Last night we were thrilled to welcome a pair of bands that reflect two sides of the Americana coin: Shovels & Rope, with their DIY gritty, lo-fi take on countrified rock & roll, and The Lumineers, who offered their polished and elegant folk rock sound. The two bands couldn’t sound more different, but both had two important things in common: a deep understanding of American musical traditions and a knack for great songwriting.
Few bands have as much fun onstage than Shovels & Rope – the joy Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent get from playing together is palpable. “Man you can tell the way they look at each other,” commented Roger Hayhurst. on YouTube,“A lot of passion in this.” The Charleston, S.C. duo charged every song with the giddy energy of musicians that looooove being onstage. Opening with the Southern travelogue “Birmingham,” Hearst and Trent joyfully hopped from wild-eyed folk (“Bad Luck”) to chicken-pickin’ C&W (“Kemba’s Got the Cabbage Moth Blues”) to balls-out rock & roll (“O’Be Joyful”), switching off between guitar and drums along the way. Hearst wailed her way soulfully through the menacing folk rocker “Hollowpoint Blues” as easily as the duo rocked out gospel style on the blazing “Tell the Truth.” As Chistranger noted during our live stream of this show, “Every S&R song I hear I think, Oh! This one! This one’s my favorite! But then the next one comes on and I start all over again from the beginning.” After setting the place on fire with the rock ‘n’ vinyl celebration “Hail Hail,” the band left the stage to a standing ovation, having won a ton of new fans. “Fantastic!!” enthused Suzanne Day on the YouTube chat. “The BEST new music I have heard in such a long time!!!”
After such a barn-burning performance, The Lumineers had to rise to the occasion, and darned if they didn’t do it. Like S&R, the Denver quintet takes American roots music and strains it through its own distinctive filter; also like the Charleston duo, The Lumineers take the stage as if its their home. From the stripped-down folk rocker “Flowers in Your Hair” and the bluesy honkytonker “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” to the acoustic pop tune “ Dead Sea” and the old-fashioned folk song “Charlie Boy,” the band easily engaged a crowd primed for their indie folk sound. Even a new song, tentatively titled “Duet” as leader Wesley Schulz and cellist Neyla Pekarek share the vocals, captivated the fans immediately. (“Call 911,” posted fan Matt Stigal, on YouTube “cause Neyla has officially stolen my heart.”) The group’s huge hit single “Ho Hey” arrived early in the set, which seemed surprising at first, but given the anthems that dominated the second half of the show, understandable: “Slow It Down,” “Big Parade” and especially “Stubborn Love” encouraged massive sing-a-longs. For the encore, the group ventured into the audience for an unamplified take on “Darlene,” complete with xylophone solo, while an audience member held up the xylophone. Closing the show with a pair of unexpected covers – Talking Heads’ lovely “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” and the Violent Femmes’ raucous “American Music” – The Lumineers left the ACL stage in a state of bliss. “This is ‘genuine’ music,” declared fan Archangel Micael on YouTube.
“This entire concert is amazing,” proclaimed catperson74. “I don’t think I can wait until fall to watch again.” We can’t wait for you all to see it, either, but, alas, we’ll all have to be patient. Trust us, folks – the episode featuring these fantastic performances will be well worth the wait.