After hearing The Ragbirds live at the year’s Hoxeyville Music Festival for the first time, I was eager to get some more ear candy. Learning they would play in Madison, just up the road from me, I decided to make plans for this super inexpensive music packed event.
For a $7 cover, we got in to the High Noon Saloon (http://www.high-noon.com/) to hear not only The Ragbirds, but also two opening bands. High Noon Saloon is close to University of Wisconsin Madison Campus, but not right in the ultra crowded college kids only part of the neighborhood. Pleasantly, there were people of all ages at this venue. The bar is larger than a neighborhood bar, but more intimate than a large club type bar. It’s nestled among a few other pubs and restaurants with a nice courtyard.
Remember, we went on a Wednesday night, so the bar was not as crowded as it usually is on the weekends. As we walked in, we were greeted by Erin Zindle, lead vocals for The Ragbirds. She was at her merch table, where they sell not only music and t-shirts, but also a few eclectic accessories like hair clips (created by Erin) and bandannas.
First band was set to start at about 8:30. The Big Strong Men from Minnesota started off the night. Taking the stage were four twentysomething big strong men dressed from bottom to top in sporty kicks, jeans, dressy shirts with ties, and maybe a vest to top off the ensemble. I didn’t know what to expect from these young men. I know I wasn’t expecting what I heard, which was original (with one cover) jamming music with story telling lyrics. Big Strong Men are Ben Greenwald (guitars/vocals), Philly Williams (keys/vocals), Jon Camp (bass and stunt jumps), and Joe Silberschmidt (drums/vocals). You can check them out at http://www.myspace.com/thebigstrongmen. ; They played mostly original jams, and one Beatles cover, “If I Fell” acapella. To give you a taste of their story telling music, here is their set list:
1.) Somewhere Down the Line
3.) Can’t Keep My Guard Up
4.) Don’t Go Too Far
5.) I Can’t Get In
6.) Crimes of Passion
7.) Killed On A Beautiful Day
8.) Don’t Leave Town
9.) If I Fell – The Beatles (acapella)
10.) Revolution Blues
11.) Soul-Saving Type
12.) Don’t Give Me A Menthol Cigarette
The names of their songs alone can tell somewhat of their personality.
Their debut album hits this November.
Following these guys were three locals going by the name of the Cosmonauts, who are Rick Evans (vocals, guitar, and bass), Corey Evans (vocals and drums), and Cory Swadley (vocals, guitar, and bass). Rick, Corey, and Cory took the stage in jeans and t-shirts, each wearing a new Ragbirds bandanna as a way to honor the upcoming musicians. Their sound was a little more rock and roll than jamband, and they even covered a Pink Floyd song from “Dark Side of the Moon.” Amazingly, halfway through the set, Cory and Rick traded places. While Cory was on guitar and Rick on bass for the first half, Cory took bass, and Rick guitar for the second half. They had a good time on stage, interacted with the crowd a little, and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves. The Cosmonauts have a few of their originals available for your listening pleasure on myspace (http://www.myspace.com/3cosmonauts).
After some redecorating of the stage (most notably, Erin laid out a rug for her bare feet, and dressed the speaker with a speaker cozy), several sound checks, and some gear rearrangement, The Ragbirds took the stage. The Ragbirds is sort of a “family thing” with Erin Zindle (lead vocals, violin, mandolin, and a few percussion instruments), her younger brother TJ Zindle (guitar, vocals), Erin’s husband Randall Moore (congas, djembe, tabla, and percussion), Loren Kranz (drumset, vocals), and their brand new bassist Brian Crist. This show was Brian’s first with the group, and his sound was a natural fit.
Their gypsy, bohemian, jumpy, jamsalot, hippie, shakey sound can only make you smile and dance. With songs like “Shake Senoria,” an old spiritual “I’ll Fly Away” put to the beat of an African dance song, their original “Book of Matches,” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” you could say their sound is eclectic. They continued to wow their crowd, changing up instruments and moods, throwing out traditional ideas of songs, making them their own. Two highlights on the evening included the Romanian “Train Song,” which got softer and louder, while the band shook up and down with the sound level, and their encore, “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.”
As soon as we got to the car, I looked up to see when they would be in driving distance again, and was pleased to see they make it out our way quite often. They have made a fan out of me. I even bought a t-shirt, which is already in the weekly rotation.
Many thanks to Big Strong Men, the Cosmonauts, and The Ragbirds for making a great night out.