7/15/15- Club Passim

It is always exciting to hear musicians whose recordings you’ve listened to many times in person for the first time.  Three years ago, popular soul band Lake Street Dive played a gig at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. Since I was an under-twenty-one year-old at the time, I wasn’t allowed to attend. But my parents did, and returned with the opening act’s EP. The band, The Fundies, actually included two members of Lake Street Dive – upright bassist Bridget Kearney and lead vocalist Rachael Price. Fiddler Brittany Haas and vocalist/guitarist Margaret Glaspy completed the act. The group’s crunchy acoustic sound and upbeat folky tone make me reminisce about weekend drives in the summer sun.

While The Fundies no longer play together, Margaret and Brittany met up for a reunion show at Club Passim last week. I showed up at 8:10 for an 8:00 PM show, anticipating an opening act and the usual delays. But the duo was already making its way to the stage, weaving between packed circular tables of four. I barely had room to squeeze into my seat in the front row, backed up to the chair of the woman seated behind me.

The two performers, who have been close friends since childhood, haven’t performed together often since their Fundie days. Glaspy makes a lot of her music on her own and is releasing her first full-length solo album later this year. Haas plays with fiddler Darol Anger and her trio Haas Kowert Tice – Kowert is the Punch Brother’s bassist – and fiddled for the now defunct bluegrass band Crooked Still.

Not only had they not played together recently, but they had not had much time to rehearse. The two exchanged shy whispers about chord progressions and solos behind the microphone between songs. But their fine musicianship, enormous talent, and humble, laid-back presentation made for a wonderful evening. Margaret, whose raspy, emotive voice was made for the folk and bluegrass tunes that filled the set, stuck to vocals and guitar. Brittany started on banjo and guitar and switched seamlessly to the fiddle, saying laughingly that it “[felt] so small” after playing the larger, fretted instruments. She still played like a virtuoso on her primary instrument. Her more smooth and reserved voice blended beautifully with Margaret’s, creating flawless harmonies projected just the right amount by Passim’s sound system.

The two played many traditional folk songs they had learned while on the road, as well as a handful of songs from their eponymous 2012 EP. Margaret introduced “Front Porch”, which Brittany called “the theme song of The Fundies,” by saying with a smile that “we were and the still are The Fundies,” revealing her fondness for the band’s time together.

The lively song in four was led by Margaret’s country twang, accented by an occasional growl and accompanied by a high harmony and fiddle chops from Brittany. With only an eight-bar combined verse and chorus, the song hopped quickly between Margaret’s vocals and Brittany’s fiddle solos. Her sliding, slurring lines peppered with double-stops gracefully leapt above Margaret’s strums on the guitar.

The two were quietly dynamic together on stage, smiling fondly at each other after an unexpected off-beat hit during a traditional tune. The performance was not flawless, but nobody in the audience cared. We felt lucky to share in the exchange between the two talented friends. When Brittany introduced their encore by saying “We’d like to play one more song, if that’s alright with you,” a man sitting in the second row gave a hearty affirmation of “Yes, please do!” I thoroughly enjoyed watching the pair, as Margaret put it, get out of their comfort zones, play some tunes, and have a blast. The two friends concluded the performance by thanking each other and sharing an embrace before going their separate ways.

Fun with The Fundies: Margaret Glaspy and Brittany Haas
  • Margaret's vocals
  • Brittany's fiddle playing
  • Laid-back, fun-loving atmosphere
  • A little unprepared performance
8.7Overall Score

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