When doderama said that Gangstagrass would be playing in NYC and that I had to see them, I immediately bought a ticket for the show at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2. rtb joined me and it was a late show on a Thursday night so I didn’t think there would be a big crowd. So I was surprised to see a full house that Thursday at 10:30pm. Later, when I was doing some reading on the band, I found out that they perform the theme song for Justified and the History Channel used another of their songs to promote Appalachian Outlaws. And Elmore Leonard was a big fan.
Bluegrass and hip-hop are not such a strange combination. Both are American forms of music and they blend well together. The producer Rench (guitar/vocals) has reached out to a number of musicians and MCs to perform on the records. For the current touring band, R-Son The Voice of Reason and Dolio The Sleuth are the two MCs. After the band comes out and plays a little bluegrass, R-Son and Dolio take turns rapping. Their rhymes reach back to the lyrics of the songs and sometimes made me laugh (like rhyming “back it off” and “jacket off” to “Hasselhoff”). And there was even a little gangsta when the rap rhymed about robbing us. Dolio was sometimes rapping so fast that I couldn’t follow him at all. R-Son did a wonderful freestyle at the end where he walked in the audience, greeted an old friend, and then introduced everyone on stage. The current band members are Dan “Danjo” Whitener (banjo/vocals), Melody Allegra Berger (fiddle/vocals), and Landry McMeans (dobro/vocals). Joining them were Tina Lama (electric bass) and Dave Gross (mandolin). Gross was kind of hidden in the back but whenever he came out to take a solo he blew the crowd away. Berger has a powerful voice and took lead a lot and was very exciting to hear. All of the musicians were excellent players.
On stage there was one cowboy hat, three pairs of cowboy boots, one embroidered Western shirt and two dreadlocked heads. And there were three women, which is always a nice thing to see.
Gangstagrass played traditional songs like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Down to the River,” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.” And there were original songs like “All for One,” “Barnburning,” and “Keep Talkin’.”
We were sitting at a table in the balcony, which was great for us but then when a Tupperware of chocolate chip cookies (baked by the mother of one of the band members) were passed around we couldn’t get one.
Because Gangstagrass had to start their soundcheck after the room had been emptied from the band before them and their crowd was there, they didn’t start until after 10:30pm. They played until about 12:30am and the time flew by. What a fun band. Go see them.
By Carene Lydia Lopez