‘Ain’t your daddy’s bluegrass’

Bluegrass may not be the first style of music associated with downtown’s Stone’s Throw, 304 Eau Claire St. But the bar will be seeing some southern comfort this weekend.

On coast-to-coast tours, nationally acclaimed Cornmeal is making a stop at the Stone’s Throw Friday.

Cornmeal is a progressive bluegrass band that uses bluegrass as a foundation for improvisation that ranges from rock to jazz, funk to blues, according to the band’s press release.Kris Nowak, Cornmeal’s guitarist and vocalist, said it is increasingly difficult to label genres of music. Progressive bluegrass can mean just about anything, but one thing is for sure: Cornmeal does not play traditional bluegrass.

Traditional bluegrass involves five acoustic instruments and a particular style of vocals. But Cornmeal amplifies its acoustic instruments, Nowak said.

“It’s a rock band setting for bluegrass fans,” he said. “It ain’t your daddy’s bluegrass . it’s amped up.”

Nowak said one of the band’s biggest draws is its live shows – Cornmeal never plays the same show twice, he said. The band usually decides on the sets just minutes before going on stage, giving the band a uniqueness that is one of its trademarks.

“It’s like being a chef. When you taste something, you know what it is,” he said. “When you see (Cornmeal), you know it.”

But never playing the same set, or even the same songs in the same way, keeps fans and the musicians interested, Nowak said. And all the change helps the band keep the “progress” in “progressive bluegrass.”

“We’re trying to figure that out everyday . how to progress,” he said.

Bluegrass is an up-tempo type of music, but with the added amplification and Cornmeal’s unique sets, Nowak said the band’s shows are “high octane.”

“We’ll go from really loud, really hard and really fast to subtle . sometimes in the blink of an eye,” he said.

And people seem to be listening. After releasing three albums, the band has been a staple on Jambands.com since August 2006, according to the band’s Web site.

The current line-up of the Chicago-based band has been playing for four and a half to five years, Nowak said. All the members initially started playing rock music, but through exploring the base of rock, each found roots music.

“We all basically stumbled into bluegrass independently,” he said.

The band’s rock roots show through, Nowak said. Bluegrass is the foundation of Cornmeal, but listeners will always be able to hear the influence of different styles of music. Nowak said the nature of improvisation leads the band to play what inspires in the moment.

“One thing that really defines what we do is try to be ourselves . and play what inspires us,” he said. “(In the moment) you can’t help but reveal yourself.”

Want to know more about the band and show? Check out www.cornmealinthekitchen.com.

Cornmeal
What: Progressive bluegrass
Where: Stone’s Throw
When: Friday
Why: “It’s a rock band setting for bluegrass fans. It ain’t your daddy’s bluegrass . it’s amped up,” said Kris Nowak, Cornmeal’s guitarist and vocalist.