Mandolin Orange Show Review

Gateway City Arts

Holyoke, MA

Gina Lopez

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Recently I saw the North Carolina born duo, Mandolin Orange, at the Gateway City Arts venue in Holyoke and was struck with a new found appreciation for blue grass.

Despite not typically being attracted to this genre of music, on first listen, Mandolin Orange had my interest. The way the duo harmonized together really emphasized the strength of their musical (and otherwise) relationship. The pair was dynamic in a sort of unexpected way that seemed to stem from the freshness they brought to traditional bluegrass/ country music.

From their unassuming styles that were both trendy yet self assured, to the fact that they performed the majority of the show barefoot- all of a sudden I felt like a bluegrass fan. At least a fan of Mandolin Orange’s bluegrass. It didn’t hurt that their repertoire necessitated that six different instruments be present for the show – adding another element to the delight that was this two man show.

In terms of the venue – that also added something unexpected to the show. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the seating options, and the venues exterior which had an urban/ industrial feel. Another bonus was that it practically shared an entrance with the onsite beer garden next-door – which provided many of the attendees with drinks and even earned a shout out from the duo in between songs.

In their opening song, Emily Frantz began with an electricguitar while Andrew Marlin strummed away on an acoustic one. In truth it was difficult to tell which album they were pulling songs from as a new Mandolin Orange fan, but I think part of the magic of their performance was the spontaneity of their music choices and the flexibility that had towards the energy in the room.

As the show progressed, the shy yet charming duo became increasingly more witty in song breaks – at points even meandering around the venue whilst performing.

Fans celebrated the duo’s release “Hard Travelin'” this past Thursday, August 11th on PopMAtters from their new album Blindfaller, that is set to be released September 30th. [youtube][/youtube]

When discussing the albums up and coming release Marlin said, “We talked about the feel of each song and pointed out loosely who was going to be taking solos, but it was mostly a lot of fresh takes, a lot of eye contact, and a lot of nods and weird winks.”

As WNYC Soundcheck stated, “Mandolin Orange has been quietly gathering local and faraway fans since its debut album was released back in 2010,” and fans are anxiously awaiting their return to the music world this fall.

Their contemplative tunes are expected to reach new heights according to Rantz who said “Now that we’ve put out quite a few records and toured so much, I think a standard has been set and people expect a certain thing…but you don’t want to get into a place where you’re just making the music you’re expected to make. You have to push yourself a little bit.”

My favorite part of the show though wasn’t the venue or the varying instruments – but rather the way that Mandolin Orange opened up to the crowd as if we were all gathered in their family room for some after dinner entertainment, that’s what really charmed me. As far as everyone else – they were wild for the pairs Neil Young covers.

Tour dates and ticket purchasing information for the duo’s upcoming album release can be found at

To Submit a review or story for consideration hit us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.