I enter the Rose Music Hall, a long narrow bar venue mildly resembling a barn, completely blind to what I’m about to experience, and my God, I wished I had used the wonderful tool at our disposal called Google to find out more about that night’s headliner, Jared and the Mill.
There weren’t many people present. I couldn’t exactly identify the crowd—there was some strange mix of cowboy hipster, and everyone there could have been either 25 or 62. Sure, it’s a smaller venue, but the merch table containing albums printed on vinyl, posters, CDs, T-shirts and other goodies told of a more successful indie band. The promotional material pointed towards a bad emo from the dark age that was the early 2000s, but the bluegrass playing over the speakers before the concert sent the fear of God into my soul.
No part of the atmosphere has changed since my arrival, besides a small break in the bluegrass to allow room for Paul Simon’s Graceland. Now ten minutes before the show, the number of people tops at a generous 20-something people. They continued mingling about, drinking beer and talking about the main event. I thought the 30-minute wait would be just fine to make sure I scored a decent spot for the concert, but the country music pounding into my brain is becoming unbearable.
The first band of the evening, Bluejay (never mentioned in any promotional material for the show), begins setting up almost 15 minutes after the scheduled showtime. After a few minutes of shuffling, muttering and tuning, they kick off with their first song. One of the two men, who resembles Peter Dinklage if he had swapped faces with a cast member from Duck Dynasty, has a voice that can only be described as southern Alt-J. The other, a sad man with the hair of Pete Wentz circa 2007, has no memorable feature other than the fact that he plays the banjo. I will say that the music played was sweet, yet very repetitive.
“We’re Bluejay and we write sad music!”
And so began a full hour of sad songs about their wives and drinking.
After Bluejay exits, I find myself so bored that I’m tempted to take my detailed notes of their performance and change the focus of my review completely. I almost did, if it had not been for the mysterious jar of smooth Skippy peanut butter placed next to where the bass player was positioned onstage. On top was a plastic spoon, still wrapped in plastic.
Now this, I thought, is worth listening to country music for.
And so I stayed. For another hour and a half. I moved around the venue a few times, trying to get a full perspective of the band, trying to see their full essence. But to my disappointment, Jared and his Mill were so far quite undesirable. However, I was impressed by both the drummer and the bass player—they really were too good for the band, and it was sad to see them so bored and so ashamed of themselves.
Now, I really did give them a chance. I enjoyed the drum and bass. They were solid players, but country music was obviously not what truly called to them. This was made obvious by the fact that the bass player was wearing a full adidas tracksuit, Dr. Martens work boots, and a red bandana around his neck (quite strange.) The lead and rhythm guitar, as well as the banjo, were weaker. They were unable to match the dynamic energy of their bandmates.
The way they transitioned between songs was strange. When one song ended, the reverb from the instruments would continue on for a few seconds before another song began. Maybe some plucking of a guitar or vocalization would be thrown in; perhaps a few words from Jared. After a while, this became unbearable and impossible to distinguish the songs from one another, especially since many of the songs used the same four chords.
Not only does Jared love a four-chord country song, he also likes a crappy acoustic guitar break in the middle of it. Many times, Jared would change the entire time signature of the song just to have an acoustic guitar solo. He was obviously forcing the band to work around his capabilities as a musician. It was disruptive, nonsensical, and bothersome.
I don’t know what time I left exactly; I was just happy for it to all be over. My ears were ringing, I was exhausted, and I had to stop myself from getting too upset that I had wasted nearly three hours of my life listening to live country.
Jared and the Mill as a whole failed to impress me, not just because of the country music, but because of Jared’s obvious unwillingness to work to the strengths of his bandmates and not just focus on himself.
And, no, nothing was ever done with the jar of peanut butter sitting ominously onstage.