Even if you're never heard of the five-piece before, we can attest to its being a solid live band based on its credentials and YouTube footage alone. Cornmeal's official place of residence is Chicago (where they played a big homecoming bash at the Chicago House of Blues just recently), but the band spends so much time on the road that it rarely gets a chance to see home. Tonight's Santa Fe show is part of the last week of a month-long tour in which they've done 23 shows in 16 different states, tallying up to 9,000 miles traveled. When asked to confirm that the band played 160 shows in 2009, a figure reported in a review elsewhere, banjoist/vocalist Wavy Dave Burlingame responds with a ho-hum "Oh yeah."
When you play the amount of shows Cornmeal does, you're bound to encounter some offbeat environments. Case in point: Burlingame recalls that a couple of years in San Francisco, they played a concert on a stage in a concave (rather than convex) shape. As a result, there was hardly any room for the drums to sit in the middle while the "flanks" (as Burlingame calls them) had tons of space. Cornmeal's also played in the Rocks Off concert cruise on the East River in New York City, which amounts to the group's playing on a moving vessel. The water could get so turbulent that the band had to anchor their gear down because it kept sliding around.
Stylistically, the band falls somewhere between bluegrass, jam rock, folk and America, although it's the former two genres that are most often linked to Cornmeal. "We don't just do jam band/jam rock stuff; we do traditional-style music, too. Sometimes, we'll strip it down and have the drummer play a washboard-type device or we'll just play acoustic around microphones. Other times, we're full-blown electric," Burlingame says. "We're like a bluegrass band with a rock'n'roll problem. Someone just called us electrified boogie-grass."
Cornmeal's show at Sol tonight marks the band's second in Santa Fe; they were last here in spring 2009. While this band is clearly intense about its touring (Burlingame estimates they've done 80 shows this year), this last month or so hasn't been great for him, so the stage offers him some comfort and catharsis. "This trip has been really grueling. Every day is travel day--even our days off. For me, once we start playing music, it all just lifts off my shoulders. I don't feel fatigued anymore," he says. "Music and the audience make me uplifted once again."
Friday, Aug. 12
Sol Santa Stage & Grill
37 Fire Place