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After seven years in business, it’s hard to think of Portland’s Black Prairie as just being a Decemberist’s side project, but that’s why they started, and technically speaking, that is what they remain. It all began when Chris Funk and Nate Query were looking for something to do during a break from touring in 2007. Jenny Conlee and John Moen came along for the ride and were joined by singer/violinist Annalisa Tornfelt and Jon Neufeld from the band Delorean. Within three years, Black Prairie had congealed as a band; Feast of the Hunter’s Moon debuted in 2010. It was a collection of 11 originals with a pair of bluegrass traditionals, and all of them were performed with a kind of no-style-at-all vibe. Black Prairie is an all-acoustic Americana group. It’s porch music, but it’s played with a high degree of accuracy. And the band’s tastes encompass all manner of song, from klezmer to Western swing, folk, gypsy, and arena rock.

Past Event

Black Prairie

  • Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $10 - $12

What started as an odd-romping all-instrumental band gradually added the vocals of Annalisa Tornfelt. And she can work both sides of the table, from the most fragile of folk ballads all the way to classic rock. Therefore, Black Prairie cover Kansas — no, not “Dust in the Wind,” which you might expect, given the acoustic nature of the band, but “Carry on My Wayward Son.” They also do a killer cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same.” Yes, it is both odd and familiar to hear rock-and-roll power chords hammered out on accordion and fiddle and acoustic guitar, but it all works out in a Dave Matthews sort of way — Matthews’s core consisting of acoustic guitar, fiddle, and sax. The bulk of Black Prairie is airy and restless stuff that is driven in a hard fashion by the intensity of performance. I suspect that Jimmy Page, if he’s not already a fan, would like them.

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