This New Year’s Eve I happily chose to stay close to home and attend a well-rounded lineup of Central Indiana musicians. The night featured an eclectic mixture of Traditional Bluegrass, Newgrass(Progressive Bluegrass), Outlaw Country, American Psychedelia, Blues, and Southern Jam Rock. Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band headlined the holiday event, with The Indiana Boys and The New Old Calvary as supporting acts. Initially, seeing The New Old Cavalry was my sole reason for attending, but proved to be very myopic given the caliber of music on display. The Indiana Boys were the first to take the stage, starting the night with an excellent set. Their set was fun, energetic, and featured a very talented presentation of music. Also, the veteran musicians’ stage presence undeniably displayed a certain sense of swagger. The first half of the set featured two mandolins feverishly plucking away, while Kenan Rainwater(lead vocals, harmonica, and rhythm guitar) added a rich and wholesome element in contrast to the energetic sounds coming from the other members. Barry Todd, mandolin, lived up to the label of a virtuoso on the instrument, owning the stage for most of the set. The second half of the set featured the band inviting other musicians from Dan Bigler’s other group, White Lighting Boys, to join them on stage. This proved to be beneficial and added even more musical depth to their already impressive set.The apex of the set, and easily the crowd favorite, was when The Indiana Boys played their rendition of Snoop Doggy Dogg’s classic gangster rap hit, “Gin & Juice”. It was honestly a well-executed cover, not letting the silliness of the lyrics detract from the quality musical composition. The Boys fed off of the energy of the crowd, taking it up a notch with huge smiles adorned across their faces as they closed their set on a very high note. I was very impressed with the entire set, and those gentlemen are obviously professionals.
My excitement began to rise in anticipation of The New Old Cavalry’s set to begin. After the briefly playful stint of sound adjustments, their set quickly began in a fury. Chris Doller, guitar and vocals, and Alex Wukmer, Dobro and vocals, began the set by energizing the tempo and the amassing crowd with heavy hitting play on their respected instruments. The first portion of the set featured the two trading back and forth between who led the charge. They traded off in perfect sync, forging ahead into seemingly improvised bluegrass-psychedelia jams. Justin Hughey, electric banjo, plucked along in lockstep, providing the hard-hitting music with crisp melodies and the signature bluegrass twang. It didn’t take too long for Hughey cut loose and took control of the music, taking the Psychedelia jam into a Newgrass jam. I absolutely love the hearing a banjo(electric or not) relentlessly push the tempo faster and faster, especially when properly executed, which he did so with ease. Brandon Lee, mandolin, also came to the forefront of the jam, furthering the sound of the Progressive Bluegrass gets down. Chills crept down my spine as the rest of the stage-front attendees and I began to boogie, revival style. I must also point out, Brian Chomka, Upright Bass, was essential in holding the sound together with booming bass lines, well-timed changes with the beats, and tightly held the music together. He was the glue holding the rhythms of the far out jams in tact. I was impressed when the guys took the music down several notches, adding a nice flow to their set with the beautiful track. The abrupt tempo change was all they could do to add some sort of flow to their short forty-five minute set. They finished the set just as they had begun, in a fireball fury. A band like The New Old Cavalry deserves at least an hour and a half to properly deliver their seemingly improvisational Newgrass psychedelic jams. Honestly, I was a little disappointed they weren’t allowed to play much longer, but they most certainly made the best of their allotted time. It’s always a treat to hear their fusion of several genres of music. Every time I see them their music continues to evolve.
After a brief intermission spent with whiskey consumption providing necessary warmth and perfect numbness outside in the freezing cold while chain-smoking, I finally reentered The Bluebird a few moments before Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band took the stage. I stood, uncertain of what was about to transpire, with this being my first Reverend Peyton show(that I can remember). The uncertainty quickly subsided as Washboard Breezy Peyton came out playing a washboard and harmonica with Reverend wailing on the guitar. It was truly a gnarly concoction of sound, in a very good way. His unique voice and edgy guitar play boisterously roared through the venue. I totally get the irony of the band’s name, with Aaron “Cuz” Persinger(drums, vocals) rounding out the trio, but their music does provide an illusion of a big damn band actually playing. Reverend Peyton provides an illusion of another musician by utilizing a Fingerstyle guitar, relying on his thumb to provide the bass lines for their music. Equally remarkable was his commanding stage presence. The undeniably overpowering frontman didn’t deter Washboard Breezy from showing her own skillful stage presence. Their energetic movements on stage and raunchy Country Blues music infectiously spread throughout, causing a rowdy dance latent crowd.
Even after releasing their latest album “Between the Ditches” this past August, they still played a nice mixture of old and new material. “Mud” and “Something for Nothing” were two classics played and both were delivered magnificently. Their new material easily eclipsed both of those tracks, which was no small feat. “Devils Look Like Angels” was a phenomenal track musically as well as lyrically. The Blues element of their music definitely shone through for “Devils”. Another impressive presentation of new material, “Broke Down Everywhere”, showed energetic play by Breezy and Cuz and playfully intoxicating singing by Reverend, delivering a truly fun song. It was possibly my favorite song of the evening, but hard to decide with the entire set being absolutely impressive. Another track off of their latest album, “Big Blue Chevy ‘72″, was another fan favorite worth mentioning. “Big Blue” highlighted the eclectic fusion of their music, this time presenting the crowd with more Country and Southern Rock influence in the music. The set was excellent, ringing in the new year wonderfully and capping off an excellent night of music by talented local musicians. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is musically in their own class of music, impressively producing fun and fresh music and live shows.
Words by: Alex Toy