The Short Straw Pickers - the Funky Biscuit, Boca Raton - July 13
The night at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton began the way most nights at the Biscuit do - with a desperate search for a parking space somewhere in the strip malls of the Big Pink along Mizner Boulevard. But that spot secured, and a mid-length sojourn by foot later, the Biscuit provided a welcoming atmosphere, with Fat Mannequin picking along onstage.
After a little more than three years together as a band, the Short Straw Pickers celebrated the release of their debut album, Upon That Hill, Saturday night, headlining a bill that included both Fat Mannequin and fellow string-band Uproot Hootenanny.
Fat Mannequin, one of several side projects for the boys from the jam band the Heavy Pets, allows guitarists Mike Garulli and Jeff Lloyd to explore their acoustic side. Given the nature of Garulli and Lloyd's main act, though, there was a distinctly hippy vibe to this undoubtedly string-band night. And why not? The newgrass revivalists like Yonder Mountain String Band have always drawn from the jam-band crowd, and folk influences informed even the granddaddy of the genre, the Grateful Dead.
Here, the dreadlocked masses mixed with a crowd about evenly split between older Boca-ites and college-aged types, probably out on the town after a week spent at FAU summer sessions. After Fat Mannequin's set, Lloyd talked over drinks for a while, proclaiming the Biscuit among his favorite new venues in South Florida, mainly for the sound quality of the space.
Still only in its second year, the Funky Biscuit has already become one of the premier concert venues in South Palm Beach County, and owner Al Poliak has plans to expand the space as soon as possible, hopefully giving Boca Raton the mid-sized concert venue it has long needed. But the current space was good enough for Saturday night, though the crowd got thick as the second band, Uproot Hootenanny, took the stage.
Despite this being the Short Straw Pickers' show, Uproot Hootenanny appeared to be the band most folks came out to see. After their high-energy set, the crowd thinned out noticeably before the Pickers took the stage. The group performed ably, but the Pickers' brand of string music is slower, more lyrical than the rave-up stuff of Uproot Hootenanny, and so the room lost some energy that the smaller crowd did nothing to ameliorate. Still, this band drew a sizeable crowd for a show that celebrated only its first album, which says as much about the South Florida scene as it does the band itself.