Frontier Ruckus makes the most out peculiarities at The Nick

Frontier Ruckus
The Nick
Birmingham, AL
October 9, 2011 

As most avid music lovers know, not all concert experiences are created equal.  Some can be good, some can be bad, and some can be downright ugly.  The events leading up to the Frontier Ruckus concert on Sunday, October 09, 2011 at The Nick in Birmingham, Alabama were nothing short of laughingly bizarre, giving a whole new meaning to ever-poignant question, “WTF?!?”.  But in spite of this, The East Lansing, Michigan quintet rose above the peculiarly irritating circumstances to deliver an understated and dynamic performance, proving that some good things really are worth the wait.

The Nick can easily be considered a typical watering hole with a distinctive dive bar feel.  Locals love to frequent the joint, sitting and chatting with their friends, while those who aren’t “in the know” pass it by without a second glance.  Sunday began as a docile evening while the band sat in the wings awaiting their set time.

Just as the first strains of music were scheduled to begin, things got quiet as the bar’s dull roar was hushed by — of all things — an excited archaeologist and his friends.

Next up, the entire music gatherer filled bar was held captive by the fossil-loving crew and subsequently, forced to watch an hour-long television documentary on the Egyptian pyramids.  After the archaeologist made his two seconds of fame debut, the crowd politely toasted and cheered to a job well done.

Following the awkward interlude, the opening solo act crooned emotionally as the fossil dude fielded awkward comments from the underwhelmed crowd.  But even after all of this random oddness, there was a light visible at the end of this “Twilight Zone” tunnel, and it came in the form of Frontier Ruckus who took to the stage just after midnight, tuned up their bevy of instruments and launched into stoic musical excellence.

Standing virtually still yet evoking a powerful passion, the stop in Birmingham was a part of the band’s Eternity of Dimming tour.

Though the group performed for a sparse crowd of a dozen or so fans — standing and swaying at the stage, filming and singing along —   the guys demonstrated they are legitimate masters of their respective instruments, musical virtuosos of nuance and craft.

Despite the competition of the guitar, banjo, bass, drum set, trumpet, melodica, alto horn, and singing saw, lead vocalist Matthew Milia’s haunting timbre cut through the air like a knife.  His pureness of tone and melancholy nature saturated the small stage with the lyrical clarity of “Mona and Emmy.”  The five made a little stage banter in between songs, expressing the group’s gratitude for the tour and explaining the nature of the songs prior to them being played and sung.  As a well-timed cool breeze wafted through the open bar door, Ruckus crooned the tour’s title track, “Eternity of Dimming,” written to depict the “beautiful disintegration of summer life.”

Highlighting a series of newer songs, the guys tried their hand at an ode to 90’s alternative rock vibe with “Black Holes,”  the group’s signature folky bluegrass flavor blending well with the rock feel and words about lost love.  The grateful crowd wholly enjoyed song after song, making requests and standing mesmerized as they were accepted and executed.

One particular request, “Orion Town 3,” showcased the harmonic tightness and musical ingenuity of the group, reinforcing the decision to attend a concert on a sleepy Sunday night.

Despite the crazy hilarity of the earlier parts of the evening, Frontier Ruckus came to Birmingham in full force.  The group traveled a long way to put on an emotional, memorable performance.  One can only wonder what other oddities the band will encounter while touring more of these intimate venues all over the nation.


Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Brian DeGaetano...