The stage was lit with what appeared to be vintage glass baubles hanging from the ceiling and a ghostly mist rolled through as opening act Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys took the stage. They gave a peppy, old-fashioned set. I loved their retro Spaghetti Western vibe and harmonies. Mead’s croons and yodels are from another era. They elicited a standing ovation from the crowd with a twisted song about The Andy Griffith show featuring a pot smokin’, moonshine drinkin’ Opie.
Old Crow Medicine Show then took the stage, launching into the title track from their 2012 album, Carry Me Back. From the opening notes they had members of the audience on their feet dancing in the aisles.
They ripped through “Alabama High Test” with flashing lights and roadies switching out guitars for harmonicas mid-lyric.
Lead singer Ketch Secor threw out a lot of love to “the Charleston skyline,” “the Mountaineer state,” “the KRT bus terminal,” “the Kanawha Valley” and “where hillbilly music comes home to roost, West-by-God Virginia,” which earned him a lot of love in return from the exuberant local crowd. It also helped they have local boy Chance McCoy in the band.
There’s no greater musical sight to this country gal than a string band huddled together jammin’. And it must be said Secor plays his fiddle like Eddie Van Halen plays his electric guitar.
The concert was comprised of newer material from the Carry Me Back album as well as some gems from their earlier works.
Most notable was the rousing fan favorite “Wagon Wheel” from their debut, O.C.M.S..The song was written with a co-authoring deal with Bob Dylan, and it is by far OCMS’ best known, beloved and oft covered tune. The entire audience was on their feet cheering and singing along for the duration of the song and the band seemed to pause after it to stare, soak in and appreciate the adoration of the crowd.
Despite my disappointment with 2008’s Tennessee Pusher album, Old Crow’s “Methamphetamine” was one of the most powerful live performances I’ve witnessed.
I had hoped to hear more from 2006’s brilliant Big Iron World (#2 on my Best of the Decade list and one of my all-time favorite albums), but they did play “Cocaine Habit,” “Union Maid” and a soul-stirring, harmonious mashup of “I Hear Them All” and “This Land is Your Land.”
Other highlights were “Mississippi Saturday Night,” “Humdinger,” “CC Rider” and “Big Time in the Jungle,” but it was really a fantastic concert from beginning to end. One of the best I’ve ever attended.
Old Crow Medicine Show have a rare mix of chemistry, energy and artistry. They masterfully bridge the gap between the downhome bluegrass (and blues) past and rowdy rocked up modern Americana. They built the multi-instrumental, multi-genre stage groups like The Low Anthem, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons now play upon.
OCMS’ sweet backwoods harmonies and barn burning instrumentation made for a very lively, impressive and thoroughly entertaining show.
Though it must be said the true star of the show was the Grassy Knoll Boy I believe Mead called “Reverend Dan,” who popped back on stage to “buck dance” during Old Crow’s set. That dude had pizazz.
Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys joined Old Crow on stage for encore duets of Mead’s old BR549 hit “Cherokee Boogie” and a concluding cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”