The Hunger Mountain Boys at The Rosendale Cafe
I had a flashback on Saturday evening. In it, two musicians took the stage. One had a guitar in his hand, the other held a mandolin. As the members of the audience who filled the cafe beyond capacity ceased their chatter (some folks had to stand in the hallway, others still out the door), the two musicians started to play. As they did, waves of sweet bluegrassy goodness bounded forth from where they stood, creating smiles on the onlooking faces and basking everyone’s hearts in a warm glow of happiness.
That situation happened four years ago. The place was The Rosendale Cafe, and the band was The Hunger Mountain Boys. That was the first time I ever saw them, and this past Saturday night actually wasn’t a flashback, but a recurrence of that day in 2004, with a few differences. For one, The Hunger Mountain Boys have added a third member to the band since then. That would be Matt Downing on upright bass (interestingly enough, The Rosendale Cafe was also the first place I saw Matt play with the band). Although that was the only difference to be observed between the show in 2004 and the show on Saturday, it was not the only thing to have happened among the band and it’s members during the time in between. The Hunger Mountain Boys came out with two new CD’s, Kip Beacco took some time off from the band when his wife had their second child (Adam Tanner filled in during his absence), Teddy and Matt formed a band along with three other musicians called The Blue Ribbon Boys, Matt and Kip formed a trio with pianist Bob Benson called The Yellow House Jazz Band, and Teddy joined the already formed band The Wiyos.
As the above information has probably established, I’ve been a big fan (not to mention historian) of the Hunger Mountain Boys for years now, so after finding their forth and latest CD “Fire the Retro Rockets” rather disappointing, I was glad to see they can still deliver what makes them so great. That would be vocals which sound perfect, and playing which sounds even better. To put it another way, between their tight vocals and tight playing, The Hunger Mountain Boys are tighter than a box-spring. Whether they’re spittin’ out hot-pickin’ tunes like “Coming From the Ball” or “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”, good old-fashioned murder traditionals such as “Frankie and Johnny” or “Katie Dear” (which they actually haven’t played in a while but is an all-time favorite of mine), heart-wrenchingly beautiful instrumentals like “The End of the World”, or lackadaisical drinking songs like “Let’s Drink and Get Drunk”, you better believe The Hunger Mountain Boys bring the same stellar musicianship to every word they sing, and every note they play. Of course, it was also a somewhat epic concert for me on Saturday, and I feel that my groupie status has really come full circle with this one… The Rosendale Cafe holds a special place in my heart, being among one of my favorite intimate music venues in not only my surrounding area, but in NY State itself. To see The Hunger Mountain Boys play there, knowing that the very first time I saw them was at that same place, and the first time I saw Matt Downing play with them was there as well… Like I said, epic.
I’m not a doctor, but I sincerely reccomend a live show by The Hunger Mountain Boys for anyone suffering from depression. Not that you have to be depressed to go see them, but if you are, you won’t be by the time you’ve heard three or four songs. My cheeks hurt on Saturday night from being stuck in a silly grin for three hours straight! Such is the workings of The Hunger Mountain Boys’ music. I didn’t like the last song they decided to play on Saturday though, which they played for their second encore. It was called “Show Me The Way To Go Home.” It’s not that I don’t like the song, I love it. It’s not that The Hunger Mountain Boys didn’t perform it well, they sounded terrific. Why didn’t I like it then? Because I didn’t want to be shown the way home, I wanted to listen to the band play for another three hours! But hey, if that’s my only complaint against The Hunger Mountain Boys, I can’t hate them for that. I can’t hate them at all.
Videos from the show:
First encore: Tennessee Blues
Second encore: Show Me The Way To Go Home
You can also watch a hilarious video of their onstage antics (as they were having problems with their sound system) here.