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Feel that barn floor buckle

May 1, 2010

Daytrotter Barnstormer III
Kalyx Center
Monticello, Ill.

The spirit of Daytrotter’s first ever Illinois barn concert was most evident in the smile that spread across Delta Spirit frontman Matt Vasquez’s face. As his eyes poured over the crowd, from the floor to those seated in the rafters of the old barn, his smile spread wider, clearly relishing the moment.

There were plenty of special moments to be had at the Kalyx Center in rural Monticello Friday evening. Fans of all ages flocked from different locales to the tiny barn outside of Monticello proper. Pearly Gate Music began the evening with a few slow jams, providing the fans sitting around the barn an ear feast. Outside fans played bocce ball, pitched tents and enjoyed what was described as “the biggest bonfire ever.” Nathaniel Rateliff and his band took over the barn floor next, providing the seated crowd with plenty of reason to cheer.

Philadelphia rockers Free Energy lived up to their name, raising the fans to their feet and turning the barn floor into a dance floor with their classic-rock-proto-punk tunes. Lead singer Paul Sprangers did his best to not only look like Joey Ramone, but to work the mic the same way the seminal punk musician did. Sprangers knew when to let the guitarists take the lead however, and their face-melting solos invigorated everyone in the crowd.

Delta Spirit brought their dirty alt-country rock to the barn next, pushing the building to what seemed like maximum capacity plus a few extra bodies. The claustrophobic mass of the crowd jumped along with the band and fed off their wild stage presence. A particularly boisterous rendition of “People C’mon” got the entire barn floor moving in rhythm with the excited crowd. After the song the owners of the barn had to politely ask the fans to sway their hips, rather than bounce up and down, for fear the floor would collapse under their feverish dancing.

Perhaps as a response to the dancing ban, the crowd dwindled slightly after Delta Spirit, but the barn still seemed cramped for Ra Ra Riot’s set. The Syracuse, N.Y. did their best Kevin Bacon impersonation, pressing the crowd back into their dancing shoes. Their set was quite lively: violin, guitar, cello and electric bass pulsating through the rafters of the old barn. Lead singer Wes Miles pressed into the crowd several times, even high-fiving everyone leaning over the balcony, making sure everyone was having a great time. The band really seemed to be enjoying themselves as well, Miles even claiming, somewhat sincerely, that Kalyx might be the coolest venue they had played at.

The night was filled with a wonderful good feeling that eludes description. Everyone in attendance seemed genuinely happy to be there, bands included. Everyone mingled together and showed their appreciation for the musical acts: Rateliff danced energetically beside me during Delta Spirit; Sprangers cheered from the back of the barn throughout every act. The easy-going nature of the concert added to the aesthetic of wonder that pervaded the whole evening. It would be no stretch of the imagination to say that Sean Moeller and his Daytrotter crew would be welcome back in Central Illinois anytime.

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