Concert Review + Photography: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers (Duluth, MN)

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers (Brevard, NC), Pert Near Sandstone (Minneapolis) and The 4ontheFloor (Minneapolis)
August 5th, 2012
Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth, MN

Full Show GallerySteve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers in Duluth, MN

Oh Steve Martin, how I loved you in The Three Amigos and on TV as one of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” on Saturday Night Live. You play bluegrass now ya say? You’re darn right he plays bluegrass and has for some time, but now with one sweet sounding band.

The 4ontheFloor‘s frontman Gabriel Douglas kicked off the show with announcing that they were the comedy portion of today’s show. This drew a chuckle from the steadily growing audience. Beginning with “Working Man Zombie”, the band’s set was a decide-on-the-fly list of songs, but there was one preplanned song in the works. “King of the Jungle” is usually a song that takes three verses to figure out that King Kong is the thing of the jungle (you didn’t hear that from me), but today, it was “King Tut“. The song was reworded to pay homage to Steve Martin’s character on SNL and in his routine.

The middle act of the afternoon was Pert Near Sandstone. I saw them last year at Soundtown (cancelled this year, I know, I feel your pain) and I noticed something a little out of sorts as they lined up. Andy Lambert is their resident clogger and washboard slapper, clogs were not the footwear of choice for him today, or for a few more weeks. Turns out Andy had been downhill mountain biking in Moab and once off the mountain, decided to pull a wheelie in the parking lot. This was the last trick he attempted because he fell backwards and broke his back! However, he was still there to give the bourbon box and washboard hell, while Kevin Kniebel’s (banjo/lead vox) wife took over the clogging.

Pert Near finished up and Mr. Martin and his band were nowhere to be seen. Typically the “Green room” is under a few tents behind the stage, on the shore of Lake Superior, but today it was back in the locker rooms of AMS Oil Arena, so the bands were being shuttled out to the stage. I was told in the morning that the set was a soundboard shoot. This is the most uninteresting way to shoot a show, but I of course left back stage after looking over the “plethora” of banjos and went to the sound board. In case you did not know, a plethora of something is defined as “an abundance of something”.

After the Steep Canyon Rangers took the stage and sound checked for a bit, they left, then came back on stage with Steve Martin. It was not until a few years ago I knew Steve was a musician, but in listening to my dad’s 1978 Steve Martin comedy album on vinyl, you can hear him  periodically picking away at a banjo, so he’s been playing for a long time.

I shot the first song from the board as I was asked to, but noticed I was the only photographer in there. Everyone else had made their way to much better shooting areas. I may or may not have done the same…

Steve played with the Steep Canyon Rangers (SCR), and delivered hysterical lines between songs. At one point, he told the story of how he met the band. He talked about going to a party with his wife in North Carolina which the entertainment was some “local band”. They have been together ever since. He and the band that is. Him and his wife have been together much longer. Steve says that is the real story, and he tells it when he is outside of Hollywood. In Hollywood, he says he met the band in rehab. SCR sounded phenomenal together, so good in fact, it was almost obscene. Their vocals meshed in a buttery smooth perfection that was met with instrumental excellence.

When the show ended, I ran to my car to grab the Steve Martin Vinyl I had brought with in case I had the chance to meet him. I ran back stage to find a few band members, but he was gone already.

Chris of The 4ontheFloor had forgotten his sunglasses back at the green room, so in a “what the hell why not” moment, I walked back with him and Mark to the green room to retrieve them. Long story short, we ran into Mr. Martin and he signed my record. I was absolutely thrilled in the rube-like moment, and still am.

Full Show GallerySteve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers in Duluth, MN

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