Never let it be said that I won't give something a chance. I had my misgivings when I looked up info on the two bands at Neurolux this night and deduced that they each played some kind of bluegrass variant/mutation. For the most part, I'm with Tom Waits: "The only thing I hate more than bluegrass played badly is bluegrass played well." Still, the price was right ($5), and the prospect of seeing two out-of-town bands that I'd never heard of before attracted me.
The audience started out fairly sparse, but thankfully, it built as the night wore on until there was a more than decent crowd for a Thursday night. It probably helped that Milk Drive did a live performance on Radio Boise earlier in the day.
First up this evening was Whiskey Shivers, a four-man band from Austin, TX. I made ready to duck all the cheap shots when "Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance played on the PA system prior to this group taking the stage. Mercifully, except maybe for a groan-worthy dirty joke about what hand-rolled cigarettes and hippie chicks have in common (punchline: "They both make you do this." [picks at tongue with fingers]), they never came. These guys played fast like bluegrass and fast like punk. The slapped-out basslines gave the music a solid bottom while the impressively nimble banjo and guitar solos gave it some zing. The bassist and guitar player's rough, friendly tenors blended nicely with the fiddle player's rich, soulful baritone. Their original songs were smart and funny enough that you could've sworn that they wrote "Down Home Girl," not Arthur Butler and Jerry Leiber (glad I checked--at first, I thought the Rolling Stones did).
Next up was Milk Drive, whose self-proclaimed "Progressive Acoustic/Classical Jazz Grass" wasn't anywhere near as arch or pompous as part of me had feared. Instead, they proved friendly and generous enough to do right by The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" and sharp and tasteful enough to do right by Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." Their original songs successfully mixed together such unlikely-seeming genres as bluegrass, jazz, Western swing, latin music, rock and pop. They swapped instruments and solos regularly without showing off too much about it. It really does pay to take a chance sometimes. Extra kudos to Idaho's own Noah Jeffries for his fleet-fingered guitar work.
You can find info on both of these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.