Bluegrass in my mind is envisioned as a small town gathered together to enjoy a knee slap and a yee- haw as well as to enjoy the simple subtleties of the strings while letting the worries of everyday life be lifted with the steps and spins of dancing. Hot Buttered Rum with the Coop opening at Clearwater Theater in West Dundee did just that. A surprising venue located in a smaller suburb of Chicago created the draw of the local Chicago scene as well as those from various other regions just looking to thrive in the music that this band creates. The venues location right on Main street tucked in between two other brick buildings and a jump away from the Fox river gave the sense of jazzy blues club with a small town bar feeling given from the vibes of the audience.
Walking into the venue to the sounds of the Coop, who drew their following of those who have appreciated and watched them grow into a band for several years now as well as a new crowd who were there to check out the great rhythms this band makes. Funky, easy head rolling music with a spice of electronic as well as blues. The percussionist, Jared Shaw who impressively busted into the sax several times created a very inspirational sound with a twist of jazz into the many genres this band can be classified as. Seeing many local bands in my time drew some skepticism towards the rants and raves of The Coop, yet they lived up to the expectations that so many have hyped them up to be. They know how to make music and you can tell the joy that these fellas have with working together to create the sounds.
As their set diminished, the power and drive in their playing did not. The drummer, Jacob Barinholtz continued to wail away, and my fascination towards the speed and energy he put forth remained boundless. The guitarist, Danny Biggins caught attention with subtle facial expressions as he strummed out the chords. The bassist, Cason Trager dashed his talent while adding the electronic flare with miti bass and ambient sounds. The Coop overall did a spectacular opening and I look forward to watching and hearing this band grow into the future for I know their talents cannot be hidden away for long with their funky rock and blues beats that truly got the audience prepared for getting down with some bluegrass.
The moment Hot Buttered Rum appeared on stage, one could automatically anticipate the crowd's curiosity to what they were going to play and how they would be moved by the music they were about to hear. Chaos ensued with the first chords of "Turning the Wheel" as the crowd began to hoop and holler. A start to a good bluegrass show in my mind is the audience and vibes you are surrounded with. As the first set continued, the drive in the instrumentals was lifted by the movements and high spirits of the crowd. As I looked around all I could see were smiles with a few added tears. The draw of bluegrass has always fascinated me with the diversity it creates, as I stood there while a woman grabbed my hand and started to dos-e-do with me I couldn't help but start chuckling at the fact that this woman was old enough to be my mother and had more fire in her step than most other youngsters there. "Busted in Utah" which is a more popular song strummed out by the band truly created the rock tempo and the lead singer belted out the chords and had the backup of the audience to help. Concluding the first set with the song "Sexy Bakery Girl" from their new studio album being released soon, this song definitely lifted the audience with high hopes and joy for the upcoming set.
Set break is always a time of eagerness in the audience as you could tell that most members just wanted to keep dancing though the strings were put on hold. The band stepped out with even more cheers than they began with most certainly due to the killer first set they had just teased the audience with. " California King" was the song they busted into with energy that protruded from the talent this band offers. The set continued with various songs both upbeat and slow tempos, though noticeably this band usually tried to keep the crowd on their toes and dancing with up tempo songs which rock your soul and give no other option but to move your feet.
The passion in the faces of the band members is a draw that couldn't go unnoticed, Bryne Horne the bassist truly knew how to show the love for the music in the speed and tranquility that he slapped into his bass. The mandolin and fiddle player Aaron Rednes had a grin on his face from ear to ear as he gazed over the audience, his fingers laughed on the strings as he smoothly strummed along. The drummer Matt Butler truly was impressive with his subtle fit of his percussions into the bluegrass sound of the band, it also added a more rock tempo to the evening. Eric Yates continued to impress through out the evening with his wide variety of instrumental talents which added spice and jive to every song that the band played, his stance while playing the flute drew eyes as he stood with such inspiration. Nat Keefe the guitarist had a fire to his playing that truly captured the evening, he looked at his fellow band members as much as he glanced at the audience which gave an impression of the desire and love he has for playing with these fellow instrumentalists.
The influences bluegrass has is derived from various bands yet The Grateful Dead in my mind is one that drives a lot of these instruments, playing "Althea" truly highlighted the night. The sting version, very soulful and passionate was a song which many there took close to heart surely the band did as well. Closing the second set with a song " Desert Rat" brought much anticipation to the audience for an encore yet sadness to many knowing that soon the instruments would cease and the show would be over. Bryne Horne coming out on stage in a " What would Janis do" tee caused curiosity the whole evening to the way he would work it, yet he did a bass solo for the Bassist Janis from Family Groove Company which was a very loving and heartfelt as you could feel in the way he strummed the tune.
As the encore came with "Stories we Could Tell" , it drove the night with questioning for we all did have a story to tell now of an amazing driven bluegrass band coming to a small Illinois town and truly melting the faces of many who were there to tell the tale. Concluding the night with the song "LuLu" It gave a passionate ending for an overall amazing show that caused the Saturday night to shimmy away with the steps and sounds created by strings and instruments well into the eve.