Modern Icons
at Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy, PA
(17 October 1998)

The sound of a fiddle shrieking wild arpeggios penetrates the thick wooden doors of Bube's Brewery.

Inside the popular Mount Joy, Pa., watering hole, seats are at a premium. At the tables and bars people sip beer and chat while keeping an ear and eye on stage where the Modern Icons, a popular folk trio from southern Lancaster County, are putting on a show.

Before Saturday night's end, the band sings about interstellar surfboards, car maintenance and spectral cowboys. They play white rap, Wall Street punk and a lusty tango. They ooze feline sensuality and surrender to a mermaid's siren call. The psychedelic, acoustic band is hard to pin down. They are sultry and bluesy one moment, raucous and comedic another. Their playlist draws on the traditions of Grace Slick and Nancy Sinatra, Bob Dylan and the Bodeans, Irish folk songs, cowboy murder ballads and cartoon superdogs.

They also write their own material, with all three members composing. Everyone sings, individually and in intricate triple harmonies. The bedrock of the band are Steve Chambers on guitar and Charlie Burnett on upright bass. Center stage goes to Robin Chambers, who leads the trio with a scorching violin.

It shouldn't be possible to play like that without sawing through the fiddle and leaving a pile of sawdust and horsehair on the stage, but Robin does. It shouldn't sound like music, but it is, undeniably so. And the band, with three very distinctive styles and approaches to music, shouldn't blend together into a seamless unit. But they do. And the crowd at Bube's, many of them regulars who turn out whenever the Icons play, claps and shouts for more.

[ by Tom Knapp ]