Words & Images by: Stratton Lawrence
Route 29 Revue :: 08.16.09 :: Merriweather Post Pavilion :: Columbia, MD
Featuring: Old Crow Medicine Show, Iron & Wine, Levon Helm
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Felice Brothers, Justin Jones
Phish concerts are like a heavy night of drinking. The next day, you've either got to embrace it again (hair of the dog/drive to the next show) or find some way to recover. For the Merriweather Post Pavilion's Sunday crowd, many of whom looked as if they'd been rocking Phish's "Tweeprise" just a few hours before (read the review of Phish at Merriweather here), the Route 29 Revue proved a perfect mix of sedatives and pick-me-ups to roll back into the week.
|James Felice - The Felice Brothers :: 08.16|
We pulled up to the fabled woodshed-of-a-venue just seconds after The Felice Brothers took the stage. After seeing the ragtag band of upstate New York rednecks melt the stage at FloydFest (read the review here), it was exciting to hear the Felices maintain the same level of energy early in the lineup here at Merriweather. With less than an hour to prove themselves, they tore through a set highlighted by "Chicken Wire," "Whiskey in My Whiskey" and "Run Chicken Run." Each member of Old Crow Medicine Show joined the brothers throughout the show, adding to the washboard-and-fiddle laden ruckus.
Diversifying the country leaning lineup, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals took the stage at 5:30 p.m. Giving a full-on rock performance from the first chords, the band proved their ability to shine even in a sampler platter style afternoon of one-hour sets. With the Muppet "Animal" seated on his bass drum, drummer Matthew Burr provided constant entertainment with his enthusiastic playing. It's obvious that Potter has fun on stage — she danced and banged her head through the set, including highlights "Sweet Hands" and "Nothing But the Water." Potter also took the only encore of the day, sticking around for what's become a regular (and incredible) rendition of "White Rabbit."
|Grace Potter and the Nocturnals :: 08.16|
Iron & Wine followed the Nocturnals, and the sing-songy fluff tunes seemed out of place on the bill. Songwriter Samuel Beam kicked things off with his biggest hit, "Such Great Heights," for an enthusiastic crowd that sang along. "The Devil Never Sleeps" was cucumber cool, complete with sitar-esque slide, finger picking and yodel-like vocals. A few songs in, however, Beam's lover-boy-bard style got a bit old. Enough of the crowd were Iron & Wine fans to keep the energy level high, but it was hard not to envision John Belushi ripping the guitar from the "gave my love a cherry" guy in Animal House and smashing it to bits on the wall.
By the time Levon Helm took the stage at sunset, the crowd was explosive. Tearing right into "The Shape I'm In," the night's first real dancing commenced on the lawn and stagefront. Helm is aging but he smiled big between songs, shaking his arms to dance and thanking the audience members that yelled his name. After a few more songs, including "Long Black Veil" and "Deep Elem Blues," it became apparent that Helm would not be singing much this night.
|Levon Helm :: 08.16|
Guitarist Larry Campbell explained that Helm was on doctor's orders to rest his vocal chords. Although the band filled in nicely for him, sharing singing duties amongst them (including Levon's daughter, Amy Helm), his croon was missed on highlights like "It Makes No Difference" and the set closing "Chest Fever." Helm still plays a mean drum kit at 69-years-old, but the show's musical highlight may have surprisingly come while he watched from the side as Campbell, Amy Helm and Teresa Williams sang three-part harmonies to the Grateful Dead rarity "Attics of My Life."
The Route 29 Revue ended on a big note, with Old Crow Medicine Show again demonstrating how they've brought string band music back to the big stage. They took advantage of the Sunday night stop to play a number of gospel-like tunes, including the favorite "I Hear Them All." James Felice joined the band on keys for much of the show, picking up the intensity as they grooved "Down Home Girl" into a roaring "Minglewood Blues" laced with Willie Watson yodels.
After "CC Rider," "Hard to Tell" got downright psychedelic, before the band brought out Felice Brothers fiddle player Greg Farley for "Crazy Eyes." OCMS bandleader Ketch Secor teased Farley for his Yankees hat ("this is O's country"), and the crowd jokingly booed the young player, before erupting with cheers when he took bow to strings.
|OCMS with Ian Felice :: 08.16|
Old Crow invited all six Felice Brothers band members on stage for a rousing "We're All In This Together," before finishing the show with the requisite "Wagon Wheel." With eleven first-class musicians on stage banging and singing away, the neo-classic tune went off like a rowdy campfire jam with 5,000 friends.
Leaving the stage at 10:58 p.m., the audience thundered for more, but a strict 11 o'clock curfew kept the band backstage. After a seven-hour smorgasbord of modern roots, soul and a musical hero tossed in midway, no one complained on the happy walk out Merriweather Post's gates.
Continue reading for more pics of the Route 29 Revue...