Damn Tall Buildings brings a damn good time to the Temple
Brooklyn, NY three-piece Damn Tall Buildings graced the Temple Theater stage for the third show in the 2023-24 Prairie Meadows Live at the Temple concert series. Their unique brand of bluegrass made for a delightful Thursday evening in downtown Des Moines.
I’ll be the first to admit: bluegrass music is kind of a blind spot for me. When I think of bluegrass, I think of my grandpa’s record collection and the frantic Southern sounds that came with.
Damn Tall Buildings, however, is not your grandpa’s bluegrass music.
The dynamic trio of Sasha Dubyk on upright bass, Max Capistran on acoustic guitar and Avery Ballotta on fiddle gave a performance that was a whole lotta bluegrass, but also Americana in nature and even a little bit Ethiopian.
The trio took turns taking lead vocals, but I knew Dubyk was my favorite from the very first song, “Can’t Ya Hear Me.”
The chemistry between the trio as they huddled around the one microphone was evident. Dubyk and Capistran are actually a married couple, which Capistran revealed in his intro to “Painter,” a song he wrote about Dubyk’s painting and shoe-hoarding habits.
Damn Tall Buildings’ lyricism was simply delightful. One of my favorite moments was the song “Podcast,” in which Dubyk remarked, tongue-in-cheek: “I hate your podcast.” Capistran encouraged the audience to sing along to “The Universe is Hungry,” a love song of sorts which repeats “the universe is eating us alive and we’ll probably all die, but I hope that you and I survive.”
The trio had recently taken a trip to Ethiopia as a government-sponsored act of musical diplomacy. They played an instrumental track they learned from a traditional Ethiopian musician during their time there.
The Ethiopian ditty was one of four covers Damn Tall Buildings played at the Temple. My favorite was their rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” with Dubyk taking lead vocal and absolutely killing it. They also played a rousing version of “Kentucky Waltz,” inspired by their acceptance into the Kentucky bluegrass community.
The crowd was so supportive of the trio that they ended up playing an encore, “River of Sin.” A meet-and-greet took place in the Temple Theater lobby afterwards, and Damn Tall Buildings were so kind in person as they signed vinyl and posed for pictures with fans.