Liszt had good reason to be enthusiastic because this was a night where the bands synched well for a night to enjoy.
Ace guitarist Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge, who spends most of his time playing acoustic guitar for Punch Brothers, joined forces for a good opening set. Lage spends is more known for playing jazz, but he does forays into more rootsy, folkier music as well, although at least one song on this night was on the jazzy side.
Lage demonstrated his usual dexterity on guitar, playing effectively throughout. Eldridge took care of the vocals, singing on the softer side within a limited range.
Joy Kills Sorrow followed with a superb set helmed by lead singer Emma Beaton's direct, soulful vocals. Beaton, a Canadian, now living in New York, is a strong front person, having good command of the stage and song. That was particularly true during "Working Down the Devil," which also featured a nice mandolin run from Jacob Jolliff. At times, however, Beaton could have been a tad clearer.
It helps that she was ably backed by a solid band as well, particularly Wes Corbett on banjo.
Joy Kills Sorrow smartly changed pace from song to song, keeping its 50 minutes moving. This is a band that has grown tremendously in the past few years. Smart choice by Liszt to include them. The band more than lived up to its name.
The Deadly Gentlemen are making more of a name for themselves, and given their more prominent release on Rounder (the band's first and third overall) - "Roll Me, Tumble Me" - that should not be surprising.
Lead singer Stash Wyslouch, a local boy from Lexington, grew up on heavy metal, but he left those days behind him. The Gentlemen are more in the bluegrass, rootsy side of the musical spectrum. Wyslouch looks a bit the metal part wearing a headband, but that's as close as he came. He was a very effective singer, pouring his heart and emotion into the songs, such as "Bored of the Raging."
And while Liszt at some level is the focal point because he is a big time player (not to mention the organizer and a humorous off-beat guy as evidenced by his recital of poetry here and there), this was most definitely a band. Dominick Leslie on mandolin, Mike Barnett on fiddle and new member Adam Chaffin (he only joined one month ago) were all stellar.
In keeping it left of center, The Gentlemen turned in a credible cover of The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" bluegrass style.
The Deadly Gentlemen bring a fresh, vibrant approach to their blend of bluegrass, acoustic, rootsy music. Labeling this a "ball" ended up being prescient.
(The Deadly Gentlemen followed their set by backing up Peter Rowan, but time deadlines resulted in missing the set).