Even on the gloomy and rough days, music has a way of making it all a bit better in the end. Despite internal troubles, the art can cause a temporary escape for listeners. Late last week at the Highline Ballroom, the Texan band Green River Ordinance (GRO), alongside their contemporaries The Roosevelts and Castro, brought a sense of well-deserved optimism to the city. With all of these talented musicians in one space, the night was one of pure enjoyment.
As the sudden heat wave slowly dissipated, the cool autumn breeze that welcomed the avenues of New York prompted listeners to lazily head over to Chelsea for a musical journey. The Highline Ballroom, which usually has a club vibe in the space, was organized in a lounge fashion that encouraged guests to grab a booth or table. Unfortunately, the $10 minimum per set was a catch for those comfy seats. While waiting patiently for drinks, the chatter in the room was full of anticipation as couples, friends and families congregated together for a break from the bustle of that Thursday. The red glare emitting from the walls and the empty balcony, greeted wanderers who walked aimlessly between the merchandise tables. While the venue was indeed made for a lounge experience that night, it did not stop the club lights from spinning wildly. On stage stood a wide assortment of instruments for all three bands. It was impressive to see the stage used as a musical armory with that arsenal of instruments. There was hardly a hitch during each set change.
After observing the stage, Castro, made up of siblings Jason, Michael, and Jackie Castro, came out and took things off for the evening. Their music, much like their fellow acts that night, were comprised powerfully with folk harmonies at its best. Complete with a twangy ukelele and the unique pairing of Jackie’s soulful voice, it was fascinating to hear. Both brothers carried their distinct vocal harmonies with a captivating link as their sister’s voice chimed in beautifully. Castro was filled with dreamy melodies that made the next act The Roosevelts a stark contrast.
After a mild break, The men of The Roosevelts, Jason Kloess and James Mason, came out and were the epitome of bearded soul music. Like the Castros, they wasted no time jamming out. Their music was a different take of southern jam boogie. James stole the show with his impeccable tandem mandolin and blues guitar skills. Not only was it fun to watch, the music brought out a sublime energy that really got the crowd ready for the rest of the show. The Roosevelts had the special privilege of meeting Adam Duritz of Counting Crows earlier in the day and ended their set with a tribute to their music. It was a nice touch. Afterwards, both the Castros and The Roosevelts met with fans in the lobby beside their merchandise tables. Everyone were full of smiles as the headliner was set to begin.
Complete with a GRO labeled bass drum with their logo a bull skull, the stage was set. The lights dimmed and the crowd went nuts. Behind the stage, a bright televised screen copied the bass drum insignia and the silhouettes of, Josh Jenkins, Jamey Ice, Joshua Wilkerson, Geoff Ice and Denton Hunker could be seen entering the stage. All the while, there was a lingering collective of background noise that immediately lifted off into a jamming magic from the band. Their introduction to the night was complete with southern blues wails that gave a fantastic twist in their folk genre. Again, a soulful element could clearly be heard and felt among the men. Soul was the shared consciousness among all of the musicians that evening. Geoff’s tandem harmonica and bass talent were excellent and caused many to stare in bewilderment. Lead singer Josh was totally at ease as he sang confidently in his lanky stance. His band mates alongside him all were smiling and singing along with their trademark harmonies.
Despite a brief issue with their stage lights, the men continually played on with dedication and professional spirit. When their harmonies did not steal the magic, the blues guitar was perfect. Each song had a blending of southern blues and folk rock flair. Jam sessions included rhythmic moments complete with a twitching harmonica powerfully at hand.
With the peak of the music coming early, a danceable swag started to ripple through the audience. It was extremely hard to stay still right off the bat, nor did anyone seem to want to! Of course, the fans from New Jersey who hung by the bar, were the most rambunctious. Their constant banter and screams added fuel to the fire of the show. Each bit of their music was pure belching soul from the south. When the passion took over, Josh’s eyes were closed and his voice ached with a deeper longing to share the message in their tunes. Every feeling could be felt a thousandfold. When instrumentation quieted down, their voices raised over the space in a fluid flow. Every jam session was complete with smiles from the band as they often paired up with one another having a blast. Rockabilly finally was unveiled and gave way to their song Simple Life. The stories from their music gave listeners a thoughtful way to take everything in. True to their musical style, the goals of their craft were ideally memorable. It was all feel good music, even when it was sad. When art makes you think, it has won.
All of the strings were connected in an unwavering rhythm of great music. The fans knew their stuff. Every time a chorus of a song was introduced, the crowd usually took over and sang loudly with the band. GRO often were all grins at these moments. The hopeful sounds and messages were clear all the way through. Probably one of their best songs, Flying, graced the stage and people immediately cheered it on. This song, is pure bluegrass glory that is both catchy and sticks in the listener’s head well into the wee hours of the morning. The cacophony of musical notes were meshed together with hollars of the New Jersey crew only to eventually be silenced by a chorus of clapping. Josh began to dance on stage, which was purely his own with mild twitches to the music. He was in his own element with chest taps to the beat. Josh was a modest and grateful man and made sure to thank the crowd over and over again in between songs. They were overjoyed to be there it seemed. A slow song entered the atmosphere and the romance was introduced. A lovely couple by the front of the stage began to dance together, holding each other close.
As their set winded down, more hits came out and sing alongs soon followed. However, that did not stop the Jersey crowd at all. Their yells became even more extravagant as Josh patiently tried to address the crowd here and there. The best part of the set was when GRO invited Castro and The Roosevelts together on stage to sing a astounding rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends. This collective of musicians made that already magical song so wonderful. They added their own folk twist to it and won over everyone there. Among the crows was sure to be a few emotional tears a flowing. Eventually, as Castro and The Roosevelts waved themselves off stage, GRO’s hit, Red Fire Night, which has that catchy harmony opening came through with astonishing success. It was love unleashed. Several more hits were sung and to save time with the usual encore applause, GRO migrated out into the audience and propped themselves right in the middle of the room in one of the booths. The crowd scurried around them and their set ended with an acoustic bit which was a unique way to send off a rather energetic evening. Everyone was dead silent listening and smiles were easily plastered on every face. Indeed, what a night!
For fans of folk, rock, southern blues, bluegrass and soul, Green River Ordinance and friends will satisfy every need. The collective of talent will be easily spread around for years to come and the mass addiction will soon follow, if it has not already. Prepare to rock on in style.