Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers | Durham Performing Arts Center | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Steve Martin

Steve Martin

Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers 

When: Sat., May 21 2011
Price: $42-up

Steve Martin pushed the boundaries of comedy in the 1970s. He wore an arrow through his head and built goofy balloon animals, his occasional lameness creating a strangely hilarious and finely tuned anti-humor. The self-described "wild and crazy guy" played banjo, too. His picking was funny because of its juxtaposition with the comedy, but it was also just really good. Fans of Martin have always been aware of his skill and affection for the instrument; in recent years, Martin has become more willing to adopt the role of banjoist over, or at least alongside, comedian, author or actor.

His first album, The Crow, won the 2009 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. But it's hard to tour with just a banjo. Martin picked up the Steep Canyon Rangers—a quintet that calls Brevard home after forming at UNC a decade ago—as his backing band. They released the collaborative Rare Bird Alert this March. It's smooth bluegrass; all harshly picked edges that come rounded out through virtuosity. The tunes occasionally venture into Martin's comedy territory: On the gospel number "Atheists Don't Have No Songs," for instance, Martin and the Rangers opine, "Romantics play Claire de Lune, born-agains sing 'He is risen'/ But no one ever wrote a tune for godless existentialism." They even have a bluegrass version of the Martin classic "King Tut." Dig deep into your pockets on StubHub for the sold-out show: Tickets for the 8 p.m. show were originally $42–$120 but now range from $125–$650.—Andrew Ritchey

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