Chicken Wire Empire Plays Anodyne

Chicken Wire Empire.

The popular Milwaukee bluegrass outfit Chicken Wire Empire played with Winona, MN bluegrass band Barbaro Thursday evening, packing the venue-turned coffeehouse full. The two bands played together in full for the final three songs of the night; friend and singer-songwriter Craig Baumann hopped onstage for the final number.

The band consists of bassist Jordan Kroeger, fiddler Ernie Brusubardis IV, mandolin player Ryan Ogburn, banjo player Jon Peik, and guitarist Gfreg Brundage. Their style blends traditional and contemporary bluegrass styles into a fun, dance-able cohesion.

Kroeger describes the familial aspect of playing bluegrass.

“It’s always been a community style of music…it started with people picking on porches. It turns into (that big family) and you get a bunch of people on stage. There’s that spontaneity to it.”

They have played all over the state in many towns and for numerous festivals. Their farthest show from home has been in Fargo, ND. They recently completed a brief tour where they played six shows in four cities in three days.

“We haven’t really been a touring band but we’re starting to get into that…slow and steady has kinda been our motto. We didn’t wanna just get into a van and drive to Asheville or Colorado where the bluegrass hubs are. But we are going to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland for about a month of touring in November.”

Chicken Wire Empire just dropped a new single for 414 Day, titled “Milwaukee.” Kroeger tells the story of the song.

“I went on a road trip last January and I was trying to down south hoping for some warmer weather by the Gulf Coast…it didn’t really happen. We ended up driving back here and it was cold and snowing and I was like, “we’re back here…here we go.””

Their last LP “What Moves Mountains” dropped around New Year’s. According to Kroeger, it has a bolder and more realized sound than their self-titled debut LP.

“Our self-titled record we recorded because we had some tunes and had just started. We were listening to a lot of more traditional bluegrass at the time, kind of learning the clockwork of the music. We recorded the second one and we wanted to be really progressive and get big tones out of the instruments. The songs aren’t all just two and a half minutes; they’re a little more involved.”

As a bluegrass band, the group frequently alters between indoor and outdoor shows. Kroeger compares the two vibes.

“I like playing outside because it’s nice being out in Wisconsin and the time is limited, but it’s also fun playing indoors when it’s sweaty and packed. When everyone’s in the same room it’s like you’re all on the same page, and when you’re outside it’s more that everyone’s there just to be there. When it’s inside it’s like people came specifically to see your show. But you make more fans playing festivals.”

Chicken Wire Empire is heavily on the festival circuit this summer with Bonfire, Moon Dance, Blue Ox, Summer Soulstice, Locust Street, and Bluegrass At the Lake to name some. Once things cool down, they plan to write and record more songs this fall.

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