In the week leading up to this show, I heard a fair amount of The Steel Wheels’ music on the radio because they performed at a benefit for WUMB radio. I liked what I heard, but realized that this kind of music – described as Americana roots – is best appreciated live. I was not mistaken.
There is a strong bluegrass feel to the music, and while it would be appropriate for the band to perform at a bluegrass festival, they would be a great fit at any festival that showcases roots music (Newport Folk, Freshgrass, Green River, Rhythm and Roots, to name a few). They host their own festival in the Shenandoah Mountains – Red Wing Roots – that I would like to attend.
The Steel Wheels is composed of lead singer/guitarist/banjo player Trent Wagler, upright bass player Brian Dickel, fiddle player Eric Brubaker, and mandolin player Jay Lapp.
They took the stage which featured a Grand Ole Opry style of mic (which my regular readers know I love) and immediately launched into a fast-paced bluegrass-y number. One of the things I love about using this type of mic is that the musicians can fluidly move around the stage; that creates much visual interest in the performance, at least for me.
From there, they did not stop for a couple of hours, which honestly felt like fifteen minutes! There was not much banter, merely excellent music. I cannot list specific songs they played, but I presume many came from their recent release, Leave Some Things Behind. I need to add that to my collection…
Opening for The Steel Wheels was The Suitcase Junket, which is not a band (although it sounds like one) but an individual named Matt Lorenz. A good friend whose music taste I trust implicitly recommended this act, and I was glad to have the opportunity to see him.
All I can say is wow! Matt’s instruments are composed mostly from found objects. He sits on a suitcase. His guitar was found in a dumpster (I believe that’s what Matt told us). He uses pots and pans in his drum kit, as well as bones. The kick he uses for his drum is his old baby shoe.
The depth of the music he made astounded me. He plays slide guitar (I am not sure what he used as a slide) and percussion. He hums into the guitar to create a unique sound. He whistles. He has to be seen to be believed.