String Fever, a local bluegrass group, played a set of both upbeat and sorrowful songs during dinner. The quartet played simple, down-home ballads mixed with upbeat reprisals of songs that sounded like they were from the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" When I could hear the band over the inattentive chatter of hungry students, I half-expected George Clooney to jump on stage donning a gray beard and overalls and exclaim, "Ah, this is a tight spot!"
Strong three-part harmonies and cool Western hats caught most peoples attention. Holly Fischer, a St. Olaf alumna, led the group on acoustic guitar with an earnest love for the music she was playing. The group relied on the wonders of reverb a bit too much for my taste, leaving much of the instrumentation lost in the large rafters of the caf. However, the music did fit in perfectly with this years Western homecoming theme.
Later that night, the Clayton Miller Blues Band played at the Pause as a part of their current two-month tour. "Were just out playing music and having fun," said Clayton Miller, eldest brother and frontman of the group from Lafayette, Indiana. The band is made up of the Miller family: Clayton, 21, on guitar and vocals; Cole, 18, on drums and vocals; LD, 10, on harmonica; and Dad on bass.
The Millers look like what MTV would do to white t-shirt and blue jeans blues-rock: ugly, soulful blues with pretty faces and enough mainstream appeal to attract almost any age demographic. Their age isn't the gimmick that draws listeners, though the Millers' music is strong enough to stand on its own, due to hard work and extensive touring.
The band has been together for four years and played 160 shows last year across 40 states alone. Most recently they have been on tour plugging their album Gotta Have Love, which was released a year and a half ago.
LD was featured on the television show "Americas Most Talented Kid," and for good reason. One key element of the white-boy blues band is a hot harmonica player, and 10-year-old LD is just that. He squealed and screeched riffs that would have fit well in Eric Claptons blues band. I can only imagine what hell be like when hes old enough to really know the blues.
LDs riffs were matched by Claytons guitar proficiency, which reminded me of Johnny Lee Hookers "Boom, boom days mixed with the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, but with a goatee, bearing a more than passing resemblance to Wolverine from X-Men.
The music was all held together by Dad and Cole, who were tight, crisp, and had clearly been playing together for some time. Cole took most of the lead vocals, but all three of the brothers sang well with honest, blues-ridden soul.