As the bright sun began a slow decent and amid echoes from last minute instrument tunings, The Wood Brothers took the stage and opened their set with "Cry Over Nothing". This was followed by two other offerings, "Little Bit Sweet" and "Alabaster" also from their latest studio release Kingdom In My Mind (2020).
The Wood Brothers originated as an American Roots band in New York City in 2004. They intertwine a funky folk gospel vibe with a heavy blues vibe to give birth to a style all their own. They have released eight studio albums with their sixth release, One Drop of Truth (2018) garnishing national recognition and nominated for the Best Americana Album award at the 61st Grammy Awards. The Wood Brothers include:
Chris Wood - Upright and electric bass, Harmonica, Vocals - also known to do some jigs on stage!
Oliver Wood - Guitar, Vocals - A voice you can't mistake for anyone else!
Jano Rix - Drums, Keyboards, Vocals, Melodica, Shuitar - among other noisemakers!
Upon introducing Jano Rix and his Shuitar, Oliver Wood then proclaimed the next song was being "sent out to all the muses". Of course, what else could follow as the trio broke into "The Muse" and "Keep Me Around" from the album The Muse (2013). In case you are not in the know, I once heard Jano describe the Shuitar as a very crappy guitar he morphed into a percussion instrument complete with a snare and other miscellaneous bells and whistles. Once again, the elder Wood brother grabbed the microphone and with a somewhat serious tone acknowledged that "everybody got broken the past couple of years" and the next song reflected such. Hence "Little Bit Broken".
"Stumbled In" was next on the docket followed by "Happiness Jones", complete with the dapper Chris Wood donning an Indiana Jones hat and doing a funky little jig with his upright bass. Watch out Justin Timberlake, he has quite the moves as this really got folks on 500 S. McDowell Street out of their seats and shaking what their mama's gave them. The Wood Brothers concluded their night by thanking Greensky Bluegrass for allowing them to join them on tour and got full crowd participation with "Luckiest Man". Just another amazing performance by a very talented trio of musicians.
As the house lights dimmed to reveal the darkness of night, the anticipation of what was to come was inescapable. The atmosphere within the amphitheater, blanketed by a layer of sweet leaf perfume, was ripe for a chance to be entertained and hypnotized. And so it began with a boisterous "Good Evening" from the darkness of the Red Hat stage as Greensky Bluegrass opened with "Past My Prime". A cover of Cris Jacob's "Bone Digger" got the crowd locked into a groove and showcased what an incredible light show accompanies each live performance. Pretty much rivals a scaled down version of a Pink Floyd show in my humble opinion.
Hailing from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass formed in 2000 as an American bluegrass jam band. But let me tell you, they are certainly not your typical bluegrass band by any stretch of the imagination. They are all in their own right masterful musicians with a knack for exploring new frontiers and morphing into whatever they want when they want. You want more rock and roll, you got it, you want a more clogging and foot stomping vibe, hell yeah, you want some psychedelic, bring it on bro. The current lineup includes:
Michael Arlen Bont - Banjo, Vocals
Dave Bruzza - Guitar, Vocals
Paul Hoffman - Mandolin, Lead Vocals
Anders Beck - Dobro, Vocals
Mike Devol - Upright Bass, Vocals
Showing much love for The Wood Brothers and thanking them for joining the tour, Hoffman proclaimed the show to be a "WoodSky" show. He then asked the jubilant patrons of Red Hat if they were feeling alright on a Saturday night. Collective response - Hell Yeah! The night continued with plenty of extended jams as each musician showcased their individual skills on their selected instruments, not trying to outshine the other but working as a collective group with one goal to accomplish - play the hell out of some music!
Highlights from the set included "Oh My Sweet Carolina" (cover from North Carolina's own Ryan Adams), "Do It Alone", "Living Over", and "Worried About The Weather" - which included a psychedelic Christmas tree colored light show progressing into a groove heavy version of the Grateful Dead's "China Cat Sunflower". The set concluded with "New & Improved" from the band's latest studio release Stress Dreams (2022) as the band exited the stage and left the crowd clamoring for more.
As Greensky Bluegrass reappeared on stage they graciously welcomed back The Wood Brothers and once again proclaimed this to be a "Woodsky" show. This reincarnation included all eight band members on stage at once much to the delight of those in attendance. It was now time to settle in for perhaps one of the most amazing encores I have seen and heard in quite a while.
Allen Toussaint's "Get Out My Life Woman" launched the final stanza as both bands seamlessly acclimated themselves to one another on stage. Next up, an incredible jam session to one of my favorite Allman Brothers songs "One Way Out". And if this was not enough, the next selection complete with an electric bass slapping intro from Chris Wood, "Keep On Growing" paid tribute to the timeless music of Derek and the Dominos. But wait, there is more! The evening of singing and grooving ultimately concluded with "I Shall Be Released" (Bob Dylan). Do yourself a big favor, if you ever get a chance to see either of these bands go for it. You will not be disappointed! Just incredible!
Words by: Ike Riddick
Photos by: Jerry Friend