Review by Olivia Mello, Narrows Staff
“And that wasn’t even the end,” shouted Jeff Austin, after receiving a standing ovation in the middle of the set on Thursday night. “This is our dream audience,” he went on, “you guys freak out at exactly the right time.”
In front of the stage was a small, yet loyal crowd, many of which occupied the comfortable table seating offered at the Narrows Center, while a few uninhibited souls danced in the back. The energy and volume remained high throughout the entire show.
After teaming up with four incredible musicians to record his first solo album, The Simple Truth, Jeff is now performing all across the United States and we feel lucky to have been a part of the tour.
Accompanying Jeff on his mandolin was banjo player Danny Barnes, guitarist Ross Martin and bass player Eric Thorin. Without percussionist Cody Dickinson, the fifth component on the album, it was interesting to hear the way they transformed the songs, originally driven by drums, solely to their string instruments. The outcome was a vivacious performance that had the audience tapping their feet and bobbing their heads, as the musicians’ fingers raced to catch the beat.
The set combined fast-paced bluegrass jams with softer instrumental breaks, displaying a spontaneity that audiences love. The band’s total absorption in the music was truly contagious; the whole crowd appeared mystified by the ethereal plucking of strings.
I found myself playing a game inside my head; one I used to play with my mother as a child. We would put on classical music, close our eyes and imagine whatever scene the song inspired in us.
Sitting in my seat on the far right side of the stage, I was suddenly transported to a car, on a road trip, with the Jeff Austin Band spewing out of my dashboard radio. It felt like going home.
The true beauty of a venue that’s as small as the Narrows Center is the intimacy you feel between band and audience members. Jeff Austin certainly took the opportunity to eliminate the separation even further. Between each song, he shared short stories and small, personal announcements. We learned about a couch that was given to him as a parting gift with good juju thanks to Dierks Bentley and the song “Fiddling Around.” We also got to celebrate the newest addition to Eric Thorin’s family, a beautiful baby girl.
There was an overwhelming sense of community in the performance, and while it was my first time ever seeing the Jeff Austin Band, I left feeling as if I had made four new friends.