The Saturday following Thanksgiving was certainly one to be grateful for as Cornmeal gathered their devoted fans in the windy city. The city being home base for this band for they have grown over the past years, touring cities east to west. The band still brings it back home for the family, the close knit faithful following filled the theater. Others attending reasonably curious of the hype surrounding their extraordinary display of jam-grass. Incredibly handy with the strings and breaking the barriers of bluegrass makes Cornmeal something else. The Vic theater in Chicago shows the expansion of popularity which this band has created. Right off of the contemporary intersection of Belmont and Clark the group has gained a following of fans to fill the venue up. Kicking off the tunes was the band Trampled by Turtles. As the music began, sweet melodies brought a roar to the crowd and smirks to faces onlooking these fabulous instrumentalist.
Setting up the bluegrass vibe for the night was the opening act, Trampled by Turtles. This string quintet from Minnesota puts forth great melodies introducing the simplistic effect that bluegrass has, a laid back vibe. The crowd started dancing heel to toe to the melodies gravitating from stage. Though the band can be seen as bluegrass strictly on the bases that they are an all string band, they mark no territories on specific genres, ranging from jam-grass music and said to be “Non-traditional string.” The band added to focus on the distinctive sound that comes from string instruments. Talented performers populate this band; Dave Simmonett fabulously striking on guitar along with vocals, Tim Saxhaug deepens the tunes with the bass. On the banjo, Dave Carroll smiles away next to Eric Perry playing the Mandolin, the fiddle masterly brought by Ryan Young. Growing in popularity and expanding with their live shows, these guys raged the stage hyping up the crowd for the consistent knee slapping beats.
Rhythmical air came in as Cornmeal came out and struck the first chords. Live shows are the heat that burns beneath their flare. Laying a fabulous foundation for the show the song “Long Hard Road,” kicked off the music. Deep rhythm with spirit filled lyrics ignited approval from the audience right off the get go. A true down home feel surrounds you with the playing, withstanding the urge to move your feet is a challenge. An exhilarating appearance right from the start. Going into the song “Feather,” followed by, “Dirty Black Nag,” the set thunderously came upon. Old time lyrics contribute to moving melodies heightening the performance. As Cornmeal takes the crowd away with a standout performance which spins you on your feet and doesn't cease the whole show. As the first set dwindled down to a break, the liveliness continued on till the band stepped back out to ease the anticipation for more hustling.
Members of this band pull together a phenomenal display of talent on a selection of instruments along with magnificently, unique vocals. The band has been together, playing music for years, growing from experience performing to the locals in Chicago, they have expanded to a well deserved height of popularity. Seeing this band from where they came added special intimacy to this show, those who have danced to this band from the start cast a sense of exclusiveness in the audience. A vast array of music comes from this city yet this band has proven to be different, a rare jewel that is proudly shared. The musicians which populate Cornmeal are individually talented yet coincide perfectly together to make their music incomparable to others in the “new grass” scene. Each character in this band creates a different addition to the music. Kris Nowak on guitar and vocals, Kris Ganji performing on the upright bass, Wavy Davy Burlingame mind blowing on the banjo, J.P Nowak on the drums and of course the lovely Miss Allie Kral pick en on the fiddle plus adding the beauty of a feminine presence in vocals. All an extraordinary addition to their music which steams straight to your soul from the stage. There is something about bluegrass that just seems to beat through your veins unmatched to other genres. The band continued with a driving force to enthrall those tapping around the dance floor.
Getting on with the show, Cornmeal stepped back out onto the stage with a given ovation from the audience. Bouncing into the melodies of “When The World's Got You Down,” the music thrived as the reaction from the attendees glorified the talented display on stage. Two-stepping as the night whisked by, the band raged the theater overpowering as they continued forward till the end of the set. With various influences for this band they express their passions for different artists by covering original songs yet adding a dash of their style to the way it is performed. The second set added inventive tunes created by the band as well as covers such as “Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You” originally by Bob Dylan. Innovative songs created by the band were also added to the set; “Dirty Rag,” from the bands first released live Cd “ In The Kitchen.” The set concluded by covering The Doors sensational song, “When The Music's Over,” suiting for the last few songs played. “White Freightliner Blues,” raged the end of the set. The band took a short encore break before bringing down the curtain completely.
Kicking up heels as the band finalized the performance with an encore. The show was sealed as the band played a moving number “Ripple,” by The Grateful Dead, a impeccable tune to end a show such as this. Singing, “If I knew the way I would take you home...,” the band reached the audience swaying their souls, truly bringing it home to this city. Elaborated was made on the Chi-town homely, welcome as they stepped down from the stage. The night was loaded with amazing talent, unique rhythms and gripping lyrics. As Cornmeal continues to ride up and spread their music, they never seem to let go of those who kicked off the journey in Chicago. Certainly not a performance to miss when they roll around, Cornmeal will impress till the last note and stimulate the heart as the music moves your body.Go check them out; http://www.myspace.com/cornmealinthekitchen
Set 1: Long Hard Road, Feather, Dirty Black Nag, Old Crow, Oh Leah Lee, Time Wasting Time, Jenny In The Middle
Set 2: When The World's Got You Down, Better Off This Way, Shenadoah*, Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You*, Dirty Rag, Shelter, Not At Home Anymore, I'll Be Looking At You, When The Music's Over, White Freightliner Blues, E: Ripple