So you didn't come out to The Black Rose on Friday for the Craic Wisely show? How sad. You missed a great show, but the weather did kinda suck.
With tables reserved at 8:30pm, the snow storm hit West Michigan with avengeance at about 6:30pm. The roads were dangerous and treacherous. With a constant "dry" snow that was hard-packed and forced cars into odd lane changes. We were witness to one car swerving and spinning out into the median (about a 40-foot wide grassy separator that dips down about 4 feet or so), which meant that when it spun around, it looked like it was just about to flip over when it came up other side of the bank like a skateboarder on a half-pipe.
We arrived at The Black Rose at 8:20 (on snowy nights, they really need to do something to shovel at LEAST the lines in the parking lot because everyone was parked like the Matchbox car collection of a 3-year old.) and had no problems with seating or ordering of food/drinks. The server was great (at least for me) and food was delivered and drinks refilled with prompt and good service.
The bar wasn't packed... there were rarely folks on the dance floor (The Wendys weren't there, so that mighta been a sign of how bad the roads were.) which was really a shame because this show was perhaps one of their best in a very long time.
Starting out of the gate, the band seemed to start on time (or at least not noticeably late) and were spot-on and very coordinated. Something that's been lacking over the last two shows especially with the band trying to figure out what to do without the 12-string guitar (and in hind-sight, something that I think that we've just learn to accept as part of their "style" in a lesser extent) was a looseness to their performances. But with their new arrangements and perhaps help from the new input from the recording sessions and practice, the instruments really sang. Todd's vocals were much more understandable. They also had some help...
A duo called "String Cheese" (Ally: a cellist with an electric cello, and Dianne: a fiddle/violinist) who perform fantastically together. In addition to that, Dianne joined Craic Wisely (as Karisa is out of the country) and I've got to say that with only 45 minutes of practice, she REALLY works well with Craic Wisely. This is by no means a complaint about Karisa, but Dianne really had the spunk and energy that Craic has really been lacking. When Tim was playing, the Mandolin and Fiddle were really up front and lead the music. But since then, we haven't had mandolin since Vinny stopped playing (one half of a show?) and Karisa has never really quite brought her fiddling to the front. At the beginning Dianne did the same, but even in the background, her fiddling seemed to match what we old Craic Heads have been hoping to hear again. As she loosened up, I think she picked up that the band was looking for the fiddle to be right up front as one of the main instruments and not just in the background.
Now, I have to say that Karisa is a FANTASTIC violinist, singer and musician. But she's always seemed to struggle a bit on stage. Her violining is just fine, but (in my opinion), she just seems to be missing some of that "get into the spirit" that some of the other fiddlers that have joined CW have had. And with Karisa being a part of other bands, having her own projects and working/teaching lessons, I wonder about how much time she has to practice with the band. CW has never publicly stated that she is a member of the band, so I don't know what their plans are. ANYWAYS, "String Cheese" were very good on their own too. They had a fun set between the first and second sets of CW and at first they were kinda slow, but the girls really jammed when they got into the faster paced and high-energy parts. It was great. But (I assume) because Dianne had been playing with Craic through the night. So in the last set they brought the girls up to play with the band too. Dianne had warmed up to playing with the band, but Ally took some convincing. Once she got her groove though, I think they both had a great time.
The weather had calmed by about 10pm or so, and by the time we got out onto the roads, some were better than others, but not quite as bad. However, at the exit to I96W from 131N there was a SUV on its side, crushed up against the barrier. There were a few cars parked (or stopping) with a couple of folks standing next to it... and no officers on the scene (it was bar closing time and I saw one bar with 5 cars in front of it. As we drove past we noticed someone peering into the sunroof, but with 8 or so folks wandering around and at least 3 cars stopping to "help", we kept going. Other than that, driving was fairly easy (if only a bit slower than usual. Hey! I love to drive in difficult weather and conditions... it doesn't mean I'm stupid about HOW I drive in them! *L*)
In conclusion?... A great show. The band seems to have hit their groove and even if their sound is slightly changing, they do sound more professional. They were VERY lucky to have Dianne on stage and I hope that they bring her back for more fiddling. If you didn't come out because of the weather, I don't blame ya, but you did miss a great show and your presence was missed.
Their next show is at Quinn and Tuite's on February 9th. There's a $7 cover. I don't have a time yet.