Hearing or Reading words like Acoustic, Improvisation, and Strings, may bring associations like Tranquility, Poise, and Dexterity to mind. But upon seeing these “experience placeholders” exhibited live, words vanish and “I FEEL IT ALL” like Feist. The Acoustic Dirk Quinn Band and Michael Gilbert Ronstadt Improvisational String Quartet…er…Trio brought intense vibrations of sound, spirit, light, and emotion to the Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, PA.

Dirk Quinn Band with Michael Ronstadt. Photo by Karl McWherter.

Dirk Quinn Band with Michael Ronstadt. Photo by Karl McWherter.

The evening started with a low rumble of Michael Ronstadt on cello, Alfred James on guitar, and Valerie Vuolo on violin. Songs like “Regina” and “Haunted” showcased the lyrical storytelling of both Alfred and Michael, with Valerie’s bow wisping through their pages like an eager finger. And then as Michael’s singing foretold “It don’t look like a door but it opened…” the low rumble opened a roaring door to “Better Days” with Alfred standing, cello-strapped, and Michael masterfully persuading his strings to howl with a confirmed two, yes, two wah-wah pedals. A sweet throwback cover of Coldplay’s “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” certainly did for me what the song name implies and reminded me that Michael Ronstadt has a voice you want to hear on an extended play. (Here’s a secret: I happen to know that he is recording new material as we speak…) Alfred James played a “Wicked Game” with us to end their set and it was indeed a “wicked thing to do…”

The Michael Gilbert Ronstadt Improvisational Quartet...er...Trio. Photo by Karl McWherter.

The Michael Gilbert Ronstadt Improvisational Quartet…er…Trio. Photo by Karl McWherter.

When the Dirk Quinn Band took the stage, there was a sonic swoosh of pent up energy—a release of residual joules generated by Ronstadt and Co., coupled with the wattage running through the band, searching for the perfect receiver—an audience that was passionately primed, willing, and caffeinebriated. This particular lineup included Dirk Quinn on acoustic guitar, Steve Zegray on drums, Max Swan on saxophone, Scott Ziegler on bass, Michael Borowski on keys, and Juan Greenberg on didgeridoo. They ripped through songs like “P/Melt”, “Davel’s Return”, my hip-swiveling, soul-rolling, personal favorite “Eve”, and stinkyface-inducing “Evil Birdman of Funk”. Each musician put themselves on the line over and over and over, as I’ve seen them do so many times before but my words can never tell the entire story. Luckily, fellow musician Matthew Gordon hit Record during “P/Melt” to transmit the DQB to you too. You can hear these songs and many more on Live At Home, released in 2012. (See review here.)

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by Karl McWherter Photography