(Editor’s Note–We want to welcome Marty Varner as our First Saturday of the Month Welcome columnist. We’ve seen his excellent and exuberant writing in this spot several times in the past, but it’s official now. The kid’s got plenty to say, and he figured out quite a while back that the better he says it, the more it will be heard.)
I believe that the 2012 Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival was one of the greatest ever. It was also one of the most varied. From traditional bands like Danny Paisley and Southern Grass to bluegrass poetry band, The Deadly Gentlemen. Even though I had so many incredible moments at this year’s festival, possibly my favorite was when I saw the mass approval of The Deadly Gentlemen. Before the festival, I was almost certain that the Deadly Gentlemen’s unorthodox style of bluegrass would cause a stir amongst the festivalgoers, but it was a lot more mild than I thought. There were still people that I talked to that didn’t care for it, but that’s just a part of being an edge band. I saw all three sets, and I for one was blown away. Even though I had heard their albums before the festival, I had never seen them live and I was not disappointed. Even though I had seen bands like the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Punch Brothers, with the always emotionally engaged Chris Thile, I have never see a band get into the music and the groove more than the Deadly Gentlemen did.
Another characteristic of their live shows is the usage of covers. These happened to be some of their best songs. Some of the songs they did were the Grateful Dead song “Touch of Grey” and The Rolling Stones’ song, “Sweet Virginia”.
All in all I was ecstatic about their performances and the way the audiences responded. This experience can become a catalyst to possibly even extend the hypothetical tentlonger. This band can possibly lead to a new entire genre of music that is different from anything else done in edge bluegrass today. Their incredible musicianship along with Greg Liszt’s incredible knack for coming up with incredible lyrics and groove-heavy arrangements makes this band one of the best.
My favorite thing about the Deadly Gentlemen though is their stage presence and the amount of energy they put into their performances. Each member has their own special twitch on stage. While playing bass, Sam Grisman sings along on every song most of the way through while Stash stares down and bangs and whirls his long hair. Even though they are all great, my favorite is Greg Liszt who jumps back dramatically at specific times during a set.
This young and rising band has a lot of time to become huge, and with the proper publicity and their will, they can become the new big thing in bluegrass and possibly move over into the world of Yonder Mountain String Band and Old Crow Medicine show if they choose to.