There is room for subtle irreverence in traditional bluegrass. As long as its done with some tongue in cheek intent, a little harmless comedy injected into between song banter during a bluegrass set can certainly lighten up the mood of the room. Even better when that said comedy is coming from a group of ladies, fiery women who are as quick, smart and able with the wit as they are with the playing of their instruments.
That’s an apt descriptor for the Colorado-based band Big Richard, an all-female, at times old-time and traditional, other times progressive and exploratory bluegrass band. The quartet, who are Bonnie Sims on mandolin; Joy Adams on cello; Emma Rose on bass and guitar; and Eve Panning on fiddle, will perform Jan. 27 at Animas City Theatre. Opening the show are local band La La Bones, as well as a set from solo performer Rainey.
The onstage banter doesn’t always go over as it should, which at times just serves as fuel for the ladies to keep up the act – it’s all part of the show.
“We had one show and people who hadn’t even been at the show just couldn’t take us, so we just thought ‘well shoot, we just have to keep this going now, challenge accepted,’” Adams said. “Some came up to us and said to us, ‘couldn’t you name yourself like, The Mother Earth Band? Or something like that, something with a little more decency?’ We said, ‘well no sir, you are talking to the wrong folks, sorry.’”
If you go
WHAT: Big Richard, La La Bones, Rainey.
WHEN: 7 p.m. (doors) Jan. 27.
WHERE: Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive.
TICKETS: Sold out.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.animascitytheatre.com.
Some call them a “supergroup” as they are all individual musicians knee deep in other bands and projects. A friend and promoter was looking to book a band for a private bluegrass festival in Colorado, that promoter reached out to fiddle-player Panning to form a band and Big Richard was born. That one-off show was so much fun, from the music to the on- and offstage chemistry, that they decided to keep the ball rolling; they’re now a full-blown band playing shows and festivals from coast to coast. They’re also throwing musical curveballs for those who need a descriptor.
“It’s kind of a hard band to put a label on. I think of the band as more of an old-time band, we play a lot of old-time tunes. Of course, when you say old-time music, a lot of people don’t know what you are talking about. So that’s when we start to say bluegrass because people will understand that term a little better,” Adams said. “And a lot of the bluegrass repertoire comes from old-time music. And we love it, it’s gritty and it’s hard driving, and it fits our voices and our instruments really well, but yes, there’s a progressive side, too.”
They’re also bucking the trends of women in bluegrass music. While there are a handful of great women who have put their own stamp on bluegrass and old-time music, it still remains a male-dominated genre. Big Richard’s instrument proficiency, an ability to slay audiences through masterful playing of decades old-tunes as well as playing progressive new-grass, throwing in the occasional rock tune, and sassy stage banter proves their onstage worth.
“There’s some expectations that come with a long history of female performers in this genre, like having the long skirt and pretty voice and subdued temperament on stage, and I don’t want to talk down on that because frankly, a lot of those women have been tremendous inspirations to me and the rest of my band,” Adams said. “But there’s also this stereotype of women not taking solos and kind of being meek and mild on stage, and just singing and not being too shreddy on their instruments and we’re trying to break all of that down.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.