J.S. Ondara at the 8×10

I finally saw J.S. Ondara at the 8×10 Club last night. The show was originally scheduled for May, but got rescheduled because as he told us last night he got invited to tour with Neil Young for a few dates. I had been very confused when I bought the ticket because I was able to buy it off of his artist website, but the show never appeared on the 8×10’s website. I felt like I had a ticket to some mystery show. I was planning on just showing up to see if there was in fact a show, but finally the day before the 8×10 finally sent out an email saying it had been rescheduled with the new date.

It turns out the date was just a couple of days after the Newport Folk Festival where J.S. Ondara was also playing. At Newport Dawes came out and sang about 5 of his songs with him, so I was joking about inevitably being disappointed last night when he didn’t bring Dawes with him to join him for half his set.

He didn’t need Dawes. He was amazing all on his own. It’s kind of funny because it almost seemed like he was two different performers. At Newport he really didn’t say much of anything. He just sat up on stage and played his songs. He certainly had the audience rapt with his music and drew a very large crowd to the smallest stage at the festival. As one review of the set I saw said people were so quiet you could hear banjos tuning at another stage.

That was not so last night. He talked a lot between all of his songs. He’s a great storyteller and very funny. He had the audience laughing all night. I suppose part of the difference is wanting to fit as much music as possible into a short festival set vs. needing to fill the 90 minutes he was probably contracted to play at the 8×10 when he only has one album full of songs. Some artists tend to fill that time with cover songs. He filled it with stories. Although he did do a Nirvana cover as one of his encore songs. It sounded so different I didn’t even realize what it was until the lyrics in the chorus finally tipped me off.

I wish the audience had been as great as the Newport audience though. I was surprised that the club was only about 1/2 full. I really would have expected that he’s gotten enough press at this point that he would have sold out the show, but I guess not. There was one super drunk woman right in front of the stage, who could barely stand up. I was like it’s Tuesday night and you’re in your 50’s. Why are you so drunk? She was loudly “singing” along to all the songs, which was super obnoxious given how quiet J.S. Ondara’s music is to start and how few people were there. I was not right next to her and she was often drowning him out.

Aside from a few obnoxious people in the crowd, the show as great. If you’re unfamiliar with J.S. Ondara he is from Kenya. He moved to America 6 years ago to follow his dream of becoming a folk singer. He was telling us last night that he loved Bob Dylan and didn’t really know enough about America to know where to move when he decided to come here and since Bob Dylan was from Minnesota he chose to move there, which given the weather was a big mistake. His first full length album appropriately titled Tales of America is all about his observations of America and Americans in the time that he’s lived here. It’s definitely in my top 5 albums of 2019. It was great to hear him play all the songs from it last night and to hear him tell stories about writing them. I look forward to seeing him again in the future some day.

2019 Newport Folk Festival

This year celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival and what a celebration it was! Jay Sweet, the current producer of the festival, says every year how he’s worried that he can never live up to what he’s done the year before. Every year I have gone has been better than the last, so I’ve never doubted that he could, but this year I think he might be right because I don’t see how he could possibly top this year’s festival. I’m going to let him try and it will always be great, but man this year just blew me away.

I always try to think of a way to frame these posts about Newport that aren’t just a list of all the artists I saw. This year I’m going to write using the theme “Only at Newport” and write about the things that happened that probably wouldn’t happen anywhere else, which is what makes this festival so special. Buckle in because it’s going to be a long one. (I won’t embed any photos or videos here because I didn’t take any because I believe in putting my phone away and being present for the experience, but there are tons of other people’s stuff up on YouTube if you want to find any of the performances I’m talking about).

Before I get to the music itself let’s talk about the people. Newport manages to briefly restore my faith in humanity every year. Usually with large crowds of people you expect everyone to be rude and out for themselves, but that is never my experience at the Newport Folk Festival. I had someone taller than me kneel down for an entire set so I could see over them. I had someone chase me down to hand me back the paper fan I dropped and made sure my backpack was zipped up tight before I moved on. Every time I accidentally bumped someone or they bumped me I felt like we were in one of those stereotypical skits about Canadians about who can apologize more profusely. It was nothing big, but just a lot of small kindnesses that I don’t normally see in crowds full of strangers. Everyone talks about the people at the festival being their folk family and it feels so true. I see the same people year after year. I don’t know them but every year I’m happy to see them set up their blankets in our same spot. The artists also seem to feel that way about the festival. They don’t just drop in, do their set and leave. They hang around. They sit in with each other. They hang out in the audience like the rest of us to see people play. I saw Anais Mitchell more than once. At one point when she was right next to me I wanted to stop and tell her how excited I am to see Hadestown in October, but I didn’t because I’ve heard artists say one of the things they love about Newport is that they can hang out and people don’t bother them. Also as an aside. the number of people I saw reading print books between sets made me extremely happy.

The musical collaborations and the way it honors the past while looking to the future are really what make this festival something special. There were some real once in a lifetime moments at this festival. The artists too always seem to know how special it is to play this festival. I watched multiple artists tear up during their sets this year from people who were playing the festival for the first time talking about how they’ve been fans in the audience and are now standing on the stage to veteran artists like Rhiannon Giddens being overwhelmed and literally sobbing her way through the song “Mama’s Cryin’ Long”.

Newport is also special because it actually makes a place for women artists. There are tons of memes about how male centric other music festivals are showing if you erase the names of the male artists from their lineups there’s almost no names left on the posters. Not so with Newport. On Friday I spent the entire day listening to nothing but female artists excepting the set put together by the Cook brothers, but they had plenty of women out to sing with them so I think it counts. I started off the festival listening to Yola, who although I don’t have the numbers, I suspect deserves the Jim James award, which is the unofficial Newport award for the artist who sits in on the most sets over the weekend. She seemed to be everywhere, and I was here for it. I ended the day with the live debut of The Highwomen, the new country supergroup composed of Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby. It seriously was like all my favorite people on stage together with Jason Isbell backing them on the guitar, and being at the festival allowing them to pull in other women like Yola and Sheryl Crow who sing on the album with them but who obviously won’t be there at all potential future shows they might perform. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. It just made me even more excited for that album. Also, I know whatever tour dates they do as a group are going to be very limited and this set just made sure that I’m going to pretty much go anywhere and pay anything to see one of them.

Saturday featured a set called “Songs for Beginners”, which was a set full of different artists covering Graham Nash’s album of that name. As M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger said this is pretty much the most Newport thing ever. What other festival would put something like this on? I’m pretty sure this is what Jay Sweet managed to pull together to replace an artist that pulled out at the last minute as I watched this set time go from unannounced to this. But that’s the kind of festival this is that he could get various configurations of artists playing the festival to collaborate together and cover this album as a set. Speaking of cover sets, that’s practically what Dawes’ set was. They were playing their first album “North Hills” and almost just acted like the backing band for other people to come out and sing their songs including of course aforementioned Yola singing “When You Call My Name” and Jason Isbell singing “If You Let Me Be Your Anchor”. If you know anything about me you know I love Jason Isbell and Dawes and this was absolutely amazing. I also got to see Dawes support J.S. Ondara for a bunch of songs during his set.

I absolutely hated to leave the Dawes set early, but there was no way I was going to miss out on the mystery set curated by Brandi Carlile titled The Collaboration (with the female symbol all over it). My Newport rule is if there’s a set with no actual artists’ names on it, be there. This absolutely was the highlight of the festival for me. It was the first all female headlining act in the 60 years of Newport. It featured an amazing lineup of women including all of the Highwomen, Judy Collins, Yola, Sheryl Crow, Linda Perry, Amy Ray, Maggie Rogers, Lucy Dacus, Rachel Price, Jade Bird and so many more I know I’m totally forgetting. They all sang various songs for the first half of the set, and then the big surprise (which by that point in the night really wasn’t that much of a surprise as rumors had been flying all day) was Dolly Parton! I never thought I would see Dolly Parton live and to see her in this amazing venue sharing the stage with so many amazing women was more than I could ever hope for. She sang “Just Because I am a Woman”, “Eagle When She Flies” and “Jolene” with all of the Highwomen, did a duet of “I Will Always Love You” with Brandi Carlile, and finished off the set with “9 to 5” with pretty much every female artist at Newport. There really are no words.

Sunday didn’t feature anything nearly as monumental as that, but there were lots of smaller moments that were just as special. That’s why I have never actually believed that the festival can’t possibly live up to what happened the year before because I don’t ever need things to be bigger to be better. It’s the small, special, only at Newport moments that make each year better than the last.

During the set changes at the main stage they have artists do short acoustic sets in the Late July Family Tent, which they don’t announce until right before they happen. Devon Gilfillian blew me away during the short part of his set I saw on Saturday, so when they announced he was playing the family tent I booked it over there to see more of him. I’m so glad I did because it was the best. He handed out all kinds of musical instruments to the kids for them to shake and be his percussion and then got down off the little stage and danced around in the crowd with them. I love falling in love with new artists at Newport and Devon Gilfillian definitely has a new fan.

Speaking of finding new artists at Newport and artists being like family, one of the great things is watching artists come back over and over again and getting to see them grow. I remember seeing Hozier play the small Harbor stage shortly after his first album came out and thinking I do like his music, but he’s not much of a performer yet. Now he’s been back to the festival multiple times and was a commanding presence on this year’s main stage. It was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend. As soon as he released the song “Nina Cried Power” featuring Mavis Staples I told my husband this is happening at Newport. Since Newport releases their lineup one artist at a time over like 5 months I kept waiting for them to add Hozier to it. He was one of the last people announced and though Mavis didn’t have her own set at the actual festival I knew she was doing one of the after shows and she’s often there whether she’s on the official bill or not. Aside from the Highwomen knowing this song had to happen was the thing I was most looking forward to going into the festival this year. Listening to them sing that song together live was everything I dreamed it would be. Hozier also invited Brandi Carlile out to sing her song “The Joke”, which they dueted together. Also amazing.

I also love that Newport doesn’t have any real headliners. Whenever I tell people I’m going to the Newport Folk Festival each year they always ask me who’s headlining and I have to try and explain that I don’t know. In recent years the final Sunday set has become some sort of collaboration around a theme, and it is my favorite thing ever. It’s usually mostly various groupings of artists who have been at the festival over the course of the weekend, but there are always some surprises. It astounds me how every year there are artists who seemingly show up to sing one song during the entire festival during the closing set.

This year’s final set was a singalong in honor of what would have been Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday. They passed out song books for everyone to sing a long with this year. It was wonderful. When looking through the book to see what we would be singing upon seeing “Rainbow Connection” was one of the songs my husband said Kermit better be here. Well guess what? Kermit the Frog was totally there and sang it with Jim James. He even did the Kermit flail. I mean. I also cracked up a little when they were introducing the main band for the set saying who they were and what band they’re a part of, but when they announced Janet Weiss they announced her as drummer for hire, since she just quit Sleater Kinney. We also got to hear Judy Collins sing Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, which Stephen Stills wrote for her. Dancing and singing along with the crowd to the doo, doo, doo, doo breakdown at the end of this song was incredible. How is this real life? My absolute favorite part of the set was singing “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” with Mavis Staples, Hozier, and Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythist Kyah, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell), on vocals (their voices together are fire, seriously go look this one up), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on brass, Jason Isbell on guitar, and Phil Cook on harmonica. We closed out the festival singing “Goodnight, Irene”. The set was a magical way to end the festival and something I hope becomes a tradition. I’m already counting down the days until next year.

 

Tedeschi Trucks Band at Wolf Trap

This past Wednesday I went to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Wolf Trap with Shovels & Rope and Blackberry Smoke opening. Since it was on a Wednesday night and staring at 7, I bought us tickets inside the pavilion since we wouldn’t be able to get there early to get decent lawn seats. It turned out to be somewhat of a good idea since it was all thunderstormy until right when we got there. Though it never rained after we were actually in our seats, so we would have been fine on the lawn I guess. The problem with sitting inside for this particular show is that I screwed up my back again and then slant of the seats was killing my back the entire time. I would have been much happier lying on a blanket on the lawn.

I’ve seen Shovels & Rope open for other bands several times. I don’t super love their music. I don’t generally sit down and listen to it, but they are fascinating to watch perform since they both play so many instruments.

I had never heard of Blackberry Smoke before I went to this concert, but they wound up being my favorite act of the night. They play that sort of Southern guitar rock that I have a very big soft spot in my heart for. I really enjoyed their music and it was perfect listening for sitting outside on a summer night. They also played a cover of “You Get Lucky”, which is one of my favorite Tom Petty songs. I gathered from the program that they put this song out on an EP and Amanda Shires plays on the recorded version with them, which means they’re running with other artists I love. It makes me wonder how I’ve missed hearing about them in their 20 year career. Now I know.

I sadly didn’t love the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s set. I do love their music, but apparently only when it’s limited in their studio albums. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that they would be a complete and total jam band live because it makes total sense, but it didn’t and they are. I do not care for jam bands. I grow very bored by songs that go on for 15 or 20 minutes with long instrumental jams. There was a whole lot of that at this concert. I was also curious about the fact that they didn’t play their current single “Hard Case”. I wasn’t super disappointed by it, but I thought it was odd. They did start off with my favorite song “Anyhow”, so I could have been happy to leave after the first song. My husband who really didn’t enjoy the concert said we should have if that was the case. I still adore Susan Tedeschi’s voice, but I’ll stick to listening to it in album form from now on.

Jason Isbell with Father John Misty and Jade Bird at Merriweather Post Pavilion

In keeping with what seems to be my new tradition, I’m belatedly writing about a concert I went to last weekend. This time I do have a good excuse that’s not just laziness. I was busy at the ALA conference the three days following this concert and then last night we went to see Toy Story 4, so I didn’t have a chance to write anything.

Last Friday night I went to my final concert of the season at Merriweather unless they wind up sneaking something into their schedule last minute that I’m interested in. Everything I was interested in seeing this summer was stacked at the beginning of their schedule this year. This time it was Jason Isbell co-headlining with Father John Misty and Jade Bird opening.

I was very excited to see Jade Bird. I’ve been wanting to see her in concert for a couple of years now. She only just put out her first full length album this year, but I fell in love with her a couple of years ago when she put out her first EP and the song “Cathedral”. I enjoyed her set so much that it only just now occurs to me as I’m writing this that she didn’t even play “Cathedral” and it’s still probably my favorite song of hers. The summer that EP came out she wasn’t on the bill at the Newport Folk Festival, but she was hanging out there with one of the bands that was and came out and sang with them. I was hoping that was a harbinger that she would be on the bill for the next year, but alas she wasn’t and isn’t this year either. I also kicked myself because she opened for Hozier in Baltimore back in March. I was planning on going to that show, but forgot to put the ticket on-sale time on my calendar and by the time I realized it a few hours later everything was gone and resale tickets never came down to a reasonable price. Luckily this concert finally presented me with a chance to see her. She announced at the concert she’ll be back in DC at the 9:30 Club in October. At that point it wasn’t even officially announced because I immediately went to my phone after her set to see if I was going to be around since I’m traveling a bunch in October. It wasn’t even on her site or the 9:30 Club’s site yet. They finally announced it officially yesterday, and it turns out it’s really in September, but on a Saturday so I have no excuse not to trek down to DC for it.

She was worth the wait. It was just her up on the stage with an acoustic guitar and I have no idea how she made such powerful sounds with just those two things. Woman has some pipes that’s for sure. Jason Isbell even commented that with a voice like hers if she was a man she’d be the one up there headlining. No doubt. Stupid misogynistic music business. Stupid misogynistic world. Anyway, she only had a 30 minute set and she jam packed it full of songs. I was surprised at how many songs she seemed to get in within such a short amount of time especially since she did chat a little between each song. If she can get up and command a venue the size of Merriweather with just her guitar I can’t wait to see what she does with a venue like the 9:30 Club.

Father John Misty was the first headliner. I wasn’t completely sure what the order was going to be because the way I was reading the Merriweather line-up it seemed like he would be playing first, but every time Jason Isbell tweeted set times for the previous shows on their tour Father John Misty was the closing act. I was torn because I knew the closer would get an extra 15 minutes or so and get to do the encore, but on the other hand if Father John Misty was the closer then I could leave early because I just don’t care about him that much and I had to get up early the next morning to travel to DC for ALA. Turns out I did have to sit through the entirety of Father John Misty’s set. His music is okay. I like some of it and am agnostic about the rest. I don’t actively hate it. I will listen to it if it comes on to something I’m listening to, but it’s not something I have ever actively sought out to listen to. Plus I am super annoyed by his whole persona. It just seems so affected to me. Also, he’s the only set I’ve actively left at Newport because of him and not because I was rushing to see someone else with a conflicting set. This was back in 2015 I think before music did start to really get ultra political and message based again, and he was standing up there on stage denigrating pretty much everyone else at the festival basically saying they were a disgrace to the history of folk music because they weren’t fighting for anything anymore. Coming from someone who is pretty much playing a character, I felt that was pretty rich. I guess it didn’t offend too many people because he’s been back since then, but I walked out and it’s always stuck in my craw a little bit. His set was fine, but it didn’t do much for me and had he been the closing act I definitely would have left early on him again.

Unfortunately the couple sitting next to us showed up at the beginning of John Misty’s set. They were obviously already high on something and had many beers with them. I don’t know what they were on, but I’m guessing something that heightened their senses because the woman could not stop touching the guy. When she wasn’t climbing on him or making him out with him she wouldn’t stop touch his face. It was super obnoxious. This is the one reason I worry about getting actual seats at concerts because there’s a good chance you’re stuck next to whoever winds up next to you. In this case luckily there were still a lot of open seats at the back of pavilion so halfway through Father John Misty’s set I suggested we downgrade ourselves to get away from these people. By the end of the night they were sitting in kind of a hole because everyone around them had moved somewhere else. Moving to a sparsely inhabited section also meant that I could sing my little heart out along with Jason Isbell. I never do that at concerts unless it’s a song where everyone in the crowd is singing along because I certainly get annoyed at shows where no one else is singing but the person next to me and then it’s just like they’re competing with the actual person I’m there to see and it’s super annoying. I don’t want to be that person. With no one next to me (except my husband who doesn’t count) or in front of me I could have my own private sing-a-long.

Jason Isbell was great as always. He was in one of his looser, chatty moods which I always like the best. Sometimes he gets up and plays without too much stage banter. I always like the times when he feels like talking a bit between songs because he’s a funny guy. His wife Amanda Shires was not there playing fiddle because she was off playing with John Prine. I always prefer when she’s playing with the 400 Unit, but I know she’s got her own thing going on too. I especially miss her on songs like “Cover Me Up” and “If We Were Vampires”, which are so much about them that it almost seems wrong to play them if she’s not there. He always plays a couple of songs from his Drive-by Trucker years, but this time they weren’t the ones I’ve heard him play the most. I’ve heard him play “Outfit” before, but this was a first for “Goddamn Lonely Love”. He also played “Maybe It’s Time”, the song he wrote for Bradley Cooper to sing in A Star is Born. That was the first time I’d heard him play that song live as well. He also debuted a new song called “Overseas”. I had seen some headline the week prior about him debuting a new song, but when I clicked through on the headline it was that he sang a new song at a concert with an embedded YouTube video from someone recording at the concert, which had already been pulled down. So I didn’t get to listen at that point. I was excited to finally hear it. I love it, and it’s making me excited for a new album. I just love his songwriting so much. The new song starts off with the line “This used to be a ghost town, but even the ghosts got out.” That is such a stellar lyric. I don’t know anyone else who writes lyrics like he does. He also ended the show with another song I’d never heard him play before. He played a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” as the first song of his encore. So all in all it was a night of a lot of firsts for me, which is pretty amazing given how many times I’ve seen him in concert. Sadly this is probably the only time I’ll be seeing him this year, but hopefully he’ll be recording this album soon and I’ll have new music to listen to and more reasons to see him in concert again in the future.

Brandi Carlile with Lucius at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Friday night I went to my second of three concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This time it was Brandi Carlile with Lucius opening. It is no secret around these parts how much I adore Brandi Carlile. I also really like Lucius and would have gone to see them on their own, so it was a bonus that I got to see both of them together. I do wish that Lucius had gotten to play longer though. They only played for about 40 minutes. With only them and Brandi on the bill and the concert starting at 7, I’m not sure why they weren’t given a full hour. I’m sure the people in front of us were really wishing they had a longer set. They were very obviously there for Lucius. Holly and Jess, the lead singers, always dress in matching outfits that are a little bit ostentatious and out there. The three guys in the band always dress in matching outfits as well, but it’s generally this suits or in this case pretty casual black pants and shirts. Anyway, the people in front of us were dressed in matching white jumpsuits with hot pink wigs. They left after Lucius’s set too, so they obviously were really only there to see them. That was an awful lot of money to spend for 40 minutes since we were all the way down in the pit, but I guess to each their own.

I also was kind of annoyed with people during Lucius’s set because everyone around us aside from the people in front of us were obviously there to see Brandi and didn’t seem to care much about Lucius. There were a lot of people talking and just generally ignoring them. Since Lucius sang a lot of their quieter songs it was kind of hard to pay attention to them over the din of the crowd. Also I wanted to throw away the phone of the girl who was sitting next to them that sort of moved into their space after they left. She spent the whole concert taking photos and videos. I don’t begrudge anyone a few photos or even videoing one song, but when you spend the whole show doing that it’s super annoying to everyone around you. I don’t want to have to watch the whole show through your phone or as in this case have your arm right in my line of vision as you hold your phone up over your head. I was hoping she was going to chill out and put her phone away after a couple of songs, but she didn’t. I am not confrontational and generally would sit there and be annoyed in my head the whole time and then blog about it here later. I was even nice and waited for her to finish her video of “The Story” and then asked her politely to put her phone down because she was blocking my view. She never really did, but at least that made her move back over into her seat and she did keep putting her left arm down and only holding the phone up with her right arm so that her arm wasn’t in my face. I guess that’s something, but all it did was shift the annoyance to in front of someone else.

Brandi’s set was amazing as usual. I saw her 5 times in concert last year and for all but one show she pretty much did the same set aside from a song here or there that she traded in and out. In a lot of the publicity surrounding the by the way I forgive you album she talked about how they are such a performance based band and realized that they were stuck in a rut writing songs based on what they knew were going to be energizing to audience especially on the festival circuit and not anything that felt artistically challenging or interesting. They decided to go in a completely different direction with that album, and obviously it has paid great dividends. I adore it, but I did also miss some of those livelier numbers during their sets last year. It seems like maybe they have started to add some of that stuff back in. It felt to me that they made this set list in kind of chunks.

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At the beginning they had a bunch of the energetic crowd pleasers to get people into the show. I felt way disoriented though because they started off the set with “Hold Out Your Hand”, which is the song they used as their encore at all 5 shows I saw last year. It really is such a great encore song that I almost thought it might become one of those songs a band has that they use as their encore forever and always. Apparently not. Instead everything was flipped completely on it’s head with that song being the opener and “Every Time I Hear That Song”, which they had been opening their sets with last year becoming one of the encore songs. They also did a chunk of quieter old favorites like “The Story” and “The Eye”. Then they did a chunk of covers including inviting Lucius back out on stage and singing their song “Dusty Trails” with them. Brandi joined them for that song at the Newport Folk Festival last year, so I guess they decided to do a reprise at this show.

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She also sang a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water”. Then there was a chunk of songs off the new album. She did two encores ending the first one with “Party of One” and then coming back out to sing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It is a wonderful song, but I am pretty much of the mindset at this point that it needs to be put on ice for at least 25 years. The Jeff Buckley cover of that song was inescapable in television and movies for a number of years and it kind of wore me out on it and ruined it for me. I would be perfectly content to never hear that song again for at least another decade. That being said Brandi does a lovely cover it and it was a beautiful moment to look back behind me at all the people holding up the flashlights on their phones and swaying to the song.

I was also amused the next day to discover that I had made it into another of Pete Souza’s photos at a Brandi Carlile concert. If you don’t know who Pete Souza is, he was Obama’s official photographer. He is friends with Brandi and is as equally obsessed with her shows as I am. He goes to a lot of their shows and photographs them from backstage. I was in the front row of a show at The Beacon in New York City last year and wound up in one of the photos he posted on Instagram. This time you have to zoom way in on the crowd to pick me out, but if you do you can totally find me. I’m going to see her in Philly with Mavis Staples in September. We don’t have great seats for that one, so I know I won’t wind up any photos there.

 

The Wood Brothers and Lake Street Dive at Wolf Trap

I am getting pretty bad at writing up these concert posts in a timely manner, but I’m still getting them for the zero people who actually care about them. I still like writing them and sometimes going back and reading them, so that’s all that matters.

Saturday night I dragged my husband down to Wolf Trap for the second of three shows I have tickets to there this summer. This time it was Lake Street Dive with The Wood Brothers. I didn’t realize it ahead of time, but they were apparently co-headlining. I caught on when it got to be well over an hour and The Wood Brothers were still playing. Then I noticed in the program that their names were both the same size, and it all made sense.

I do not love The Wood Brothers. I’ve tried on several occasions to get into their music including ahead of this concert and they just don’t do it for me. I think it’s because they have too much of a jam band sensibility about them even if I don’t think they actually qualify as a jam band because they don’t really do these long, never-ending songs like true jam bands. I feel justified in my assessment though because I overheard the people sitting next to us who were super into them talking about some of the other concerts they’re going to this summer and it as jam bands galore. They weren’t bad to sit around outside on a beautiful night and listen to though, and I do think they make complete sense as a band to tour with Lake Street Dive as they do share a decent amount of musical DNA. They both came out and played during each others’ sets and there was a most excellent stand-up bass-off between their stand-up bass players during a cover of “Everyday People” during Lake Street Dive’s set.

This was the second Lake Street Dive concert that I’ve seen this year. They were the first show I saw in 2019 way back on January 3. I was just remarking about how I thought it was pretty good that Florence + the Machine played about 1/3 different songs at the two shows of hers that I saw in the past year. Lake Street Dive blew that out of the water. They played 19 songs at Wolf Trap and 20 songs at Rams Head Live and only 7 of the songs overlapped, and they were pretty much the hits that everyone was going to want to hear them play. I do think I liked the Rams Head show a little bit better mostly because it’s a much smaller and more intimate venue, but this was also an excellent show. I just adore Rachel Price’s voice and will never get tired of listening to her sing. They are just such a fun band to watch perform too.

They didn’t impress my husband nearly as much as Florence + the Machine though. When I asked him if he enjoyed the concert I got a grunting eh. I think that had more to do with the fact that I forced him to sit on the lawn, which he is not a fan of. I also did sort of curse myself in my Florence + the Machine post when I said the lawn at Wolf Trap is so much more civilized than at Merriweather. It wasn’t uncivilized in that no one was super rude or drunk, but we did sit towards the back of the lawn so as all the last minute stragglers were showing up well into the concert they all squeezed themselves in right around us rather than looking for any small open spaces farther down. One girl got too much into his space and he was not thrilled. He needn’t worry for our next show though. I got us pavilion seats even though I like the lawn at Wolf Trap better.

Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion

On Monday night I dragged my husband down to see Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the first of three concerts I’ll be seeing there in June. They’ve been upgrading a lot of things there over the past several years and it’s now really starting to show. The first year was mostly backstage stuff so to the audience it didn’t seem like they had done anything. Last year the biggest thing I noticed was some of the new bathrooms. I guess they had a bunch of new food stuff last year and even more this year, but I never get food there so I don’t really know. The major new thing this year, which you could see start to take shape last year when they raised the roof on the pavilion was the addition of the new sky box seats and the new sky lawn. They look really nice, though I will never pay the stupid amount of money they want for the box seats. Interestingly anyone can go up on the sky lawn because technically they are lawn seats. I gather there is actual grass up there. I didn’t go up this time, but next time I think I’ll walk up just to check it out. It’s pretty flat though and since you’re above the stage I don’t think it would be worth sitting/standing up there for the actual show unless you got there early enough to snag a spot right along the balcony.

They have also replaced the seats inside the pavilion. No more janky, rusting metal folding chairs in the far back sections! I never understood why there weren’t real seats in those areas to start, but now everywhere has nice new plastic folding chairs. That’s good because I pretty much go for the pavilion seats at Merriweather now. In my younger years I used to love sitting out on the lawn there. It’s still not awful when you know the show isn’t going to be a sell out, but they sell way too many tickets for the lawn for super popular shows and it’s just miserable especially if you wind up surrounded by a bunch of rude, drunk people. Plus, now that they’ve added this new sky section the pillars holding that up have reduced the amount of lawn space that has a decent view down to the stage without solely relying on the screens. I can afford pavilion seats, so unless I’m going with someone who prefers we do the lawn I’m pretty much paying for a seat these days. It is kind of funny that I still much prefer the lawn seats at Wolf Trap over sitting in their pavilion. I love picnicking on the lawn there and everything just seems so much more civilized.

Anyway, now on to the show. This was the fifth time I’ve seen Florence + the Machine live. I never seem to care for whoever she picks as her opening act. The first time I saw her she was opening for U2, so that doesn’t count. The second and third times I saw her I had never heard of the opening acts, came and saw them, didn’t care for them, never listened to them again, and could not tell you at this point who they were. I saw her at the Anthem back in October and knew I didn’t care that much for Beth Ditto so skipped the opening act. Same for this concert which had Blood Orange as the opening act. My husband wanted to leave a little bit earlier than I suggested so we still got there in time to hear the final two song of Blood Orange’s set, which just confirmed my decision to not to see them.

I’ve basically seen Florence + the Machine tour once for every album. This is the first time I’ve seen them twice on the same tour, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of seeing anything new. I know a lot of times bands have a pretty standard set list and stage banter routine that they don’t deviate from much. There was definitely a lot of overlap and intros to songs had the same general gist, but it didn’t feel like a retread at all. I looked up the two set lists to compare. She played 16 songs at the Anthem and 17 at Merriweather with 12 of them overlapping. So about a 1/3 of the songs were new, which is a pretty good percentage. She also played another 1/3 in a different order than she did at the Anthem, so it very much felt like a new set other than the very beginning and end.

She is just such an awesome performer too. She has so much energy and is just running and dancing around the stage all the time. I would be completely out of breath and unable to sing. Not that anyone wants to hear me sing. She of course went out into the crowd all the way up into the lawn. She gets the crowd involved in the show almost better than anyone else I’ve seen. She is also just brings such an energy of peace and love and positivity while also encouraging people to, I want to say fight to lift up the oppressed but fight feels like the wrong word. Anyway, she basically said at this show basically said I know you’ve already spent a lot of money on concert tickets, but if you were thinking about maybe buying a t-shirt or something tonight donate that money to the ACLU instead because I don’t need it. I always leave a Florence show feeling so much more uplifted no matter what is going on in my life or the world. She has taken to ending her shows with “Shake It Off”, which really is the best closing song she could pick and she should never change that. As someone with anxiety who holds onto a lot of stuff I should just let go of I feel like I should listen to that song every day and make it my mantra.

It was another excellent show by Florence + the Machine and is why I will continue to see her every time I get a chance. Even Paul gave it high praise. Whenever we leave shows I drag him to I always ask if he enjoyed it. For the most part unless he really didn’t like it I get a response of it was fine or it was okay. My husband does not express emotion very much. When I asked him how he liked this show he said it was good, which on the Paul scale is pretty much like giving it 5 stars, so she even won over the curmudgeon.