Railroad Earth brought their eclectic sound to NYC’s Brooklyn Bowl this past weekend. The three-night stand proved that the band’s catalogue is truly meant to be experienced over a multi-night run as they remained spirited, energetic and unique over the six sets they delivered in Brooklyn.
Night one wasn’t quite as crowded as the weekend shows, but Brooklyn still carried an energy that would rival the next two nights. Kicking things off with “Saddle of the Sun,” Andy Goessling’s banjo riff made way for Todd Shaeffer’s song to ring throughout the bowling alley / concert venue hybrid. The emotional “Potter’s Field” (which name-drops Manhattan’s Houston Street) and the upbeat “When The Sun Gets In Your Blood” made early appearances in the first set of the first night.
Set two was highlighted by Jacob Joliff, the new unnofficial mandolin player of Yonder Mountain String Band, joined the sextet for “Stillwater Getaway.” Dueling with John Skehan, the two created some real magic as they shredded our faces away. The night ended with an encore of “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” a fitting cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s 1985 song played for the first time by Railroad Earth and sang by bassist Andrew Altman.
Night two continued the energy with an early “Colorado” before closing the first set with the smile-enducing “Chasin’ a Rainbow.” Set two kicked off with a “Dance Around Molly” that segued in to “Dandelion Wine.” The danceable anthems had the place steaming hot on a very cold evening!
“1759” made way for some great soloing, and the ultimate highlight of the set was “Like A Buddha,” a fan-favorite and a feel-good track. The band would receive mixed feelings by their choice to play “Take the Skinheads Bowling” again for the encore on night 2. Generally against the rules, the band went ahead and repeated the song as a joke, but not all thought it was so funny. On a run that didn’t deliver “Head” or “Long Way to Go,” it seems like an odd choice.
But Railroad Earth is a pretty odd band, and if you can’t catch that by hearing their crazy blend of Americana, bluegrass, celtic, country, jam and rock music, you could probably get the vibe just by lookin’ at the guys. When it comes to art, odd is good, and it didn’t take too long for everyone to forget about the repeat, because night 3 was absolutely on fire.
“The Hunting Song” and “Lordy, Lordy” acted as super-early highlights of the third show before “All That’s Dead May Live Again” segued in to “Seven Story Mountain.” The band’s chemistry was on point as they delivered super-tight renditions of these tunes with mind-bending improvisations. The second set climaxed the entire run as “Mighty River,” “Donkey for Sale,” “Face with a Hole” > “Spring-Heeled Jack” and then finally “Elko” closed out the run. Cards were flying everywhere as Shaeffer yelled “I need a card, I need a card!” There must have been 5 or 6 decks floating around as the fans took production in to their own hands, no pun intended.
For an encore the band chose to play “One More Night on the Road,” a fitting tale for a band of travelers like themselves. Despite the fact that New Jersey, their home, wasn’t too far away, Railroad Earth won’t be sticking around for too long, as they hit Washington DC this weekend before a west coast and southern run. There’s never a dull moment for this band, but luckily for us they evidently don’t get tired of playing. Until DelFest, we thank you, Railroad Earth.