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Show Review: Cave Singers, Grand Tetons @ Blue Moose Tap House – 4/12/2011


You probably decided to spend Tuesday evening outside, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather on your porch or in your backyard, surrounded by friends and cool beverages. However, you should have come see the Cave Singers and Grand Tetons play some great front porch Americana music upstairs at the Blue Moose Tap House.

Grand Tetons have a powerful, yet pure sound, with a lot of the twang and swagger of The Old 97’s or Whiskeytown.  Brian Johannesen writes songs about dealing with the pain and joy of living life the goddamn best we he can, and leads the band with his guitar. Elise Black’s fiddle rings with screeching fury as well as delicate grace, and is a strong compliment to Brian’s raw, yet very real, voice. Greg Markus plays the blues-rock beat with intensity, and Sean McGivern uses his keyboard to fill out the sound. This Iowa City band plays rocking “powerfolk” with grit in their teeth and bloodied fingertips.

Peter Quirk, singer of the Seattle group the Cave Singers, has a voice that is  reedy, raw, and authentic, and his songs are stories, explanations, conversations, and memories. His voice is nasal and folksy like Arlo Guthrie, with a quizzical delivery like Tim Booth, and gravel like Howlin Wolf. He sounds like a man who has felt pain, who has lost, but is still sweet and introspective, as if wondering why the world has to be that way. Marty Lund’s drumming is restrained, yet seems to carry more weight because of it. In his hands, brushes on a snare enthralled and animated the crowd, and he got them dancing with a shaker and a washboard. Derek Fudesco finger picks the guitar with skill and feeling, driving a down-home groove that is the beauty of the Cave Singers’ sound. He plays intensely, rocking and rolling on a stool like a classic bluesman.

The Cave Singers played in Iowa City a year ago, for the 2010 Mission Creek festival. The Cave Singers create a boot-stomping, tent revival of sound, proving that Americana may be backward-looking, but is still moving forward with new and exciting music. According to singer Peter Quirk, they might be described as a “hoedown from the future.”


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