by Justin Trudell
“Hey! SIT DOWN!”
The screams’ of the seated fans rang out like sirens; gradually, they became louder and more frustrated with each yelp. After all, we were at Fox Theater. Even Brandi Carlile had admitted earlier that: “In all my years of touring, this might honestly be the most beautiful room I’ve ever played.” You can’t disrespect an elegant, prestigious place like this by standing up during a performance. Such treasonous thoughts cause my gold-plated monocle to fall into my crystal champagne glass. But, as Old Crow Medicine Show knee-slapped their way through the first two songs of their bluegrass hoedown, I asked myself: “Why isn’t everyone standing up and dancing?”
The country sounds were intoxicating, and the energy springing from all six members of Old Crow Medicine Show created a sight to behold. A total group effort from the band eventually transformed the event from a night at the opera into a backyard jamboree. The tone was set immediately with their opening song, “Tell it to Me,” a twangy number about cocaine – not exactly subject matter one might expect from a bluegrass band out of Nashville.
For a two-song stretch, they huddled around a single microphone, and just from vocal harmonization and folksy guitar chords managed to completely captivate us. All of the guys displayed a wide range of musical ability, but, without a doubt, the showman of the night was Brandi Carlile.
Brandi Carlile’s set featured tales of love, pride, anger, compassion and even humor, contributing to one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Her style is a mix of southern rock, folk and bluegrass. She even incorporated a cowbell and washboard into a song. Yes, a washboard. She told the crowd about her daughter, who was the “greatest, weirdest, funniest, best, worst thing to ever happen to me.” She then performed a beautiful and rather amusing song about her two-year-old daughter, called “The Mother,” that perfectly captured all of the aforementioned feelings Brandi has for her.
For her final song, as the house lights dimmed, the band left and The Secret Sisters joined Brandi. They three of them walked to the edge of the stage and began singing “Amazing Grace” without their microphones. The surreal moment of an ultra-attentive, dead-silent audience being swooned in the cover of darkness at the Fox Theatre is unlike anything I have ever felt. It was a powerful and emotional moment that I won’t soon forget.
While the performance of “Amazing Grace” concluded Brandi Carlile’s set, it wouldn’t be the last time we got to enjoy her that evening. At the end of Old Crow Medicine Show’s performance, we were treated to an all-star collaboration between Brandi, her band, and the Old Crow boys. Prior to taking their final bows and receiving a well-deserved standing ovation, they covered country classics “Jolene” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
While the night did feature plenty of emotionally arresting moments begging to be appreciated while sitting down, it was mostly a celebration of the good times. Times that make you smile, laugh and, most importantly, get up and dance.