The Jayhawks with Split Lip Rayfield at Stiefel Theatre, Salina, Kansas
The Jayhawks have been on my wish list of groups to see live for a long time, so when I saw they were playing a show down in Salina, KS I knew we’d be making the trip. It’s an easy 3.5 hour drive to the home of the beautiful Stiefel Theatre. We had seen Jackson Browne there in November of 2015 so we knew what to expect and scored 2nd row seats in front of the stage.
First up was Split Lip Rayfield, a Kansas band I had never heard before, but judging from the number of SLR t-shirts in the audience was a crowd pleaser. (By the way, people need to learn the number one rule of concert going: never wear the t-shirt of the band you are going to see). I read they were thrash grass or cowpunk and when they showed up on stage with a bass made from a car’s gas tank I began to really wonder what we were in for. But then they started playing and all fears fell away. What a great band! Besides the unusual bass they had a banjo, mandolin, and guitars. They whaled on their instruments with a professional finesse, fingers flying over the strings. I will be getting one of their albums for sure.
The Jayhawks came out to cheers, but right away it was apparent the band was different. Only four players came out. Apparently, the lead guitarist is recovering from a serious illness. So, Gary Louris was the electric guitarist of the evening and the keyboardist filled in on many of the solos. Gary did a great job and he admitted it was probably good for him to play more electric. Still, I’d like to see them as a whole band some time and I hope the lead guitarist recovers soon.
The set list covered the span of their long career with three of their hits from Tomorrow the Green Grass (“Blue”, “I’d Run Away” and “Bad Time”) to the newest album Paging Mr. Proust. I shouted out my favorite song, “Save It For A Rainy Day” and sure enough, they played that next. They also played what Gary called a rock block of songs from Sound of Lies. “Only three people bought this album” Gary deadpanned, “seriously, it did not do well.” Nevertheless, it sounded great to these ears and they’ve sold at least four now as I picked one up at the booth. However, they didn’t play “Pretty Roses In Your Hair” thus denying my wife the chance to sing the “bom, bom, bom” part and fulfilling part of her fantasy of being a professional backup singer.
Something new we learned was that Gary Louris was an honorary Kansan due to his sister and mother living in Wichita and Gary spending a lot of time there. In fact, we were seated next to some family friends that had come to see them. The drummer and vocalist was also a Kansas native from Leavenworth. Gary allowed that it could be quite confusing having a band called the Jayhawks in Kansas, but he couldn’t take credit for the name explaining, “I wasn’t in the band the first two weeks when they named it.” Marc Perlman, a founding member standing next to him did not chime in to explain further.
The encore was almost like another mini-concert starting with Gary coming out solo to play a couple songs. One was “Angelyne” another favorite that I had been singing to myself (and my wife) since waking that morning. Then the full band came back to perform several more songs.
All-in-all, a terrific concert, a new band discovered, and a chance to sing along to my favorite songs. Thank you Jayhawks! I can’t wait to see you with your full band