You’ve gotta love it when a band no one has heard of comes to town for the first time and is greeted by a sold out venue. How might this happen you wonder? Well, it helps when you have a special guest from an acclaimed band on the bill. Railroad Earth is a household name in the jam-grass world and fiddle player Tim Carbone, is their most recognizable player. It was a bonanza for him to join forces with Yarn on their first West Coast tour. Not that this band isn’t good enough to warrant a sell-out on its own, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a friendly push.
All we knew about Yarn is they are from Brooklyn and describe their music as “Americana roots.” All we needed to know is that they are reputable enough to have Tim Carbone on the bus. And it also didn’t hurt that Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn from Dead Winter Carpenters would be opening. The buzz began to grow and eventually hit terminal velocity when they recorded an in-studio performance the day of the show on KVMR radio. We probably could have sold another 100 tickets at that point if they’d been available.
After a soulful, ultra-mellow set by Charles and Dunn, the crowd was chomping at the bit by the time Yarn was ready to start. Their first song, “Lies I’ve Told,” was one of the best of the night. They held their hearts in their hands and encapsulated their collective spirits in just a flash of a moment. With the warmth of the vocals and the sincerity of the songwriting, any expectations were instantly exceeded. The theme throughout the night was an uncanny sense of familiarity with songs we were hearing for the first time. Not because they were derivative (although just about anything is), but in the way they tapped in to an emotional space all serious music lovers strive for.
“Americana” is an enormous umbrella of a genre which has become more and more diluted in recent times. Is it country? Is it bluegrass? Is it folk? Well, maybe a little of each, but let’s just chalk it up as Americana. In this case, Yarn truly seemed to define what is meant to be intended by that word. How so? It’s just something you feel in the moment. It’s an intersection between all those styles which gives off a sense of purity, authenticity and sincerity. Some songs were brooding, some of the hoedown variety; others more intricate; and the occasional foray into a more mainstream, pop bounce. If it feels good isn’t that what matters in the end?
With a band playing to a crowd for the first time, there is a tendency to lean heavily on covers. Such was not the case here. Yarn’s powerful songwriting was on full display. Pieces like “Dirt Road” and “Look to the Future” felt like instant classics. When they did bust out covers, they brought the house down like Grateful Dead’s “Candyman” and Neil Young’s “Helpless.” Oh yeah, and was this Carbone cat all he was cracked up to be? You better believe it! He had us hanging on every note. The guy plays fiddle like a dolphin swims. How will it be seeing Yarn without him? Strange as it sounds, I have a feeling we might not even notice.