While most bands are busy employing more technology in their show, splattering the stage from one end to the other with cutting-edge gear, the Down Beets are running in the opposite direction—and it’s made them run into each other. Last spring the 4-year-old alt-country bluegrass quartet decided to simplify things by changing into a one-mic format. At first, however, crowding around a single mic took a bit of getting used to. Singer Sheila Golden explains: “I totally got whacked in the head a few times by the banjo, I’ve whacked Jay [Lampel] with the guitar, and at a couple shows Jeremy [Lampel] had to run around to the other side to get near the mic. It can be really comical but we’re getting better.” “Getting better” has meant burgeoning into a sweet Del McCoury performance style that’s revolutionized the band.
These days, without having to worry about soundguys or a cable-entangling set-up, the Beets woo audiences with an intimate show that lends itself to down-home harmonies and orchestrated choreography, which they’re bringing to Don Quixote’s on Wednesday, March 31, alongside MilkDrive. While Golden takes on songwriting and rhythm guitar duties, twin brothers Jay and Jeremy Lampel (both formerly of StrungOver) whisk together a hot picking combo of three-finger style banjo and mandolin, while standup bassist Mike Luke often adds a rockabilly slap approach. Hitting up the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Fair, the Big Sur Bluegrass Festival, and the occasional farmers’ market around town, the band fittingly procures a dynamic folk show that’s homegrown, organic and, of course, tasty. There’s the rockabilly of “Will I Still Like You When I’m Sober?”, the satirical gospel of “He’s Got My Back,” and the traditional slow waltz of “Little Girl’s Lament.” But whether swinging or subdued, the Down Beets are now doing it closer than ever. Golden says the members’ tight proximity on stage these days has been a progressive step back in time. “When you play in a room through one mic you can really capture the essence of traditional acoustic music.” She adds, “Plus, it’s just nice to be able to hear each other.” | Linda Koffman
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Wed., March 31. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. $8. 603-2294. myspace.com/thedownbeets.