Rumpke Mountain Boys, Floodwood and David Gans – Rex Theater – 9/11/13

words by Ryan Neeley – Photos by Donald McGurrin and Ryan Neeley


Sometimes in life you get a little taste of something that just does it for you, but it wasn’t quite enough to satisfy your thirst.  Whether it be a physical taste of an amazing food, a mental taste of a moment in time that you wish could last forever, or a state of being that you sometimes strive to get to once again.  I once got a taste of a late night Rumpke Mountain Boys/Floodwood acoustic fireside picking session and have tasted RMB with David Gans, so when Grey Area Productions announced that they would be hosting Rumpke Mountain Boys, Floodwood, and David Gans at the Rex Theater, I knew where to go to quench my thirst and really dig into a night of music from these astounding performers.

IMG_0008David Gans started off the evening with a laid back set of originals such as crowd favorite “Life is a Jam” and “River and Drown” along with some Grateful Dead covers.  Special guest Jill Paone Simmons, female vocalist for Pittsburgh jamband theCause, joined Gans, adding some stunning harmonies for a nice touch on “Sugaree”, “The Boxer” and “Brokedown Palace”.

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Next up was Floodwood, a bluegrass band that features drummer Vinnie Amico and guitarist/vocalist Al Schnier from moe.  Floodwood has played at moedown and some other festivals in the past, including the Ville Festival a few weeks prior where a noise ordinance forced them to go “renegade fireside acoustic” with RMB joining in.  But this would be the first time I would have the opportunity to see them at an indoor venue.  The band took the stage and launched into “Roll On” IMG_0175and “Revolving Door”.  “Nine Pound Hammer” was a highlight, but songs that got the most attention were their covers of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” along with Grateful Dead classics “I Know you Rider” and “Friend of the Devil” with David Gans joining the band, taking the lead on vocals.  It looks as though we’ll be seeing a lot more from Floodwood, as they recently succeeded in reaching their goal on Kickstarter to fund a van to tour in.  DON_9817 copy_newMost fans pay close attention to Schnier and Amico, but the other band members are very well-respected musicians in their own right and have a great stage presence, at one point joining the crowd on the dancefloor, where a huge circle formed.   Floodwood’s music is like a whitewater rafting trip down the New River Gorge, where one moment you’re meandering down a mountain stream and the next minute the channel gets smaller, the current stronger, until it explodes into a fiery explosion of notes hitting you from every angle.


Following the Floodwood set, the regions finest jamgrass quartet Rumpke Mountain Boys took the stage.  Seeming unphased by the Floodwood set, RMB opened with IMG_0913upright bassist JD Westmoreland driving the train on “Lonesome Mule,” followed by fan favorite “Right Where I Belong” and “Cold Hearted Whine”.  Ben Gourley shined on “Relativity”, demonstrating Rumpke Mountain Boy’s versatility and songwriting abilities. RMB’s latest release Moon shows a deeper, more personal side to the band that has been known over the years for their fun-filled, whiskey schwilling shows.  Speaking of schwilling whiskey, the quartet IMG_0808pulled out “Drink it Down”, pausing in the middle of the song to throw back a shot of Jameson after patiently waiting for the shots to arrive and experimenting with various noises.  The set also featured covers, like the Grateful Dead’s “China Doll” and Roy Rogers/Norton Buffalo hit made famous by Jerry Garcia Band “Aint no Bread in the Breadbox”.  One of the many characteristics that make RMB special is the fact that each member brings a dramatically different style of singing/songwriting to the table – Ben Gourley’s lyrics have a certain depth and meaning to them, banjo master Jason Wolf’s gritty selections sung with ferocity, upright bassist JD Westmoreland’s Memphis roots ooze soul like no other, and Adam Copeland’s lyrics bring the fun to the RMB team.  While many bands have one, maybe two members who are accomplished singers/songwriters and musicians, all four in the RMB team are top notch at their craft.

IMG_1265But the night wasn’t over, and the most anticipated part was to come.  After Rumpke’s set, they invited Gans, Floodwood and Paone-Simmons back on stage for the “superjam”.   With eleven musicians stepping to the plate, there were smiles aplenty on stage and off as the group went into “U.S. Blues” and closed with an emotional “Sisters and Brothers” and “I Bid you Goodnight”.  And as the crowd filed out of the Rex Theater into the streets of the southside of Pittsburgh, everyone would agree that this night was just what was needed to quench their thirst.  No tasting tonight, just gulps of good ol’ fashioned trashgrass flavored with some Floodwood and Gans.