Review: I couldn’t make the Friday night show, so had to wait two days to get back to the Fillmore for another fix. It was a little bittersweet as I walked in knowing it would be the last time Boulder’s barefoot boys would rock the hall.
The evening kicked off with a less than stellar set of old fashioned single mic bluegrass from Chris Thile and How to Grow a Band. While each member of the ensemble is an amazing musician in his own right the sound just didn’t seem fitting of the evening. To be fair, this crowd was on edge and ready to explode and I don’t think that anything short of an extra set from the headliners would have satisfied them.
When the lights went down at 8:15 the excitement in the venue was electric and Jack Mento, longtime friend, spirit guide, and book keeper for the band came out onto the stage to offer an extended introduction that incorporated many of the bands album and song titles. It was a tribute to the crowd and the band and to all the incidents that the two have shared over the years. It was a fitting beginning to the last Fillmore Incident.
I have got to say that I am almost surprised that Billy waited until halfway through the third night of the Carnival to break “Smile” out as the closer of an eclectic first set. A letter home from the road, the message contained within the song served as a reminder to the exuberant crowd of why Billy is leaving and how hard it is to be in a band spending as much time on the road as these boys have over the past 15 years.
Maybe they had a good cry back stage or maybe they put the party hats on, but when they came back for set two they were ready to say goodbye to the Fillmore by blowing the roof off the place and I swear they almost did it. Welcoming Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Gabe Witch and Byan Sutton up to the stage the boys went back to their roots and picked out “Doin’ My Time” and “Wheel Hoss” with a fervor that I hadn’t seen all evening. Energy was simply coursing through the band.
Then came the moment that brought me back to Red Rocks in July of 2002 when Travis waved a sequin gloved hand in the air before dropping into the instantly recognizable beat of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” midway through the second set. Keith let us all know that they were going to continue the tradition of “letting ‘Trav’ do something strange.” As soon as the red energy hats were passed out on stage I knew we were going to be treated to a bluegrass version of the Devo classic “Whip It!” Travis did not disappoint and even offered live whip cracks to the song. As they wound “Whip It!” down they effortlessly segued into “Orange Blossom Special” before reprising “Whip It!” to the delight of the crowd.
The crowd was another story entirely, while the band was doing their part to blow the roof off the place, the crowd was doing theirs as well as I have ever seen them. Every single person in the room knew they were witnessing something special and the band and the crowd were feeding off each other in a ferocious and organic way. Every flurry of notes or bass bomb was welcomed with deafening appreciation which was quickly rewarded, and so on and so on. For most of the set the air above us was filled with either glowsticks or balloons, it was like New Year’s Eve as at least a hundred brightly colored balloons bounced around the room for the last 40 minutes of the set.
To be honest I am not sure if it was the music or the crowd, but the feeling I left the Fillmore with on Saturday night gave me “the fever” again. I had it bad several years ago and I am glad that the boys brought it back. If they are gonna go, they might as well go out with a bang. If these shows at the Fillmore were any indication, they clearly intend to.
Set 1: Restless Wind, Cedar Laurels > Rhum ‘N Zouc, Midnight Moonlight, Eye Know Why, Love Is Like A Train, Valley Of The Jig > Smile
Set 2: Doin’ My Time*, Wheel Hoss*, Whip It!* > Orange Blossom Special* > Whip It!*, It Is What It Is, Galactic > Shine
Encore: Piece Of Mine, Sittin’ On Top Of The World > Texas
* – with Chris Thile on mandolin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Gabe Witcher on violin, Bryan Sutton on guitar
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: A