When considering the bands comprising the Portland music scene, in all of its glory, it's easy to forget the Toughcats, because they don't play locally very often. They're great — but they can sometimes be too busy promoting their newest album (Run to the Mill) or touring with the likes of Deerhoof or the Avett Brothers. But if you have the opportunity to catch them, don't miss it — this is the most fun I've had at a show in recent memory.

Colin Gulley and Joe Nelson have lightning-fast fingers, on par with any bluegrass jam in town. But Jake Greenlaw, nestled between the resonator guitar and the banjo, is the star of the show. Once the group warm up (by the third or fourth song), he begins making the most ridiculous faces. It's as if he's a madman who's set himself on fire and the only way to put it out is to drum. He screams sporadically throughout the set, and it's awesome. Banjos and screaming might seem out of place on the same stage, but the Toughcats seamlessly transition from ballad to bluegrass to indie to dancing. Greenlaw has the intensity of a death-metal drummer, only with brushes, not sticks.

They opened their set at One Longfellow with a skit. They played some songs. There was playful crowd banter. People were whooping and hollering like crazy, harking back to a time of grange halls or even Prohibition, dancing in the aisles. They announced they were closing with a Kiss cover. "No!" Yes.

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  Topics: New England Music News , Music, Bluegrass, Deerhoof,  More more >
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 See all articles by: AMANDA PLEAU