I still owe you a post on The Oh Hellos concert from last week, but I’m already so far behind on that one I’m going to kick it down the road a little bit farther and go ahead and write about The Lone Bellow concert I went to last night. Usually when I’m talking about how much I love Wolf Trap and that it’s my favorite concert venue I’m generally technically talking about The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, which is their outdoor venue. They also have a very intimate winter venue called The Barns, which is composed of two 300 year old barns. It is also a wonderful place to see a show.
Last night I went down there to see The Lone Bellow’s Acoustic Tour with Naia Izumi opening. I thought I didn’t know anything about Naia Izumi until we got there and I realized he was the winner of the most recent NPR Tiny Desk Contest. I didn’t particularly care for his music when I watched that Tiny Desk Concert and I can’t see I much cared for it last night either, but I will say that he is a very interesting and talented guitar player. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play a guitar quite like him before, but I can’t say I’ll go out of my way to listen to him again.
The Lone Bellow however was fantastic. This all acoustic tour took them back to their roots with just the three main band members Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipken on stage with some acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and a grand piano. Although they’ve never been an entirely acoustic band they’ve always done some acoustic stuff and in more recent years have had some additional people sitting in as part of the band including Kanene’s husband Jason on keys. At one point near the end of the show Zach said that this tour has been like a reset button and breathed new life into the music for him and it couldn’t have felt more like that last night. I’ve seen The Lone Bellow many times over the past five years and they’re always delightful and fun so I hadn’t actually realized that anything was missing until I saw it again last night.
They were silly and free and just genuinely seemed to be enjoying being up stage together and watching and listening to what each of them can do. That led to a lot of riffing and them winding up messing around with a lot of cover songs they don’t actually know the lyrics to generally due to Brian starting something. They used to do that all the time in their early shows, but I haven’t seen them be that loose with a set in a long time and I forgot how much I love it. Brian sang one line from the Patty Griffin song “Let Him Fly”. An audience member encouraged them to keep going, but they didn’t know any other lyrics. She shouted that she did and she wound up singing part of it with them joining in. After they mistakenly attributed the song to the Dixie Chicks it turned into a whole Dixie Chicks thing complete with a cover of “Wide Open Spaces” being danced to with pantomimed lyrics. There was also a cover of Boys II Men’s “End of the Road” at the beginning of the encore. In addition to all the silly off the cuff covers they also did a legit pre-planned cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, which was amazing. Kanene singing that song was gorgeous.
The actual set was great too. It was wonderful to hear so many of their songs played acoustic. I also had not realized that they put out an EP of acoustic songs, which includes some new songs, some acoustic versions of previous songs plus a cover of Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”, a few weeks ago until they mentioned it last night. I really liked the songs they song off that last night am happy to know I have some new Lone Bellow music that I didn’t even know about.
It was a really wonderful show filled with a lot of laughter, fantastic music, and moments that made me grin from ear to ear. It was way better than sitting home watching election returns and well worth the long drive down to Wolf Trap.