Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Few Words About Jeff & Vida

I’ve been listening a lot lately to an album called “Loaded,” released a year or so ago by Jeff & Vida. It’s not exactly been a coincidence. Vida sent it to me (along with their first album from a couple years back) in hopes I’d promote their concert appearance last night at Frederick’s Music Lounge. I couldn’t get a piece in the paper, but I played them on the radio, so I did what I could. That wasn’t enough to bring more than about 20 people out on a Tuesday night, I’m afraid.

The opening act, Ninth, didn’t come all the way from Norway just for me to insult them, but I’ll give it a try, anyway. These kids brought a Marshall stack into Fred’s, and wanted their bass drum to have a microphone. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in Fred’s, but the square room isn’t much larger than the average suburban dining room, so there isn’t much need for that level of volume.

But, never mind the attempt to spread tinnitus. Musically, these guys didn’t have much going for them. I guess the best way I can describe them would be to ask you to imagine some sort of unholy cross between Duran Duran’s funk and I, don’t know, the prog rock of Gentle Giant. I said it was unholy.

Anyway, those of us who had repaired to the patio during their mercifully brief time on stage returned to the parlor to catch Jeff & Vida. Vida sings lead with a smoky curl of a voice that has appropriated more than a couple mannerisms from a young Wanda Jackson. Jeff sings harmony beautifully, and live, switches between acoustic guitar, banjo, and his best instrument mandolin. (On record, he’ll also play a mean electric guitar, lap steel, and dobro.) They meander around the intersection of country, bluegrass, and the occasional pop/rock/jazz inflection.

Normally, Jeff & Vida play live with an acoustic bass player – they have two, but this gig found them in between leaving the one and meeting the other – but I never felt anything was missing. On record, they have all sorts of musicians, including drums, which of course makes for a fuller sound, but live, they are so engaging and loose that further musical augmentation isn’t really necessary. If only they’d been the opening act, I would have thought this was a perfect evening.


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