Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent at Birchmere

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Last night we saw Rhonda Vincent and The Rage perform at Birchmere. We’ve seen them once before at Joe’s Pub, and I wrote about it here. I concluded that post with the following paragraph:

We had a great time, and would definitely see her again given the chance. We’d also go back to the 9:30 show if the right performer was there, but we’d be gnashing our teeth all the way. I am grateful that the majority of the shows we have been interested in are the 7-7:30 ones, and I hope that it will continue to be the case.

Well, we did see one more Joe’s Pub 9:30 show since, but that was Girlyman, and we would go see them at 2am if that was the only choice. 😉

More important, we also got to fulfill our desire to see Rhonda Vincent and The Rage again. They’re simply wonderful. Last night the regular banjo player, Kenny Ingram was back, so we got to enjoy his amazing playing. He’s one of the fastest (and cleanest) banjo players we’ve seen. That said, he outran the rest of the band a couple of times (and they are super fast too), so it wasn’t a flawless performance in my opinion.

Rhonda’s microphone wasn’t right at Joe’s, but last night the sound was perfect. She has an exceptional voice and exceptional energy on stage. To repeat what I said in my last post, she’s also beautiful, and looks half her actual age.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent

Left to right on the stage:

Kenny Ingram playing banjo. I already mentioned how terrific he is. In addition to playing banjo all night, he played the guitar on one number, and sang only once, in a four-person a capella number.

Kenny Ingram

Kenny Ingram

Hunter Berry played the fiddle all night and he’s the only one that never sings (though Kenny comes close). He does chat up the crowd and banters with Rhonda a bunch, so you get a good feel for his personality and sense of humor.

I mentioned in my last post that he’s an incredible fiddle player. Last night only brought that to the forefront even more. He’s definitely up there with my all-time favorites, having seen him twice now. At Joe’s, he had to sit all night, coming off an injury. Last night he (and the rest of them) stood the entire night.

Hunter Berry

Hunter Berry

Mickey Harris played the upright bass. He’s an excellent upright bass player, with a terrific voice as well. He harmonizes with Rhonda on most songs, but also sang lead on a few numbers from his new CD. He’s also a new father, so he had a grin plastered on his face all night that was infectious. On one number he played the mandolin (quite well) accompanying Rhonda without the others.

Mickey Harris

Mickey Harris

Darrell Webb played the guitar. He’s a classic bluegrass flat picker. He’s fast and clean. He too (like Mickey) has an excellent voice, and he harmonizes with Rhonda and Mickey on most numbers creating a very nice sound. He too sang lead on a few numbers, which the crowd loved. On two numbers he played the mandolin, one of which highlighted a superb lead mandolin.

Darrell Webb

Darrell Webb

In between them all, center stage, was Rhonda. I’ve already heaped superlatives on her, all deserved. In addition to her signature mandolin playing (on most songs), she played guitar on a few numbers (at Joe’s, she only played the guitar during the encore). She also played the fiddle at least twice. She’s really good on the fiddle, but just like the mandolin, she chooses to take a huge back seat to her incredible band, rarely taking a lead. When she does, she nails it, so it would be nice to hear her let loose a bit more often.

I mentioned above that Kenny participated in a four-person a capella number. It was gorgeous. People mailed in requests before the show, and that number was one of them. The four of them (Rhonda, Mickey, Kenny and Darrell) shared one microphone, center stage, and nailed the song.

A Capella

A Capella

They were on stage for exactly 90 minutes, then said goodnight. After a standing ovation, they played one more song (never leaving the stage). They walked off to another standing ovation.

We knew we would love the show, but I was particularly grateful that the sound system was perfect and that we ended up with a pretty good table (given that we were 24th on line (it’s first come first served). We went with five folks from Zope Corporation, so there were seven of us. I suspect we were introducing the other five to their first bluegrass experience, so I can only hope that they enjoyed it 1/2 as much as I did.

The food at Birchmere is always good (classic southern comfort food), and my pulled pork sandwich was as good as it gets! Given that today is a work day, it was very nice to not have an opening act, and for the show to start exactly on time (7:30pm). We were back in the hotel room a few minutes after 10pm. Not too bad!

Rhonda Vincent at Joe’s Pub

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Friends of ours were coming into town this week from Vancouver. They were free Monday night (last night) so we suggested an early dinner followed by a concert at Joe’s Pub at 9:30pm. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage were performing. She’s the queen of Bluegrass Music (which I love). We sent them a link to a YouTube video of her, and they agreed to the plan.

As my regular readers know, Joe’s Pub is one of our favorite places. That said, they are not without their problems, and the cumulative effect is getting a little annoying. This is only the second time that we’ve gone to the late(r) show. We discovered Joe’s Pub when I was looking to see if The Duhks were playing in NYC. They were playing the 9:30pm show at Joe’s, and we didn’t know any better, so we booked the tickets and went.

The doors are supposed to open at 9pm for the 9:30pm show. They never do, because they never clear out the folks from the earlier show in time to do that. That’s not the biggest issue, although on a night as cold as last night was, and with us arriving too early (8:30pm), an extra 15 minutes standing in the frigid cold was less than pleasant.

What’s annoying is that they insist on you ordering dinner in order to reserve a table. That’s not a problem with the early show, because they open the doors at 6pm (well, never before 6:05, ever, and sometimes later), but the shows generally start at 7 or 7:30pm. So, you have time to relax, order dinner, and not be rude to the performers.

For the 9:30pm show, you order at 9:29, and the food doesn’t come out until after 10pm, when the show has been on for 30 minutes already. I don’t mind buying the same amount of money’s worth of drinks in order to reserve the table, but the food part and the slow service is marginally annoying.

Anyway, last night’s plan was to challenge the written policy of dinner only, and have dinner in advance, and only drinks (possibly dessert) at the show. The best laid plans…

Our friends spent the day doing something that sounds incredible, flying around in Zero Gravity! They were part of a five hour program run by this company. The program ended with some kind of food, so when our friends got to our apartment, they weren’t that hungry. So, we hung around our apartment for a while, and then headed straight to Joe’s, intending to eat there.

Since I had had the Seared Tuna twice there in the past 10 days, I switched to a cheeseburger. Excellent as well.

On to the show. The only substitution from the normal band was the banjo player. Kenny Ingram’s wife had some medical problem, and he stayed behind to be with her. Daniel Grindstaff sat in for him (or rather, stood all night), and he was amazing. While all of them (including Rhonda) are excellent musicians, Daniel (on the banjo) and Hunter Berry (on the fiddle) were particularly notable.

Rhonda’s voice is excellent. Unfortunately, they never quite got her microphone level right the entire night. I’ve never had that happen before at Joe’s. Considering that I was closer to her than anyone else (other than the band), having my left elbow on the edge of the stage right in front of her, I was able to hear and enjoy the performance, but it could have been better.

As evidence of how close we were to her, here’s a not-so-great shot, that did not use a telephoto lens. 😉 (as always, click to enlarge):

Rhonda Vincent at Joe’s Pub

One minute before the show started, a guy from the back came up to Lois and told her that there were a bunch of guys from Fort Hood in the back (at least that’s what I heard), and could she (Lois) make sure to ask Rhonda to play God Bless The Soldier (which is a beautiful song, specifically inspired by a female soldier from Fort Hood!). I guess that Lois projects an image of getting things done (which is interesting, since she’s most definitely the get it done person in most groups). She said she would.

Immediately (before they started to play), Lois called over the guitarist (Darrell Webb) and relayed the message. He said he would tell Rhonda. He appeared to a minute later, but for all I know, he was telling her that they needed to call security on Lois, or at least keep an eye on her. 😉

All in all, an excellent show. She’s really wonderful, and so are The Rage. She’s really beautiful, and looks like she’s 30. That’s not likely, as she told the crowd that she’s been married for 24 years, and has two daughter’s, ages 21 and 19! Lois and I need to get some of the water that they have in the Missouri town that she’s from. 😉

When Joe’s Pub personnel signaled Rhonda that she needed to get off, she sang one last song before leaving the stage. To that point, she hadn’t sung God Bless The Soldier. Lois tried to catch her attention before she got off, but I stopped her. I suspected that she was saving that for the encore.

When she came out for the encore, she had a guitar (first time for the night, as she played the mandolin for all other numbers), and only Hunter Berry (the fiddler) came out with her. Lois called her over (have I mentioned that Lois is a get it done person?). Rhonda leaned down and Lois told her about the Fort Hood request. Rhonda said that’s exactly what she intended to play for the encore. All was good with the world, as she did a wonderful version, including telling the inspiring story behind the song, and we all left on a high note!

We had a great time, and would definitely see her again given the chance. We’d also go back to the 9:30 show if the right performer was there, but we’d be gnashing our teeth all the way. I am grateful that the majority of the shows we have been interested in are the 7-7:30 ones, and I hope that it will continue to be the case.