DES MOINES, IOWA (November 2, 2013)
Mr. Baber’s Neighbors: The Solar String Band opened up for Cornmeal November 2nd at Wooly’s. Opening the time it said on the door (which is rare these days) more and more people poured in and to the front. The sound was best heard up front as they played in the traditional single microphone style. Standing in a half moon they controlled their own sound backing away and stepping up when time to solo. They actually used two mics in the circle one up higher for vocals and down low for guitar/ banjo. I believe the stand up bass had some type of rig going and the dobro player had his own also. Its always a treat to hear an acoustic band this way, but often the sound has to be kept low or completely EQ’d different to reduce feedback stirring inside the acoustic bodies. But since people were still trickling in, everybody came up front after they bought a drink to hear the great tunes!  These guys were legit. I stood close enough to hear the dobro ring out of the resonator from the stage. It was a beautiful sound he got out of his Beard –I was jealous of that guitar. He intertwined rolls, bounced the hammer-ons/pull-offs, and his slides came out as if he was cutting butter. He had all those licks in his back pocket and people just stared at how fast his fingers were moving! The band harmonized well and all knew when it was their turn to solo, like I mentioned before its brings such a great essence to watch players take turns stepping into the mic or trading positions. One of the highlights was when the bass player started ripping triplets playing slap style. A surprise was their cover of “Price Tag” by Jess J, the hit pop song with the catchy chorus “we don’t want your money, money, money, -wanna make the world change” –I never thought I’d like that song!

Mr. Baber’s Neighbors 11-2-13-2

Cornmeal came on and the crowd went nuts dancing right off the bat. If you have ever seen me at one of their shows, you know I am gonna be sore the next day…but this set I was so amazed at moments I stepped back and soaked it in. Scott Tipping melted people’s faces on guitar, during one solo I could have swore it was Jerry freaking Garcia. But Scott brought his own flavor and his playing was big when it needed to be and subtle garnishes while others played. Not once did it seem like he was showing off but he had amazing stage presence. It was cool to see him nod to drummer Drew Littell who led the band out of a jam and back into the song. Molly played fiddle with them only for the second time live but was completely solid with the band -even going into a battle off with Scott on guitar. I don’t know who won other than the audience. Being her second show with them at times it still felt like she was stealing it the show because the fiddle has always accentuated the band. What a sweet and haunting sound came from her swinging that bow. It was a Halloween celebration so the band dressed in costume. If you ever thought Audrey Hepburn couldn’t get more beautiful put a fiddle by her neck and have her play tastefully with a jamgrass band! It was all smiles coming from the stage, Chris Gangii dressed as Ghandi with a bald cap on he bounced on his electric double bass like it was a pogo stick. While riding that beast he played the backbone of the rhythm section and was un-Ghandi like violently doing sick bass lines under the jams. He switched up the grooves he laid down so it was easy to forget how long they jammed out on a song. Dave Littell dressed as Elton John was just as over the top as his costume but did so tastefully. Wavy, banjo, resembled Frank Zappa in top hat and face paint.  The band went into a blistering cover of “Trampled Under Foot” by Led Zepplin. They ALWAYS own their covers and Scott sang it feeding off the energy of the crowd hitting that huge guitar riff. Let me say this again so it sinks in, a bluegrass band covered “Trampled Under Foot” by Zeppelin with the same amount of electricity! It would take me a hot minute to figure out how many times I saw Cornmeal, but this show will definitely be one to remember. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring this era of Cornmeal.

Photos of Cornmeal

© George Burrows

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Nathan's father wanted to name him after Jimmy Dean, the country musician and sausage entrepreneur. Nathan grew up in a small town about 40 minutes from Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, and Iowa City. What seemed like Mayberry was surrounded by urban areas with live music. His grandfather owned a restaurant in Chelsea, IA that had live country music and polka dances every Friday night for 30 years. Never learning the drums, he still banged on them with eating utensils, to the burger and buffet eaters pleasure we are all sure. It was also at his Grandparent's house where they would let him slap the keys of the family piano and sing words. His most memorable song was "Me and Uncle Max Driving Down the Road on the TV". Nathan's first concert was The Kenny Wayne Shepard Band when he was in middle school, even though Nathan was listening to and playing in mostly heavy metal and hardcore bands at the time. It was in 2002 when his musical tastes were forever changed at a show with jazz band Galactic opening up for Widespread Panic in Cedar Rapids, IA. This would later be known as Michael Housers' last show, as he passed away only six months later. Although he attended shows before, he has since scowered the Midwest for the next fix. Nathan's tastes kept growing as he correlated the complexity of bluegrass with jazz. He continues to play music but mostly stays focused on learning the pedal steel guitar. He now lives in Waterloo, working as a Drug Store Manager In Training and drags his beautiful wife Leilani around with him to shows when possible. He still hasn't learned the drums or piano.