by Justin Trudell
The Lone Bellow got El Club going up on a Tuesday, and it was incredible.
The first time I noticed The Lone Bellow was from their performance of “Time’s Always Leaving” on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September. It was a good performance for sure, enough to get me to check out a few more of their songs. So after a six-hour deep dive on YouTube (that may or may not have included some detours to cat videos and oddly believable conspiracy theories), they won me over. I had to see them live. Luckily, they happen to be coming to town soon.
At first glance, The Lone Bellow seem to be a country band. They have a twangy sound, relying mostly on acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. But to classify them as a country band is definitely selling them short. Which led me to this text exchange with one of my friends, a country music fan.
The setlist consisted of some upbeat, almost 60s soul music that kept everyone in the crowd dancing, but for me, the best part the middle of the set when they slowed it down for us.
The three main vocalists, Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist gathered around a single retro microphone to perform a few stripped down songs. It was just Elmquist’s acoustic guitar, their three voices, and fuckton of talent. Pipkin sang a cover of Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away,” with a nearly silent room as we all just watched in absolute amazement of the soul and passion coming from her mouth. It was such a beautiful moment from Pipkin and her fellow harmonizers.
We then returned to modern microphones as Williams told us “If you want to slow dance with a stranger, this is your song.” Nervous laughter followed as he then added, “…giving you guys an extra long intro to make sure you have a chance to go to her!” As the song came to a close, Williams morphed into a cover of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” much to the delight of everyone on the planet. A random shout out request of “Always Be My Baby,” was followed by a slow “do do do dah” from Elmquist. It didn’t take long for all of us to join in singing the catchy 90s classic. They stumbled over some of the lyrics, but the moment added to an already memorable evening.
Seeing The Lone Bellow perform one song on a show like JKL is great, but you need to be in the room for an entire night to fully appreciate them. Front man Zach Williams had a massive grin the whole show. He makes it difficult to question whether or not he loves his time on stage, it’s pretty apparent there’s no place he’d rather be. What I appreciated most was how organic it all felt. There was slow build to his passion with ebbs and flows, a testament to how in the moment he was. He was living and breathing with every note, just like the rest of us. It was so authentic, and it lasted the entire night.
The final song was the aforementioned “Time’s Always Leaving”. During the breakdown, Williams had the crowd split down the middle; one half would harmonize with Pipkin, and the other with Elmquist. The whole thing started to feel like the church scene from The Blues Brothers. The Lone Bellow are incredibly talented, bursting with passion and I’d be shocked if they’re not a huge sensation soon.