You could sense from its last two sellout performances at Natasha’s that North Carolina bluegrass sensation Town Mountain had not only outgrown the size of Lexington venue it could fill, but the type of performance setting as well.
Sporting a heavily traditional sound with more-than-ample instrumental chops and a level of honky tonk attitude that favors rustic immediacy over studio-produced slickness, Town Mountain moved over to Cosmic Charlie’s last night in attempt to shake up its performance environment. On that level, the adjustment seemed to work. With ample libations flowing through the audience, as well as onstage, the band shifted successfully from the listening room atmosphere of previous local shows to a kind of dance hall vigor that matched the very obvious drive of its music.
Guitarist/vocalist Robert Greer remained an engaging frontman for Town Mountain’s performance gusto with a jubilant variation on a traditional mountain tenor that fueled such barn dance party pieces as Whiskey with Tears, Up the Ladder and especially Tick on a Dog. The latter was one of several new tunes Town Mountain plans to record during the winter.
But the MVP in terms of bringing scholarly instrumentation to such festive string music was fiddler Bobby Britt. From the fervency and subtle Celtic flair of Four Miles to a series of hearty and seemingly instinctual solos, one of which sent the show past the midnight hour, there was hardly a tune uncorked by Town Mountain that Britt didn’t light a fuse to with his playing.
The midnight element sets up the only potential snag in Town Mountain’s full transition to a club act. While Cosmic Charlie’s proved the proper home for the younger, more vocal dancing enthusiasts that may have found venues like Natasha’s too quiet and confining, last night’s starting time of 11:10 p.m. undoubtedly put the squeeze on older patrons that are still very much part of the band’s fanbase. While the audience size didn’t thin dramatically as night turned into morning, it did lose a few pockets of fans – older ones, especially – early in the set.
That’s the only real problem in having a diverse audience. Cater favorably to one faction and members of the other might chose to bolt from the party altogether.