I took advantage of the recent holiday weekend and indulged in one of the Rontom’s back patio Sunday Sessions the evening on May 26th. This particular session featured performances by two seasoned and well-loved local bands that I hadn’t seen live before: the raucous outlaw country balladeers, Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, and the epic, 7-piece spaghetti western orchestra, Federale.
The patio was packed, but I managed to muscle my way to the front and get some sketches of the bands. Jenny Don’t and the Spurs got everyone bopping with upbeat, classic sounding country tunes delivered with rock ‘n’ roll energy and expert musicianship. Frontwoman Jenny Don’t does a great job of blending traditional and more modern country elements, playing a twangy Gretsch guitar and singing with the shimmer and ebullience similar to Patsy Cline as well as a knowing sass reminiscent of an artist like Sarah Shook. She and her band were also decked out in all the appropriate gear -ten gallon hats, a bolo tie, a gingham button-down, a bright red dress with sparkling star and horseshoe appliques- making for a shit-kicking good time!
Afterwards, Federale began setting up a multitude of instruments on the stage. Once they were fully prepared and assembled, the seven members launched into the first of many intense, cinematic, Ennio-Morricone-style ballads. Each song featured multiple dramatic crescendos, memorable pentatonic melodies, and rich, inventive instrumentation. Multiple guitars, keyboards, trumpet, drums, bass, pedal steel, and an arsenal of various percussion instruments flanked the lead vocals and haunting whistling of frontman Collin Hegna as well as backing vocals from multiple other band members and the soaring operatic soprano of Maria Karlin. In fact, the most striking part of the band’s sound may have been the intense and plentiful lyric-less hooks performed by Karlin and trumpeter Sebastian Bibb-Barrett in parallel harmony with each other. All of these instruments and elements combined to create lush emotional and narrative swells, evoking scenes of drama and pathos amid a barren, desert landscape.