I may have showed up late, but I saw more than enough to recommend these local bluegrass players.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for good music, especially if I can watch it while outside sipping a beer. I recently had the good fortune to meet the one of the members of All the Bad Times by happenstance and when I heard they would be playing a three-hour set at The Sandbar, I made a mental note to show up. This casual outdoor venue is literally right on the Greenbelt, and I have run/biked/walked by it dozens (ok probably hundreds) of times. It was time to finally go check it out, and since I had a quasi-personal connection to the performers it was even more on my radar.
Of course, life gets in the way and I showed up more than halfway through their allotted time, but it is what it is. And the hour and a half I did see had more than its fair share of highlights, the first of which I noticed was their sound situation. Instead of multiple mics, or all huddling around one for harmonizing, they have a delectable sonic treat in the form of an old-timey mic setup that picked up sound from everyone with ease.
The second thing I noticed, when their banjo player Lori started singing on the second song I was present for was just how astonishing her voice is. Her delivery has a very “from another era” classic vibe, but the way her voice carries and absolutely commands the room (or outdoor space, in this instance) was incredible. Ironically enough, when she would speak in between songs, I couldn’t hear a single thing she said over the sound of the crowd and a nearby blender mixing up drinks for the hot and sweaty patrons. But once she started singing, I didn’t want her to stop – and thankfully she proceeded to carry most of the vocals for the rest of the afternoon
This is not to diminish the rest of the sonic palette: the mandolin strumming was consistently delightful, the basslines tight, and the acoustic guitar playing belied the fact that their axe-man has only been playing for a short time. In fact, Lori has only been playing banjo for a couple of years, which also would surprise anyone who saw her picking and wailing away on that five-string.
They also have great musical taste, as they picked out a few of my favorite tracks to cover, including “Shady Grove”, “Wayfaring Stranger”, and a terrific low-key stomp version of “St James Infirmary Blues”. All in all, my first trip to Sandbar was a success, and I look forward to good times with All the Bad Times again.