After a year of uncertainty surrounding live music and when it would return, concerts have begun to pop up like wildfire. Come September; all concert-goers will be able to see most of their favorite artists live once again. For many music scenes, the life expectancy of an artist’s career was up in the air. However, one genre of music has always found a way to prevail and continue to perform amazing live shows.
Jam bands. The apocalypse-defying genre. Just months into the pandemic, jam bands performed at drive-in theatre lots, open fields and streamed everything else. If it wasn’t a socially distant show, it was a weekly online residency.
So, when it came time for the public to gather at shows and festivals again, artists like Billy Strings, Goose, and Twiddle hadn’t stopped their pace.
The Castleton, Vermont-based jam band stopped at Riverfront Live for an intimate night with Cincinnati fans. Unfortunately, the evening began with uncertainty, as the weather had forced the show to the indoor stage at Riverfront. However, nothing would stop fans and Twiddle from continuing this performance, and that feeling was palpable.
As fans packed in tight for the first time in over a year, lead guitarist and signer Mahali ripped right into the upbeat and feel-good “Zazu’s Flight.” The party had begun. For a band like Twiddle, they are often booking outdoor venues and midsize theatres. So, when the tightly packed crowd at Riverfront started engaging with the band, you could see the excitement from the four on stage. The tight quarters brought an entirely new life to the show, harkening back to their early days at the famous Burlington, Vermont venue, Nectar’s.
There has to be some level of authentic fun and euphoria at any jam band show that the band projects onto the audience. Jerry Garcia’s undeniably loving smile, to Trey and Mike in Phish, laughing at one and the other’s jokes on stage, the idea of fun and self-awareness is key to the lasting strength of this scene.
Saturday evening, Mahali, keyboardist Ryan Dempsey, bassist Zdenek Gubb, and drummer Brook Jordan all seemed to be having as much fun as they did back in the dining halls of Castleton State College. Laughing, joking, and simply elated to be on stage with one and other once again.
They were even going as far as to prank the venue as fans walked in with Ryan Dempsey messing with security by moving trash cans and appearing to be an unruly fan in the crowd. It was moments like this where you remember not to take yourself too seriously. We were all there to have fun.
As the show went on, the band jumped into a personal favorite of mine with “Syncopated Healing.” A hippie jam if I’ve ever heard one, however this time, the song felt more fitting than it had ever before. A song where the chorus literally says, “Let the beauty of the music start to heal your life,” feels more appropriate now than ever. Fans sang along as they allowed all the stress of the past year to subside and let the good vibes roll on.
The second set offered an even more enjoyable experience for fans as Twiddle leaned on several covers. From the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” to the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” to even a cover of “La Bamba,” all of their influences were laid out before their fans.
The night culminated in something that felt therapeutic for everyone. Fans could see live music performed at an elevated level with Twiddle’s musicianship while experiencing classic songs that remind us why we love music. For the band, they were able to scratch that itch that all jam bands have, playing with your friends to different audiences every night.
For those keeping track of Twiddle’s trajectory, it seems that this may be a whole new version of the band. Vibrant, enthusiastic, and carefree. Scheduled to open for Vampire Weekend in 2020, the band was poised to attract a whole new audience. When that tour is rescheduled, you can bet that Twiddle will see a new surge of fans along with a new platform to play at.
On a personal note, Saturday night’s show gave this Twiddle fan of nearly ten years excitement about the future of this band. From seeing Mahali and Gubb play acoustic shows at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs, New York. To now opening for Vampire Weekend and showcasing a whole new set of skills, songs, and an overall rejuvenation. It just reminds you of why one becomes a fan of local or small acts.