Waving towards his head region, charismatic, mandolin player Jeff Austin, said, "Last night's Las Vegas show was the reason for this." One can only imagine what a bunch of renegade acoustic rockers partially-responsible for the renaissance in bluegrass could do in a town like Las Vegas, but they kept their composure for an evening of about 30 songs (I lost count). Showing versatility in the first set, the band hit fast-strumming heights on instrumentals—like the third, a Darol Anger tune—one song then slowed it down—like on "Too Late Now"—so the crowd could catch a breath the next. And, the band shouldn't be pigeon holed to just bluegrass, they branch out into the charted waters of rock-grass and jam-grass; largely, the music evokes a good time, to be sure.
Consummate storytellers Austin and bassist Ben Kaufmann related tales about travels and rock 'n' roll fantasies intermittently. Mid-first set, Austin told about the band's first gig playing at the shut-down Zephyr many years ago. "We played for two people: the bartender and the door guy. Then walked in eight younger-looking people ... and they sat in the very back because they didn't want to hear us either. Then! ... walked in the Domino's delivery guy: Our music made the eight people hungry for our music," said Austin, who remarked that actor Keifer Sutherland stopped by for about 20 minutes that evening as well. They've come a long way, now playing to several hundred people and touring around the country. Additional first set highlights included a John Hartford tune and "You Left Me In a Hole," all made better by Austin's ever-imppressive Hendrix-like facial expressions when picking away on his instrument.
The second ferocious set was even more spirited for jittering and juking. Taking the stage, Austin dedicating the upcoming set to a group of under-age youths who'd traveled to Salt Lake City from Las Vegas, after loving that show, only to be turned away for not being of age; they were outside listening on The Depot's street-side speakers. After playing the set opener, Austin began talking about how being on a stage on Sundays is like being at church for the band and wasted no time launching into an upbeat, gospel-grass "Jesus on the Mainline." They played a Bray Brothers song, then a couple tunes about trains (a bluegrass or country concert isn't complete without a couple of these, to say the least) followed by "20 Eyes." The set highlight, backdropped by tonight's impressive light show, was a fiery "New Horizons" with the chorus pounding like an eminent storm: "With the thunder and the lightning/ With the rain is pouring down." The song's Austin/ Kaufmann duo was superb. All-in-all, an excellent show made all the better by a lively, lovely crowd with unnecessary Summer beards and flow-y skirts dancing fervently to a hoe-down of a good time.