Never before have I seen a musician do his or her nails while onstage. Not Marilyn Manson, not Shirley Manson, not even some preening dork like Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind. All those folks aren't Adrian Legg, however. Legg, recently named "Guitarist of the Decade" -- not the year, mind you, the decade -- by Guitarist magazine, played an early show Sunday at the Evening Muse, accompanied by. . .himself. Legg, who plays intricate fingerstyle acoustic guitar, needs his nails, you see. They're like picks to him, except permanently connected to his fingers. Of course, he's telling you all this between songs, in one of those adorable English accents that manage to make a description of a sewage treatment plant sound delightful. Legg's guitar was hooked up to a contraption that sensed the chords and notes and tones he was playing, and backed them with a wash of choir voices or violins, all perfectly in tune with the man's lightning-fast picking. It sounded like a one-man orchestra, really, and the spell was only broken once you opened your eyes -- or Legg spoke. "We need to wrap it up here," he said before the last song. "I need to get me synthesizer to AA." Granted, I have no idea what that means, but I bet if you go back and read it like an Englishman, it might be a bit funnier (maybe even try the whole column!).
The world's premier performer of "Dawg Music" (and perhaps the world's only performer of "Dawg Music"), David Grisman, played to a near-capacity crowd at Neighborhood Theatre last Thursday night. Grisman, once given the silly moniker "the Paganini of the mandolin" by the The New York Times, was with his quintet, which included an upright bass player, a guitarist, a horn and woodwinds player, and a guy who played bongos and did what's become known as "human beatbox," a sort of real-time, mouth-derived drum machine. The band looked striking: the gang were clad in the kind of loud shirts that only eclectic acoustic musicians wear, either because they don't know any better or because they've smoked too much weed over the years. As good as they sounded, you also couldn't stop looking at this motley crew (to the unwashed out there, this is different from looking like Motley Crue, but not by much). The most interesting visual contrast was between Grisman, a dead ringer for my boy Walt Whitman, and his woodwind/horn player, who looked so much like a younger George Plimpton, it was uncanny. I began wondering if the Plimpton doppelganger was Grisman's actual horn player, or just up there researching for a book about playing in a band (Paper Flautist, anyone?). The beat box guy? He didn't really look like anybody. You talk your way into playing human beatbox in a bluegrass band, you don't have to look like anybody except yourself.