Jeff and Vida
February 23, 2005
The bar, side seats, and two theater rows inside d.b.a were full of people at 10:15 Wednesday night. There must have been a buzz around the Jeff and Vida Band. The hype was justified. The group played a rowdy, foot-stompin' acoustic Roots concert. Mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitarist, and vocalist Jeff Burke was joined by acoustic guitarist/vocalist Vida Wakeman and bassist Will Downes.
The show was a yee-haw jamboree without the dancers. Don't ask me why. Since many of the songs had a spitfire doom-tat doom-tat doom-tat beat, it was perfect to boogie to. The Jeff and Vida Band played a waltz and a song Vida designated as perfect for slow dancing, but nobody took her up on the suggestion.
The trio performed appalachian bluegrass, country, and folk songs that possessed a gritty, blues undertone. Jeff and Vida attacked the songs with a vigor that telegraphed love and respect for the roots of their music. When Jeff performed a Jimmie Rodgers piece, I could almost see him singing along to it in his car.
The band did a great job of mixing celebratory barn-burners with songs of death and struggle.
Leaning into an old-timey radio microphone with Downes behind them, Jeff and Vida smiled and marveled at each other's talents. Vida's strongsuit was her expressive voice. It travelled easy and quick. Her sexy moans and cowgirl yelps put a fire under the music. Jeff was a master picker. His technically aggressive and beautifully written melodic progressions made every one his solos a joy. Wow.
They broke a string twice, but each time the other leader performed a song solo with no hesitation. There was no setlist. They must just have a large vocabulary of American roots songs on call.