boston, as well as a group of Dolio’s fraternity brothers (from MIT) who were in the house, into some of the raps. In fact, some of those fraternity brothers were dragged (although they were not kicking and screaming) to the stage to rap late in the set and they were really good!
The set list comprised songs from all three of the band’s albums, although most came from ‘Broken Hearts and Stolen Money’, their most recent release. Rench told us that they had never before performed ‘Peaches’ in front of a live audience; I would never have known that, since it sounded perfect to me (R-Son gave it only a B+).
Gangstagrass is best known for ‘Long Hard Times to Come’, the Emmy-nominated theme song for the television show ‘Justified’. They did not perform it last night, maybe because they ran out of time. I hope to see them perform it some day, even though I think they have made even better songs since then.
The energy that emanates from the stage is intense; I think it would be impossible to sit still during one of their shows (I suppose someone could chair dance but their music is meant for moving and shaking). They also clearly love what they do; there were a lot of smiles on their faces throughout the show.
The band that was supposed to open the show apparently split up THAT DAY. Like the great performers they are, Rench, Melody, and Dan (joined by Landry late in the set) put together a honky-tonk set for us!
Considering they practiced for about twenty minutes in the green room, they sounded fantastic! That set contained songs by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens, as well as some by Rench and Dan.
Their stage banter was terrific; there were many jokes about opening for themselves.
I cannot praise Gangstagrass too highly! Their talents are many and they deserve to be huge. I suggest seeing them in small clubs while you can; that will be a more intimate experience that you will treasure for a long time to come. Fair warning if you listen to their albums or YouTube: some of the lyrics are NSFW (not safe for work). That doesn’t mean I don’t listen at work, but I do keep the volume lower than usual.
I plan to see them whenever they play in Boston. Come back soon!
Ticket courtesy of Gangstagrass; all opinions are my own.
Posted on September 28, 2014, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged bluegrass, bluegrass hip-hop, boston, Church of Boston, concert review, Dan Whitener, Dolio The Sleuth, Gangstagrass, hip-hop, Landry McMeans, music, R-Son the Voice of Reason, Rench. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.