Wednesday night's Railroad Earth concert brought the audience two revelations. First, hippies love to dance. Second, don't go to a jam concert unless you plan to stay for an unnecessarily long time.
It became apparent that something was different about this concert from the moment the audience entered. The opener, a high energy bluegrass group, the Deadly Gentlemen, played with skill and spirit, yet no one in the audience seemed to be paying attention. Actually, the louder the band got, the louder the crowd talked over them. In fact, only about half of the Bijou Theatre's seven hundred seats were filled by the time the group left the stage.
However, by 8:45 p.m., the room had slowly filled to capacity with bohemians in maxi skirts and Birkenstocks, guys in Polo hats and button downs and a sparse mixture of older patrons all there for one reason – to see Railroad Earth.
And boy did the happy hippies come. Some were wearing tie-dye T-shirts, others plaid. One maintained an impressive mane of blonde dreadlocks. They all smiled and engaged with strangers as if they were old friends.
With kind words and funny anecdotes, they regaled their fellow audience members with stories of their weeks on the road following their favorite band, Railroad Earth.
"We love the feeling the music brings us," said Chip Van, a self-proclaimed "delightfully unemployed" fan.
Fans coined Railroad Earth's sound as "Americana Jam Grass" and explained that, because of their love for the music and the fact that the band switches up the set list every night, the show never gets old to them.
"I've followed (Railroad Earth) for years," said Adam Cooper, a dedicated fan. "From Oregon to Kansas to Florida. I guess you can call me lucky."
Once Railroad Earth took the stage amidst a flurry of whoops and whistles, the lead singer, Todd Sheaffer, said simply, "It's good to see you all again."
From there, the band played a series of drum and bass heavy jam-rock tunes, all equally entertaining, yet predictable. Through the constant whine of Sheaffer's mediocre vocals, I never heard anything especially impressive or unique from the group. There were no entertaining interludes or comments from the band in between songs, they were just six older gentlemen playing music, as they seemed to have done countless times before.
Yet, the crowd worshipped them like gods. With each new tune came a renewed frenzy of vocal excitement from the carefree, dancing multitude. The non-hippie parts of the audience seemed to be intruding upon a very personal family reunion, where everyone knew each other and shared an unspoken bond of community justified by the constant thump of Andrew Altman's upright bass.
As the night drew to a close a little after midnight, the tiredness and boredom set in, but so did a new perspective – music is an experience.
Railroad Earth didn't come to the Bijou just to exhibit their musical talent. They came because they had an ardent responsibility to the throng of loyal followers that laugh and drink and dance at their shows night after night.