Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he Devil Makes Three had their work cut out for them.
First of all, it was one of those cold winter Saturday nights in Boston. With the thermometer heading south, this was not the most pleasant time to be heading out.
Second, the concert had major competition, a Patriots play-off game at gone against the Baltimore Ravens,
Neither, however, seemed to put a damper on the evening from the Vermont-bred, California-based trio all that much, nor their youthful fans in what proved to be a highly danceable night of upbeat, vibrant bluegrass (the band has ridden high on the bluegrass charts for months), old time, country, folk and vaudeville/ragtime sounds.
The Devil Makes Three engages in a brand of music that seemingly ought to appeal to an older crowd, but skewed far far younger.
That would have something to do with the songs, of course. The Devil Makes Three has a plethora of worthy material, starting with the "ah ah, ah, ah ah" of "Stranger," the lead-off track from the band's latest, 2013's "I'm A Stranger Here." Like most of the songs, the light musical touch and sing along quality connected band and fans with songs dealing with with the road and drinking among other subjects.
Much of the night was rooted in songs that were on the fast-paced side with a few alterations thrown in (the very darkly-lit, slowly performed "Graveyard" with its spare instrumentation was a major exception, and a good one at that). The gospelly-based "Hallelu" and "Forty Days'," about a flood in Brattleboro, Vt., were of similar ilk with the crowd hopping and bopping.
The instrumentation was courtesy of gray-haired Pete Bernhard who doubles as lead singer for most of the songs, picking away on acoustic and electric, the lanky Cooper McBean on electric and banjo and upright bassist Lucia Turino. Having been together for more than a decade, they are well-oiled albeit free flowing machine. There's a spirit to their playing with quick snippets from McBean and the others filling the gaps. The trio was also aided on a chunk of songs by Providence-based brother/sister duo MorganEve of Brown Bird fame and Spencer Swain, who alternated between cello/fiddle and fiddle and added a fuller sound.
Bernhard was not too engaging in talking, but enough to explain that the trio had Boston-roots itself in saying that some of the first concerts the members attended were in Beantown.
The songs tended to merge a bit sonically after awhile, but there were enough differences for those who listen close enough to avoid possible tedium. And on an individual basis, the 20-plus song set stood the test of almost 95 minutes of music.
Calendar- and weather-wise, the night definitely didn't work in The Devil Makes Three favor, but there's far more than that when it comes to old styles of music that make you get up and dance.
Joe Pug, a Chicago-based singer/songwriter, opened with a commendable set. Pug is a literate writer with sandpapery voice filling personal songs with a lot of emotion. Pug has a deserved confidence in his songs and was one of those opening acts that was worth getting there early for - even if meant having to DVR the Pats.