Sporting yoga pants and loving it, after having eaten a yummy vegetarian meal, at the table right next to mine, no less! the iconic Peter Rowan casually strolled onto the stage at BSide Ballroom and Supper Club in Oneonta, armed only with a guitar and a story to tell. To have such an essential figure in the bluegrass world performing in this small intimate venue with a seating of approximately 140 maximum, was a true dream come true.
Reminiscently telling one story about his days playing with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, during which time, as Pete put it, Monroe would always “call me plural” and refer to him as Peter Rowans, the audience received an intimate and real history of this legend who stood before us. Switching to stories about learning more rootsy rhythms from New Orleans, such as the “stomp” and the “slow drag” Pete performed his own song in slow drag, “Ragged Old Dream” off of his aptly named The Old School album. Segueing into a more bluesy part of his set, Rowan explained how he used to go to record stores in Boston, where one used to be able to sit and listen to blues and folk albums for hours, and proceeded to perform a particularly bluesy version of “In the Pines”. Ending his set with the title track off his new album Dharma Blues was fitting, especially because it ended with a true signature Peter Rowan yodel.
His song “Arise” which was heavily influenced by the concept of bodhisattva, was explained to the audience by Rowan as the idea that all beings have been our parents in previous lives. The cyclical nature of the concept of bodhisattva was beautifully mimicked in both the lyrics and the musical notes so masterfully chosen by Rowan. Returning to a spiritual world from a more Western culture, Rowan pulled out a particularly note-intensive version of “Land of the Navajo” incorporating an almost reggae-style bass solo, followed by Rowan playing some more impressive harmonics followed by an extended yodel jam. Ending his set with “Restless Grave” off Dharma Blues, on which he was accompanied by Gillian Welch on the album, the crowd was unhappy to see him go.
Thankfully, Rowan was urged by the audience to come back onstage for an encore, and he was even taking requests. He chose to give us two of his more popular numbers, “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy” and of course, “Moonlight Midnight” which received a big old howl from the audience! Saving up just enough energy to sign CDs and chat with anyone who wanted to be in the presence of such a spiritual being with a lifetime of experiences to share, it was easy to see that everyone in attendance for this performance was truly in awe of the special gift that had been handed to us: having the opportunity to listen to this bluegrass icon in such an intimate setting. Peter Rowan will be touring around the northeast until November 23, so make sure to add one of his shows to your calendars if you can. It will truly be worth the experience.