Cornmeal | 12.06.08

cornmeal.jpg Every time I see them, I want to see them again.










Lucas School House, St. Louis

Cornmeal. If you haven’t heard of them, you’re definitely missing out on some great uptempo bluegrassy goodness. A Chicago-based band, Cornmeal has been around for a while, and look to be on an much deserved upswing of musical popularity.

The Cornmeal I saw this past Saturday was not quite the Cornmeal I saw a little over a year ago, but they gave a great show nonetheless. They have begun incorporating more "jam band" style to their playing, and though I am much more partial to the more traditional bluegrass stylings, Cornmeal never fails to satisfy (pun intended). It takes a high level of musical ability to maintain interest when you’re playing the same two chords over and over again, which is why I usually do not like "jam bands" all that much. Cornmeal has the chops to rock the redundency, and when one such as myself may over-analyze, the pulse of their jam-packed audience will definitely take you into another realm.

It is physically impossible not to get completely posessed by the energy of a Cornmeal show. You will rarely find a patron that isn’t at least a few hundred calories lighter after the show. Imagine four guys and a girl, all rocking out at speeds so fast it takes the stamina of a marathon runner to keep up. You’ll end up observing people that are in an ascending state of being drenched and dazed, all due to the intoxicating abilities of Cornmeal’s music (ok, and partly due to Lucas being a 21+ club).

This element of audience is what makes Cornmeal so spectacular. It is always a unique experience when you’re at a Cornmeal concert. Dreadlocks and hippie skirts are always a-plenty, and this particular show even had a audience members giving a lighted hula hooping performance on the sidelines. But my favorite facet of an Stl. Cornmeal show is a concert ritual started by the group of friends I went to the show with. Loyal followers since Cornmeal’s beginnings, these guys have have brilliantly crafted a Jameson Whiskey bottle costume, made from an old champagne bottle costume (I guess it would be silly to drink champagne at a bluegrass concert).




If you are fortunate enough to attend a Cornmeal concert in St. Louis, you will most definitely witness this bottle cutting a rug on the dance floor. It has left such an impact that the band, and the owner of Lucas (who just so happens to be named Dan Jameson) got together with us after the show to take a shot of – you guessed it – Jameson whiskey.

And as for the music – Cornmeal is top notch talent. Each of the members is at the top of their league. And Cornmeal provides a more progressive edge to traditional bluegrass by using innovative spins on the instruments. There aren’t too many bands incorporating an electric banjo (Wavy Dave Burlingame), played like an electric guitar, and an acoustic guitar (Kris Nowak) played in the same vain. Chris Gangi plays a five string bass – I didn’t even know those existed. Their drummer, JP Nowak, has the ability to provide the strong and stable backbone which so critical in bluegrass. Last, but definitely not least, Cornmeal has one of the best fiddlers I’ve ever seen (Allie Kral). Classically trained – symphony caliber, even – she has awesome technique, and amazing improvisational abilities.

Hopefully Cornmeal will come again soon – every time I see them, I want to see them again.|Sheila Shahpari

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