Two High String Band | 11.02.06

Draped in their lazy Saturday afternoon best, the band rolled through its timeless style of laidback folk…sometimes with a little too much nonchalance.

 

 

Broadway Oyster Bar, St. Louis 

It's tough to get a crowd going on a bitter November night, but the hippie scenesters were out in full force at the Broadway Oyster Bar to kick back and take in the charmingly mellow Two High String Band. Draped in their lazy Saturday afternoon best, the band—whose nucleus consists of Billy Bright on mandolin, Geoff Union's finger picking, and Brian Smith's flat picking—rolled through its timeless style of laidback folk…sometimes with a little too much nonchalance.

Backed by a touring drummer and electric bassist, the three vocalists traded leads, solos, and comfortable grins, seeming happy to be playing but quite aware that the crowd was thin and easy to please. While the set was lacking in any showstoppers or highly memorable melodies, the band's competency and style, coupled with a weatherproofed beer garden, allowed for the feel of a campfire-taking-it-easy contest.

The highlights of the night were undoubtedly the frantic plucking sessions of Bright, the aptly positioned central figure, looking like Sam Beam with glasses stolen from one of the Proclaimers (that's right, I found a way to tie those bands together). Mixing songs from both of their studio albums, including their most recent release, Moonshine Boogie, THSB jumped from bluegrass poetics to politics on "Cold World," and typical jam-cutesy wordplay on "You Can't Run Away From Your Feet." Throughout the night, however, there seemed to be a couple of missing elements: the expert banjo of Tony Trischka and the smoky fiddle of Chojo Jacques. Without this extra variety, the band relied heavily on predictable tricks, with neither guitarist emerging as any sort of standout. While it was certainly not necessary to alter their downbeat nature, a few more hoppin' rompers would've gone a long way in keeping up attention and diffusing the crowd's casual conversations.

The dancing stepped up after the first set break, but remained understandably sparse. There's no doubt that Bright and Co. possess the chops to please a sizeable audience, but following through night-in and night-out with any sort of vigor is what separates THSB from their Yonder Mountain contemporaries (sorry, their name begs for a comparison). Hopefully in the near future, the basic makeup of the group will fill out or form some sort of unique personality to set them apart from a more successful set of peers. This will also naturally enhance the opportunities for the band to collaborate with a greater contingency of an already respectable revolving door of guest musicians. For now, though, THSB seems content with keeping a steady groove. On an unseasonably cold night, I personally wouldn't ask for much more. | Dave Jasmon

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