On Saturday, August 14, I had the pleasure of attending The Wood Brothers concert at the Bethlehem, PA festival Musikfest. Since live music is still just making it’s comeback in fits and starts, it’s a real joy to be able to go to a live show. And I have to say that this show was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. The band was amazing. Their music spans genres from Americana to bluesy rock with a funky jazz feel. It’s a three person band with the majority of songs being played with electric guitar, stand up bass and drums. They would switch up to acoustic guitar, electric bass and the drummer playing an interesting hand percussion instrument tricked out guitar (the drummer, Jano Rix, would also sometimes play keyboard with one hand while still playing kit drum – a pretty nifty trick). The band puts on the type of show I really enjoy, loose flowing fun, nor overproduced. For me it had more of a 70’s concert feel. Throughout the show the band had people on their feet dancing along, a real connect with the audience. Chris Wood is jazz school trained and you could really see this in some of the lines he was playing on double bass – really amazing. Oliver Wood played some smoking slide guitar parts and had a perfect rough vocal for the type of music they do. They do wonderful harmonies on the songs. It was a well put together set with driving songs to build peaks then a ballad style song to change the pace.
I found an amazingly cool video that really gives a feel for the music The Wood Brothers play. In 2013 they released an album titled ‘The Muse’. In 2020 they recorded a full live version of the album. They recorded outdoors, a perfect backdrop for their music. This was not a live show with an audience, so they were able to make sonically crisp and clear versions of the songs. It’s a long video since it’s all the songs on the album, but you can, of course, browse through the video. It certainly gives a great representation of all the styles they play and is well worth a full view if you have the time.
Before we went to the show I hadn’t checked to see who the opening bands were. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the opening band was Parsonfield. I reviewed one of their songs for a Grapevine post last year (see September 2020 Grapevine). They played this show as a two piece with some backing percussion tracks. It’s a challenge for a band to do a two person set on a live stage, but they pulled it off in fine style. They changed instruments several times moving between guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin. a very upbeat and energetic set. (Excuse the blur on the second image – I’m not great with phone photos).
Here’s a live clip of Parsonfield playing as a two piece.
I wanted to finish with saying what a wonderful venue the South Bethlehem stage at Musikfest is. The color lit backdrop of the old steel factory provides an amazing setting, the sound was top notch and the audience was really in to the show. Couldn’t ask for a better night.