Grain Audio

CULTURE:Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers at The Sinclair

Walking into The Sinclair last night, I had bit of an inkling of what to expect from Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers because I'd seen the recording of their set at the Newport Folk Festival. That video, however, did not truly prepare me for the energy and quality of the show.

From the moment the band took the stage, I was enthralled. Maybe rapt is a better word.

Nicki's style is engaging, sexy without playing the sex object (as so many performers do). You feel like she is making eye contact with you, yet you know she can't really see the audience past the first couple of rows.

The music is a little bit country, a little bit rock, a little bit blues, and a little bit psychedelic (when they perform "Somebody to Love", Nicki channeled Grace Slick perfectly).

They performed about half of their most current release, the self-titled "Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers", with the rest coming from previous releases.

The Gramblers is composed of some terrific musicians - Tim Bluhm (Nicki's husband) on keys, guitar, and vocals, Deren Ney on lead guitar, Dave Mulligan on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mike Curry on drums, and guest Reed Mathis from Tea Leaf Green on bass.

I may not have known the songs, but I was singing the choruses along with everyone else in the audience! There were times I was reminded of The Band, which is one of my favorite bands EVER.

After the show, Nicki and at least a few of the Gramblers came out to the merchandise tables to talk to fans and sign CDs or whatever you put in front of her. She was genuinely interested in what we had to say, and you felt as if she was going to remember your name. She may not actually remember, but the art of making a fan feel important is one that is lost on some performers. Nicki hasn't forgotten the importance of that.

Joe Pug was the opener, and it seemed as if many people came to the show specifically to see him. He is an engaging singer-songwriter from Maryland, who has one of the most amazing smiles I've seen.

He draws you in with his smile, but his songs keep you there. He writes smart lyrics and is truly a joy to watch. He played a 75 minute set which I appreciated (as did his many fans in the crowd, who knew and sang the songs along with him).

I'm already looking forward to seeing both bands again!