The Pour House
Charleston, South Carolina
September 9, 2008
“Hey, we’re starting,” upright bassist Chris Gangi quietly whispered as the dozen or so patrons sat indolently by the bar. Cornmeal’s visit to the Pour House in Charleston was not exactly greeted with the fervent fans that the band tends to draw in other venues. Throughout the next few songs the venue slowly began to fill, and Allie Kral’s swift hands on the fiddle quickly brought everyone to their feet.
Zach Deputy was the original headliner for the night, but had to cancel his gig for unknown reasons. Perhaps his cancellation was the reason for such a sparse crowd.
Nonetheless, Cornmeal’s extended set was certainly a treat. While it’s always a surprise when such good music draws so few people, it can also make for a much more intimate experience with the band. The fans that showed up are there because they truly appreciate the music.
Throughout the evening fast-paced, foot-stomping bluegrass romps intermittently transformed into intricate slow-tempo trancegrass numbers. They also built up into more folksy lyrical ballads.
After only a few songs it became clear that Cornmeal is one of those bands with the unique ability to cover a vast array of musical genres while maintaining a consistently identifiable bluegrass sound as a whole.
JP Nowak’s work on percussion added a significant punch to the band’s sometimes more traditional fast-picking bluegrass feel. Rather than employing his percussion as a salient force that drives the music, he seemed to work more as a secondary element to keep the strings sounding tight while adding a sense of overall structure and texture.
Dave Burlingame (banjo) and Kris Nowak (guitar) were both remarkable in their own right, but the most prominent strings on the stage were in the incredibly talented hands of Allie Kral, whose vibrant work on the fiddle was just downright jaw-dropping.
Listening to the tapes after this show would by no means indicate a crowd of such meager numbers, as the band’s playing was spot-on. The overall energy of the music itself was as if they were playing for a crowd of thousands. It will be interesting to see how this band develops down the road as more fans catch on to a very talented and fun group of musicians.