LIVE: Trigger Hippy @ Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock 11/2/2019

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A night of conflicting experiences started once Yard Sale took the stage to open the evening for Trigger Hippy on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock. The sight of their workman boots and faded blue jeans contrasted against the flow of Patagonia and The White Face walking up and down Tinker Street. Woodstock’s social construct couldn’t be farther away from Brooklyn, yet it has more hipsters per square feet than deer ticks in the neighboring Catskills. The village embraces its music heritage just as Saratoga Springs holds on to its thoroughbreds. This was just one of the few places that strips away the pretense of commercial tourism.

Yard Sale sounded anything but local as the quartet stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the hollow of The Barn. The Hudson River Boys were surrounded by a crowd either seated on metal folding chairs or standing against the exposed cedar around the room. This has been a place for music, and little else, for more than 40 years. Just music and people nestled insider Washington Irving’s woods. 

Yard Sale is a Kingston band that is an amalgamation of two Canadians, a New Yorker and a true blooded Southerner from South Carolina playing Americana with a progressive style. They’ve played together for ten years, often hunched upon the flatbed of a pick-up truck to play, as one would guess, at a yard sale. As the older gentleman who hosted the night said, “It’s like being on the corner with your buddies.”

An Americana band is common enough in this region thanks in part to Pete Seeger in the Hudson Valley and Old Songs in Voorheesville. You can find one playing anywhere from a bar downtown to an apple orchard on the outskirts of the county. But, as Taylor Davis walked up to the mic to give the crowd a soft, subtle “Good evening, y’all,” his Carolina came that much closer to home. 

Maybe it was warming up to a fire pit outside to start the evening, or listening to songs from The Band and the Grateful Dead on the house sound system, or perhaps it was the ghosts left lingering after Halloween, but Yard Sale pulled the magic down from the rafters and put on an authentic, good ol’ fashioned country ho-down in the middle of Woodstock, New York. The boys played a 40-minute set of original music, toe-tapping country and blues with strong harmonies accompanied by fiddle, standup bass, banjo and acoustic guitar. It was the perfect pairing for a chilly, autumn evening inside a barn.

But the atmosphere soon flipped as Ed Jurdi stepped onto the stage for soundcheck. He played a series of deafening notes from his guitar, an overbearing auditory display I hoped would not continue into the performance. 

Trigger Hippy is somewhat of a supergroup established by drummer Steve Gorman of the Black Crowes and bassist Nick Govrik. The original lineup had included Joan Osborne (“What if God Was One of Us”), Jackie Greene and Tom Bukovac, who all came together to compose the band’s debut album in 2013. It’s now a four-piece band with Gorman and Govrik paired with Jurdi and vocalist Amber Woodhouse. Woodhouse’s voice lends the band a Southern gospel and blues touch that blends in with a sound that’s a hybrid of rock and Americana. This unique mix is deftly showcased on the band’s latest album “Full Circle & Then Some,” of which the band was out performing in support. For the evening, however, the quartet was supported by a piano and organ player, and a second guitarist. 

Gorman started the set by addressing the crowd and saying, “Honestly, there’s no place else we’d rather be,” before playing the band into the first song. Again, Jurdi’s guitar was nearly all that I could hear. My seat was just an arm’s length away from the piano player. I could have tapped him on the shoulder without leaving my seat, yet I could barely hear his organ. In fairness, his monitor was nearly just as close, and pointed towards me. 

The experience improved marginally as I stepped away to another corner of the room. From there, I was able to discern the play of everyone else’s instruments, but Woodhouse’s singing did not stand out. The amplified instruments often overpowered the vocals on stage, which stripped the band away from the strength of its three-part harmonies between Jurdi, Woodhouse and Gorvik. Lyrics drive Americana, and Trigger Hippy’s lyrics had me looking forward to the evening as I listened to the band’s latest album. Instead of a carefully crafted blend of genres, the crowd received heavy dose of rock. As one regular pointed out to another patron, “It’s ducking loud.” But, he didn’t say “ducking.” He said, when compared to the standards of our family newspaper, something more conflicting. 

Photo Gallery by Jim Gilbert

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