Hot Buttered Rum is a tasty adult beverage served on cold nights, but in a folk-loving town, the name takes on a new meaning. This five-piece American folk and bluegrass group, playing at the The Belfry tonight, is best known for its dedication to "guerrilla bluegrass," bringing the love to some of the most unexpected places. The band plays unannounced short performances in unlikely pop-up venues between its regular gigs. However, the show coming up tonight, March 23, is planned and is the first performance from the break of a multi-state tour.
Aaron Redner (fiddle, mandolin and vocals), Nat Keefe (guitar, vocals), and Erik Yates (banjo, Dobro, flute and vocals), along with Bryan Horne (bass and vocals) and Lucas Carlton (percussion) have been playing together more than 15 years. Many groups, duos, and even marriages don't last nearly as long. Keefe was able to put down his guitar for a few moments to talk about the upcoming show tonight in Sisters.
"We've had so much luck over the years," he says. "We are still having fun. I feel blessed every day," he says. He reflects back from the very beginning, how it all started, and talks about how the name Hot Buttered Rum came into existence. "When we first were getting the band together, that was the drink we made, and it was not very good. I'd like to say that, like that drink, our music improved over the years as well." After a decade and a half of rehearsals, shows, jamming sessions, and guerrilla bluegrass invasions, one could imagine the mix has been perfected.
This group is known for its spontaneous invasions of progressive bluegrass and folk sounds, creating versions of tunes obvious in identification, with a method and delivery quite unexpected. Whereas many artists and musicians make a point of getting name recognition with banners, signs, verbal repetition and even at times planted audience members, this California-based band wants the music to be the focus.
In what is akin to a musical flash mob, Hot Buttered Rum makes an anonymous appearance by busting into the most un-folk of places: any random spot can come to mind, from a tattoo shop to an ice cream parlor. Often the mobile phone recordings and personal memories are the only proof of the existence of the occasion. Keefe points out that when starting such a performance, no mention is made of the band's name and they do not accept any funds. "We don't do it for the publicity," says Keefe, "it is about bringing a magical moment to the people."
It's easy to imagine the audience's reaction to this musical generosity. Keefe recalls a woman, working the middle of a double shift, who just thanked them for making her day better. "That's why we do it," says Keefe. Nobody can argue with that type of giving sentiment. That's what music is all about—making days better, feelings stronger, and life worth living. If this sounds like a good potion, then check out what Hot Buttered Rum has to offer.
Hot Buttered Rum with Front Country
Wednesday, March 23, 8 p.m.
The Belfry, 302 E Main Ave., Sisters
$16 adv., $20 door