The idea of a band playing two consecutive nights in one city is hardly anything new in the world of music. Most often, bands will do this simply because they are popular and want all of their fans to get a chance to see them perform. Typically, fans choose to attend one show, assuming both nights will be similar. However, in the case of Railroad Earth, playing two shows means playing two completely different shows. Railroad Earth performed at World Cafe Live April 13 and 14.
Entering their 11th year as a group, Railroad Earth, which consists of Todd Sheaffer (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), Tim Carbone (vocals, violin and electric guitar), John Skehan (vocals and mandolin), Andy Goessling (vocals, banjo and many more), Carey Harmon (vocals and drums) and Andrew Altman (Bass), is a band that refuses to associate itself with any particular genre of music.
Equipped with instruments like the violin, banjo and mandolin, RRE has a sound that most people would immediately call bluegrass. However, to call them a bluegrass band would not be entirely accurate because they also have a drummer and an electric guitarist, two instruments that certainly do not fit into the bluegrass genre.
So then, what kind of band is RRE? Over the years, the members of RRE have all come up with their own descriptions, calling themselves a “country and eastern band” or “a supped-up string band.” Personally, I like to think of them as a progressive bluegrass band, a name that addresses both the obvious bluegrass sound along with the rock n’ roll tone.
Aside from being a progressive bluegrass band, RRE can also be considered a jam band. Though not as popular as other jam bands, such as the Grateful Dead or Phish, RRE has developed its own following of devoted fans who travel with them from show to show, making sure that they don’t miss a minute of the band’s performances.
To many, the idea of going to see a band play shows all over the country, or even just going to see the band twice in one weekend, seems like the most ridiculous idea in the world. Naturally the shows would all be the same, right? Wrong. Jam bands like RRE have long been known for their insistence on playing a different set list for every show, making each show unique for the audience members.
While both shows were not alike, it has always been my tendency to look at back-to-back shows as two sides of the same coin, or to put it in a more musical perspective, two sets of the same show.
For the most part, the first night was almost exactly what the first set of a concert typically is: slow but with moments of high energy where the band picks up the pace and prepares the audience for what is to come.
The high point of the show came during the end of the first set, when they transitioned from “The Man who Invented Sin” to “Mighty River” with a jam that really displayed just how good of a musician each band member is and how they collaborate with each other to create a truly beautiful Southern sound.
The second night, RRE decided to turn up the heat. There were two distinct songs that stood out from the rest. First was “Just So You Know,” which had its average pace cranked up several notches during an incredible violin solo. The second was the much jazzier “Hard Livin’,” featuring Goessling on the dual saxophones, an incredible feat that appears effortless to him.
Though Friday and Saturday may have been the last days of their most recent tour, RRE will be keeping busy this summer, playing sets at several summer festivals like Wakarusa, All Good and The Peach Festival. Should anybody find themselves at any of these festivals, be sure to find out what time RRE is playing, and make sure that you’re there to see six of the best musicians in the world play some great music.