On Saturday night, the 24th Street Theatre sold out the single night performance by the Eric Bibb String Band. Longtime fans, like Abe Sass, who listened to Bibb and Bibb’s father, were there. First-time Bibb concert attendees like Bob and Joyce Stanley were also present.
Bibb and his stagemates gave the audience what it came for — and more, as in the case of young Nate and his mother, who travelled from outside Yuba City to the 24th Street Theatre, hoping to secure tickets. Young Nate first saw Bibb in Grass Valley. The last ticket Saturday evening was sold to a person two people ahead of Nate.
Audience members who had already been seated might have missed seeing the man in the orange shirt and Panama hat rush up the aisle, and they might have missed his return several minutes later with a boy and a woman (I later learned he was young Nate and she was his mother) close behind.
Throughout the concert, Nate was nearly as active as Bibb, who not only played the guitar and the bass, and sang, but put his entire body into each song, as though the music entered, moved about and finally left him for the audience, who was soon clapping and stomping to the delight of the four musicians. Young Nate danced and often stood in order to see over the head of the adult in the row ahead.
The four musicians remained seated throughout most of the extended set. Left to right were Grant Dermody on harmonica, Eric Bibb on guitar and bass, Cedric Watson on fiddle and Dirk Powell on banjo, fiddle and accordion. While Bibb was the primary vocalist, each of the others shared the lead vocal duties on particular songs throughout the evening.
Bibb opened with “Going Down Slow,” and immediately feet were tapping the blues rhythms. Cedric Watson followed with the Cajun-flavored “Bayou Belle.” The third song, “Dig a Little Deeper in the Well,” from Bibb’s new album, was a huge hit with the audience.
Bibb showed his humor several times, and offered stories to accompany many of the songs, which varied between fast and slow, and always featured one or more of the talented musicians sharing the stage.
The passion of Bibb, Dermody, Watson and Powell was evident in the power of their performance. They encouraged each other, and they encouraged the audience to participate. The set included “Walkin’ Blues Again,” about the great Mississippi flood of 1927, which Bibb related to current events, and the more upbeat “Music,” written in response to those who wanted Bibb to define his musical style.
“If I feel it, that’s good enough for me,” sang Bibb.
The lyrics spoke about soul and passion, both evident in the evening’s performance. The range of music included traditional blues, Irish harmonica solos and the sounds of zydeco.
A standing ovation brought the musicians back for “Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down,” the only song during which Bibb stood, and the song that seemed to be performed for young Nate and his mom.
After the show, the audience filled the tiny entry and waited for Bibb, Dermody, Watson and Powell. Available for purchase were CDs, which were snapped up by long-term and newly converted fans.
One young but long-term fan, Nate, offered a special handmade gift to Bibb, which was graciously accepted.