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Review: Dawes, Mason, Difranco help 'Mountain Stage' mark 800th show

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The nicest thing about the "Mountain Stage" show Sunday night at the Clay Center is that just about everybody got a standing ovation -- all the guests certainly did, and, given another 10 seconds of thought, the crowd might have leapt up out of their seats for Bob Thompson after his cover of "New York State of Mind," just out of affection for the "Mountain Stage" piano man.

But they didn't quite get to it.

Charleston has always been generous when it comes to thanking traveling performers for bringing a show to town. In other parts of the world, the likes of indie-rock band Dawes, jazz fusion ensemble Red Baraat, classic rocker Dave Mason and indie music icon Ani Difranco are a bit more common.

We don't see them that often in Charleston, even less so since "Mountain Stage" initiated the counterintuitive, but nonetheless effective, strategy of playing more shows on the road to save on costs.

So, it was nice to have the show back in town again, nice to have them bring out another slate of talented, nationally recognized musicians, this time at the city's finest performance hall to help celebrate another significant milestone for "Mountain Stage,"  -- the show's 800th episode.

For my money, Red Baraat was by far, the most interesting, engaging and exciting of the four. The eight-piece Brooklyn-based Indian drum and brass band came out swinging at the start of the show and set the bar very high.

Still, there were plenty of good performances beyond the opening act.

Dave Mason conjured up a nice bit of nostalgia with his songs "Feelin' Alright" and "We Just Disagree."

Ani Difranco was, as she often is, impishly provocative with songs criticizing the president, encouraging sexual exploration, and maybe encouraging a little more awareness about what's getting into the water supply.

Dawes sounded clean and pure. The Goldsmith brothers, again, made elegant-sounding rock music out of gloom and heartbreak, really beautiful stuff that makes you wish somebody would call and ask how you are.

The show drew a respectable, but by no means sold-out crowd (perhaps, a lot of "Breaking Bad" fans?). The audience that came was enthusiastic, but fragmented amongst groups of fans. A lot of people had come to see only one or two particular favorites.

Over the course of the night, while there were standing ovations aplenty to go around, there was also a lot more shifting in seats than usual. Also, the number of people occupying those seats slowly dwindled as people crept away.

From a ticket-seller's standpoint, it's all the same to them, whether you stick around for one or four performers, but it still felt kind embarrassing to again be in an audience that couldn't manage to hold their seats until the final act had done what they'd come to do. 

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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