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Those who arrived early for this Assembly of Dust performance at the Paradise Rock Club had a marvelous treat in store. I wasn’t familiar with Nathan Moore or the Emmitt-Nershi band, but I was very impressed by the excellence of these guys. You don’t always get really great support acts (I’m hesitant to even call them that, as either could be headliners), so this was a nice surprise which made for a wonderful evening of music.

Nathan Moore

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At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Nathan Moore. He ambled out with acoustic guitar and harmonica to a simple stage set that included a beat-up suitcase, adding to the Vaudeville-like vibe of his performance. He started by apologizing for not having things better organized beforehand, and was speaking with a garbled voice. He then says “excuse me”, and takes a large ball (?) out of his mouth. And then does it again. And again. And yet again. WTF?? I’m sure that some in the audience were familiar with Nathan Moore’s schtick, but I wasn’t whatsoever, so when several minutes went by and he hadn’t actually played anything, I was knocked off balance (which I realize now is probably the intention), maybe a little annoyed (possibly also the intention), but by the end of his engaging set, delighted and intrigued with his unique take on the folk-singing tradition – a mix of honest, heartfelt ballads, amusing Arlo Guthrie-style raps to introduce each song, and… wait for it… magic tricks. Yes, magic tricks.

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His set included “Rubber Ball” (from his folk/psychedelic band, ThaMuseMeant), “Tombstone” (from his new EP just out, Folk Singer), a song with the line “filling out an application, praying for redemption”, and another “waging a war against the war on drugs”, which followed a funny/serious rap about the government’s drug policy and Massachusetts’ recent decriminalization of marijuana, for which we were duly congratulated and praised.

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Wedged in-between some lovely guitar picking and harmonica accompanying smart and introspective songs, a very impressive trick which consisted of tearing a newspaper into many small pieces and then, in a blink of an eye, producing the completely untorn and unmangled paper from which it came. Man, this guy is good. And he can sing (and play) some lovely songs as well. I should also mention that he’s in another band called Surprise Me Mr. Davis.

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His solo tour continues in Fall River and Northampton, MA; Montpelier and Burlington, VT; Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virgina; and then on to San Francisco and Groveland CA; finishing in Live Oak, Florida. I highly recommend seeing him, if you can.

Emmitt-Nershi Band

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While I was here primarily to see Assembly of Dust, I was blown away by the others on this bill. The Emmitt-Nershi Band are simply astonishing. From listening to their music online, one can immediately tell these guys are wildly accomplished musicians. That doesn’t always translate into a good live show, but these guys were wonderfully entertaining, and man, did they jam. I mean seriously, they are the Grateful Dead of the bluegrass world! Incredible banjo solos from Andy Thorn, while Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon, Drew Emmitt Band) ripped it up on mandolin like he was in a heavy metal band – something you wouldn’t normally expect with this instrumentation. Or at least, something I didn’t expect. Clearly the knowing fans in the audience (quite a few of them – the place was packed) knew what to expect, and they loved it. Marvelous vocal harmonies as well.

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Enjoying themselves and feeding off the audience’s enthusiasm, they had people bouncing around and dancing throughout their lively set, blending superb musicianship with a loose, fun atmosphere. I’ll definitely make a point of seeing them again.

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They have quite a few shows lined up (continuing their tour with Assembly of Dust, plus other dates), including visits to Western Mass., NYC (the Bowery Ballroom on Sept. 30th), Pennsylvania, Colorado, California… See their MySpace for a full tour schedule, and do see them if you can.

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Assembly of Dust

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It’s rare that I’ve seen an audience so totally immersed in a performance, from start to finish, as this one was during Assembly of Dust’s full-on rocking nearly 2-hour show. They cite influences such as The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and in Reid Genauer’s recorded vocals, I hear hints of Neil Young and Jeff Tweedy, but what comes across most strongly in their live jam-heavy sound is a Southern rock vibe ala Allman Brothers or the Charlie Daniels band, both in the vocals and in Adam Terrell’s highly virtuosic guitar riffs. This full-out partying style produced a wild and rollicking good time in the packed-to-capacity crowd at the Paradise.

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Highlights for me were actually the slower tracks which brought attention to some lovely harmonies, and I also really enjoyed the song “Shame”, which was performed solo by Reid Genauer on acoustic guitar as a first encore. They continued with a stripped-down version of “Bootlegger’s Advice”; these two songs I felt were a special highlight of the evening.

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They came out for a second encore, though it was more like a second set, as it included at least 4 or 5 songs and I kind of lost track. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy by this point, and there were singalongs and selections from their new album Some Assembly Required, including “Man With A Plan” and “All That I Am Now”, the latter of which had a very nice extended instrumental break with soaring lead guitar.

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They continue their tour with the Emmitt-Nershi Band, including NYC’s Bowery Ballroom, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, and out to the West Coast.

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