Taking a stab at replicating Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon isn't completely new - several bands have pulled off the rock opera in its entirety, but to play the entire record with in a bluegrass vein? That takes some guts. But San Francisco's Poor Man's Whiskey isn't backing down to the challenge. The band's acoustic lineup brings as many as seven string-playing yahoos onstage to play a rock-influenced brand of bluegrass.
Friday's show at the Old Stone Church won't be a rendition of "Darkside of the Moonshine," which is the name the San Francisco pickers have slapped on the Floyd project, a performance that is complete with lasers and costumes and packed the legendary Great American Music Hall last month. That said, don't expect the band to be any less full of the piss and vinegar that made them a hit on the main stage at last summer's 4 Peaks Music Festival in Bend/Tumalo (They'll be playing there again come July.) where they were as funny as they were twangy. PMW's hilarity is often pinned on dobro player, vocalist and faux-beard wearer Eli Jebidiah, who emceed 4 Peaks while staying in the character of a Southern revival preacher throughout the weekend.
While they are a bluegrass band at their roots, PMW do have a drummer and bassist in tow that provide plenty of groove and the band has the rock sensibilities to keep a crowd on the toes of their dancing shoes. To keep the night acoustic, local stars Moon Mountain Ramblers open the show.
Poor Man's Whiskey clearly had Floyd on their turntables growing up, but they almost surely spun a little Del McCoury at some point. McCoury has been a legend in the bluegrass world, ever since he started in the music business under the tutelage of Bill Monroe in the 1950s.
On this tour, Del is playing as the Del McCoury Band, a group that includes his sons Robbie and Ronnie picking along with their guitar virtuoso of a father. While Del, who turned 69 just this past week, embodies everything great and pure about the old days of bluegrass, he's also hip with today's musical landscape, having collaborated with Phish and the String Cheese Incident, as well as with tough guy, alt-country warrior Steve Earle. And he's got one of the finest, twangiest voices in the bluegrass world - but not the corny sort of twagny - the good kind.
The Del McCoury band is one of those rare acts that can bring in camps of seemingly diverse fans to a show. Don't be surprised if when you sit down in your seat at the Tower you find a Deadhead (or maybe a diehard "Del"-head) on your right and a cowboy on your left. But no matter what the make up of the crowd, this show might be one of the best live music performances to hit the Tower this year.