C’Mon! to See Barnstar!
I will go out on a limb and say that Barnstar! (yes, the exclamation point is part of their name) is one of the most fun bands you will ever see perform. The raucous energy emanating from the stage coupled with their talent created a show that thrilled the sold-out audience on this night.
Barnstar! is a bluegrass band composed of founder Zachariah Hickman on bass, Charlie Rose on banjo, Mark Erelli on guitar, Taylor ‘Old Train’ Armerding on mandolin, and Jake Armerding on fiddle and mandolin — a classic bluegrass configuration. They all sing lead and provide backing vocals. Hickman also sports the best moustache in the history of bluegrass, or any genre, really.
Their set and two encores consisted of songs from both of their albums, although most were from their recently-released Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! When you see them live, you will understand the exclamation points. As I write this, I can hear Hickman’s voice exclaiming the title. Indeed, the title of their first album, C’Mon!, is a signature ‘shout’ from Hickman. It is all part of what makes a Barnstar! show so enjoyable.
Both original and cover songs were played during this set. They pulled out Dawes’ “When My Time Comes,” and I never knew it was such a good bluegrass tune. The audience loudly sang the chorus along with the band, something I don’t generally enjoy because I want to hear the band, but either this crowd could sing or the harmonizing fit with the harmonizing of the band. Clearly, the audience was having as much fun as the players.
Other covers included Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ “Trouble” and Chris Moore’s “Six Foot Pine Box” the latter featuring Taylor Armerding.
Some of the original material they performed was Erelli’s murder ballad, “Barnstable County,” Rose’s ode to mining “Cumberland Blue Line,” and Jake Armerding’s ‘Delta Rose’.
This is the first time I have seen them perform using a Grand Ole Opry/old-timey microphone. They actually had two this night — one for their vocals and the other for their instruments. Hickman had a mic on his bass, since moving a bass around that small stage would have been cumbersome at best and dangerous (both for the bass as well as the other players) at worst. I hope they do this more often; I think it adds more interest to an already fascinating performance style.
All five men have other music careers outside of Barnstar!, which means the opportunity for them to tour as a band is limited. See them when you can — they are doing a short tour in the near future supporting Josh Ritter (Hickman plays bass in Ritter’s band). If they come to a city near you, don’t hesitate to get tickets.