Cris Jacobs performs at The 8×10 in Baltimore on Dec. 20, 2021, the first of A Very Jerry Christmas, his annual series of holiday shows paying tribute to Jerry Garcia. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Admirable and arguably underappreciated is the local musician who’s become known across the country but is so multi-talented, enthusiastic and flexible as to wear a variety of hats to connect with hometown concertgoers in so many different ways.
Cris Jacobs emerged on the Baltimore circuit 20 years ago in the bluegrass group Smooth Kentucky — a squad that still performs locally — and he cut his teeth at a time the city was earning its reputation for having one of the nation’s very best music scenes. The leader of The Bridge, a beloved jam band blending a world of different sounds, Jacobs was right in the thick of it for a decade at the front of this colorful outfit, forging relationships near and far and all the while expanding his own influences.
What a night! What started out as a cold, windy, rainy evening ended Friday night in a sweaty, sold-out Baltimore Soundstage filled with cowboy hats and masks (both the Covid-19 kind and the Orville Peck kind). But I’m getting ahead of myself now, so I’ll back up a bit.
Orville Peck, the enigmatically masked cowboy originally from Canada whose music is steeped in that old Country of Tanya Tucker, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn. The last time I saw Orville Peck was a couple of years ago at the Union Stage (see a review of that show here) and his stature has grown exponentially since then.
Bill Frisell performs at Keystone Korner Baltimore on April 24, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock.)
Sometimes it’s simply the spontaneity of live music that makes it such a special experience, not only for the fans — some of whom might loosely feel the weight of what they’re witnessing — but just as much for the musicians themselves. With lingering rules and protocols in place, any in-the-flesh performance down the backstretch of the pandemic should be cherished for the solace and bliss it might provide everyone involved.
Bill Frisell, the legendary guitar player of otherworldly talents and an unthinkably accomplished recording artist and composer, recently announced a handful of shows on fairly short notice. But it really wasn’t by chance that several of those shows were in Baltimore this past Saturday and Sunday at Keystone Korner, a Harbor East venue powering through the weirdest of times to approach its second anniversary.
Not too long before the pandemic struck, 2-star Michelin Chef Robert Wiedmaier and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Todd Barkan opened Keystone Korner in Baltimore, taking inspiration from the original venue of the same name in San Francisco.
Cris Jacobs performs at the Frederick County Fairgrounds on Oct. 21, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Cris Jacobs, a Baltimore native and arguably one of the Charm City’s top songwriters and performers, took the stage recently in support of Grace Potter way out at the Frederick County Fairgrounds.
His appearance was announced just a few weeks back as part of what has become the unexpected gift of the fall season — the Showtime at the Drive In series of performances hosted by All Good Presents and Baltimore Soundstage. It was Cris’ first time performing at a drive-in style concert and his first live gig since February.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong performs at Showtime at the Drive-In in Frederick on Oct. 15, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock.)
While the memories of live music as we once knew it slip more distant into our collective memories, it’s likely that no one will forget their first experience watching a drive-in style pandemic performance.
Originating in Europe and cropping up shortly thereafter throughout the United States, drive-in concerts have already become, for some, a norm in times of required or suggested social distancing. And thanks to the work of All Good Presents and Baltimore Soundstage, music fans in the DMV this fall are being offered a somewhat unexpected harvest of live music by way of the Showtime at the Drive-In series being held at the Frederick County Fairgrounds.
Baltimore new wavers Future Islands release As Long As You Are, the band’s sixth studio album, this week via 4AD. That same day, Future Islands livestreams a special concert performance, titled “A Stream of You and Me” via Noon Chorus on Friday, Oct. 9.
Eze Jackson performs as part of the Creative Alliance’s Sidewalk Serenades on July 4, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
On a hot afternoon recently, right outside of my house in East Baltimore, the amazing Eze Jackson gave a spirited Sidewalk Serenade.
Sidewalk Serenades is a program through the Creative Alliance in Baltimore that helps local musicians provide socially distanced performances as a way to provide a vital line from artists to audience in the age of COVID-19. But it has the added benefit of highlighting the best musical artistry in and around Baltimore. And Eze Jackson is certainly one of the best.