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Tuesday, April 7

Review and Photos: Cabinet - Lafayette’s Music Room - Memphis, TN - March 22, 2015

Ever since I saw my first Cabinet show in August at Southern Brewers Festival in Chattanooga, I have been anxiously waiting for the band to head back down South. Just a few weeks ago, when they announced a brand new album, which they were planning to give away for free, and a supporting tour, which would be making a stop in Memphis, I nearly jumped out of my seat. Lafayette’s Music Room is an historic venue that has seen such accomplished artists as Billy Joel, Leon Russell, JJ Cale, and many more during their early days. Until recently, however, Lafayette’s had been closed down for almost 40 years. The newly revived Lafayette’s Music Room has already hosted the Dead Winter Carpenters, Dumpstaphunk, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and more. The concept of the room is to provide an intimate concert setting with dining and drinks served on both floors. The setting proved to be a great one for Cabinet’s first trip to Memphis.
The band started off with banjoist Pappy Biondo on lead vocals for “Poor Man’s Blues,” a fast-paced bluegrass pickin’ tune. Mandolinist JP Biondo took over on lead vocals for a track from the new album called “Old Time Songs,” a slower song but fun and easy to sing along to. Seemingly warmed up now, the band stretched out for a fast-pickin’, instrumental jam, “Po’s Reel,” taking turns soloing. JP particularly got the crowd hootin’, a theme that would continue throughout the night. The following three-song run kept the energy high, sandwiching a fan favorite, “99 Years (And One Dark Day),” in between two tracks from the new record, “Celebration,” the title track of the album, and “Home Now.” The passionate “Caroline” followed, bringing out one of the aspects of the band that I love the most. Cabinet has an uncanny ability to break out of the traditional bluegrass and country boundaries and create intricate, melodic masterpieces. “Caroline” led into “Shine Like The Sun,” a bouncy groove with Pappy on lead vocals off of the new album. The highlight of the night came in the form of a mandolin vs. banjo battle in “Wine and Shine.” JP and Pappy went at it, weaving in between each other and really getting the crowd amped up.
“Treat Me So Bad” came up next, a groovy tune which saw some instrument switching among the band members, followed by the aptly named “Mysterio,” dark and melodic. After a deep intro, “Diamond Joe” kicked in, featuring guitarist Mickey Coviello soloing, with fiddle player Todd Kopec filling in the gaps and supplementing the tune flawlessly. Todd got his chance to branch out and solo as well. The country tune “Nashville Blues” allowed for another run through of solos from all the band members, including bassist Dylan Skursky and drummer Jami Novak. “Bottom of the Sea” saw some more instrument switching and a deep, dark jam, before leading into another fan favorite, the fast-pickin’ bluegrass tune “Old Farmer’s Mill.” The final run of tunes led from the classic country tune “Two Timer” to one last speedy bluegrass track, “Susquehanna Breakdown,” showing their true colors and saving the best for last. Finally, the band finished off the night with “Oxygen,” dark and powerful, a fine way to end a Sunday night of bluegrass.

While it was certainly a different atmosphere from most Cabinet shows, due to the intimate dining atmosphere of the venue, the band certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, and they played great. There was a lot more instrument switching than I remember from my first Cabinet experience. Mickey switched between acoustic and electric guitar, and Dylan switched between upright and electric bass. Pappy played acoustic guitar in place of banjo on a couple tunes, as did Todd in place of fiddle. JP played mandolin, harmonica and acoustic guitar at various times throughout the night. I also do not remember Pappy singing lead vocals as much, but it was good to see him taking on the role, and he played it like a pro. All in all, I was delighted to have Cabinet in my home town, and I cannot wait to continue to follow their ever expanding career.
Words and Photos: Randy Harris
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