They actually had two shows scheduled for Sunday and we would have loved to see both (Miss Tess and Lake Street Dive were closing), but we had to get back to work the next morning after a long Thanksgiving weekend and so had only gotten tickets for the Sunday afternoon show ... but this was not a bad lineup itself, to say the least!
We hung around the Quality Inn until they gently kicked us out at about 11:00, and then meandered into downtown Northampton, where we got a fine parking spot across from the theater on a sunny Sunday and proceeded to wander around a bit. We edged past a line of young adults waiting for a seat at the Green Beans ... and noticed that one of the groups was Aoife, Brittany, Greg, and a manager from Crooked Still. I did not disturb them, though Brittany and Greg looked fine about being recognized (Aoife was busy texting).
Had a fine lunch at the Toasted Owl, and then made it back to the theater right on time to see ... Twisted Pine again! They set up on their plank of plywood and only did one song for us this time, but they are really good. I asked Jim's wife at the merch table (Jim Olsen is the guru of Signature Sounds and was complimented by all the bands, as he should be) how they managed to sign them right under the noses of Compass Records (who sponsored Freshgrass)?
OK, first up was a band Sarah and I have seen many times and have an unreasoned devotion to, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem. They're all oozing talent, they're really mellow and eclectic, they play whatever they want and don't make a big deal of it, and they produce excellent music. Mark Erelli joined them on lap steel. They did their usual set, with Rani's new song about dropping her son off at school, a few sing-alongs, and then closed with I Want To Be Ready When Love Comes Back To Me. This just cannot be beat.
Next up was the Sacred Shakers, and this was a very entertaining set too. As I'm sure you know, the band consists of Eilen's 4-piece band and 4 other pieces: Daniel Kellar on fiddle, Greg Glassman on guitar and vocals, Daniel Fram on guitar and vocals, and Eric Royer on banjo. One of the amusing things about their set was that they cover the gamut from light gospel to heavy gospel, and some of the artsy-fartsy types who were in attendance because this was an arts thing in Northampton were a bit confused by all this ... weren't they going to play something about peace and love rather than just Old Testament stories? Luckily, they did not! Eilen continued to move the bar up and up, as she had started to the night before, and she was just shimmying with gospel soul. Jerry was not bad either, ripping off some great dark rock and roll leads between Royer's and Kellar's bluegrass parts. And Jason Beek was marvelous on vocals.
Next up was the pièce de résistance, a Crooked Still reunion. This world-class band had broken up for the individuals to pursue various projects back in 2012, and they'd been very successful. We'd seen Aiofe O'Donovan play at Freshgrass, as well as seen fiddler Brittany Haas in her incredible trio with Kowert and Tice, and seen banjoist Greg Liszt leading his band at GRF, the Deadly Gentlemen. But with the addition of Tristan Claridge on cello and Corey DiMario on double-bass they are so far over the top with talent it's incredible. They did songs from throughout their career as well, including a funky Come On In My Kitchen, a note-perfect cover of Gillian's Orphan Girl, a beyond-soulful Look On and Cry, and a beautiful My Captain. They closed with The Golden Vanity and then came back out with the crowd and led us all in Shady Grove.
Whoah!!! What a (short and sweet) 24 hours of music it had been, and we only had a few hours of driving in the sudden late-November dark before we were back home. Can't wait for the 25th!