The Wood Brothers are once again bringing their unique blend of folk and blues to the Vogue Theatre on Tuesday, September 30. The band is comprised of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, with Jano Rix providing percussion. They are touring in support of their recent album, The Muse, released on October 1st 2013.
I had a chance to speak with Chris Wood, who plays upright bass and sings. We spoke about how the brothers formed the band, life on the road and the show that they performed last year.
MOJO: Could you talk a little bit about your and Oliver’s childhood? Did you guys grow up playing music together?
Chris: We did. My brother is four and half years older than me. He left the house when he was twenty, but there were a couple of years where we both started playing music. We would write things together and mess around on the four track. But, it wasn’t a lot back then, it was a small window before he left the house.
M: When did you guys start playing again?
C: Well, we didn’t hang out that much for a lot of years because we were living in different parts of the country and had our own careers going. We were focusing on that and never thought to play together until eight or nine years ago. We started to reconnect. I think Oliver’s band was starting to slow down. One of the key members moved down to Atlanta where he was from. His band did a double bill with Medeski Martin and Wood and he sat in with us. That was kind of a memorable moment where I realized how good he was and how much we were musically similar. We had a connection.
M: What kind of music did you guys grow up listening to?
C: We listened to our dad. Our dad was a folk musician coming out of that late 50’s Cambridge scene. He played with Joan Baez before she got really famous. He had a radio show back then. He was a folky with a big record collection, all kinds of things. There were things we heard like Josh White and Leadbelly and a lot of things the folk guys were influenced by.
So I think that we grew up listening to all kinds of 60’s rock and of course what was on the radio in the 70’s and 80’s. I think eventually when my brother started playing guitar, he got real interested in tracing it back to the roots of that music. So, he started listening to blues like Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, things like that, just to find the roots of that music. Where did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar from? He started asking those questions and had some great vinyl that he listened to.
M: I could definitely see that. When I first saw you guys perform, seven or eight years ago at Summer Camp, it was just you and Oliver. I was wondering, what has adding Jano Rix done for the band?
C: Jano adds a lot. He is a multi-talented guy who can not only play the drums very well, but he is an amazing keyboard player, too. He actually went to school down in Miami for jazz piano. He is a very proficient piano player and a great singer.
He also plays this percussion instrument that he kind of co-invented with a friend in Nashville called the, “shitar,” which is a crappy guitar that he uses as a percussion instrument. What is really cool is that the shitar has allowed us to play unplugged but still have a beat. It sounds kind of like a beat box. It doesn’t sound like a drum set, yet it kind of imitates what a drum set does and it comes in handy when we do radio shows and we just have to walk into a radio station and play acoustic songs. It is great in a live show because we can have a segment in the show where we break down and he can get away from the drums but we still have percussion. Then he will play the little melodica keyboard that you blow through. He adds so much sonic variety to our music.
C: Not a lot of thought goes into it. We just stumble across things and you relate to them. You have an instinct that you can make that song your own in some way that is unique.
M: You tour with Oliver and MMW. I imagine you are on the road a lot. Do you like living on the road?
C: Oh, it has its pros and its cons, you know. I have a family and try to live like a normal person, but yeah, I am traveling a lot. It is definitely challenging. It takes a lot of work to keep all of those worlds together, especially in two separate bands and having a home life. To raise children and all of that, life is full.
M: What do you do after a show? Do you have a way to wind down or are you off to the next city?
C: I don’t really have trouble winding down. We put so much energy into our show. We’ll often go sign stuff or hang out with people after the show. By the time that is all said and done and we’re packing up, we’re pretty wiped out and it is time to just go to bed as soon as possible because we have to do it all over again the next day.
There is this whole image of a partying musician and it is true when you are in your twenties, I guess, you did a lot more back then. What is interesting is people come out to see you play. Especially when we have friends come out. For them, this is the one night of the week they are going out and it is a big party. For us, it is just another gig and of course we love the atmosphere and everyone having a good time, but you can only sustain that for so long because you have to make sure you get enough rest and make good decisions so that you can get through the next day.
M: I really liked the segment with Big Mic last time you guys played at the Vogue. Will we be seeing that again?
C: Big Mic? Yeah, we’re going to be touring with Big Mic. We love doing that for part of the show. We don’t get to do that during the summer time because we are playing the festival circuit and it just doesn’t work for those shows. When we play club shows, we love having that.
M: Another thing I noticed at that show is that you’ve got some really good dance moves. Where did you learn to dance?
C: I don’t know. I always liked to. I can’t say I learned it, I just like to move. I guess I finally get my chance.
The Wood Brothers
The Vogue Theatre
Tuesday, September 30th at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets are $22 at the door and can be purchased here.
To see what I thought of their show last year, check out my review, or watch the video below to get a feel for their sound.
While a lot of you were getting your EDM fix at the Wheel House Festival Saturday night, I chose a calmer route, opting to head to the Vogue Theatre to see the Wood Brothers. As an older, and dare I say classier, group of concert goers gathered at the Vogue, it was apparent that this was not your typical concert. For starters, the Vogue had chairs set up in front of the stage. This is the first time I have seen this set-up and while I was not a fan, it did fit the music of the evening. I avoided the mostly occupied chairs in favor of standing on one of the steps with a clear view of the stage.
As I entered the venue, Dom La Nena, a Brazilian-born cellist was performing with Piers Faccini, an English song writer. The two shared the stage gracefully, performing together before taking turns playing solo work. Dom La Nena’s haunting vocals blended well with the cello as she sang in Portuguese. She was humble throughout the performance, saying how happy she was to be performing.
After Dom La Nena, it was time for the Wood Brothers. The first time that I saw them was at Summer Camp four years ago. Having no prior knowledge of their music at that time, I was blown away by their sound. Ever since then, I catch them whenever they come around. Back then, the Wood Brothers had only two members- brothers Chris (upright bass) and Oliver (guitar, vocals) Wood. In recent years, they have added Jano Rix to the band, to provide percussion.
Saturday’s concert was an early one, due to the fact that the Vogue was having an after-party for Wheel House and needed the place cleared out beforehand. Chris Wood made light of this as the band came on stage saying, “We’re going to play some music here before this place turns into a disco.”
Watching a Wood Brothers show is not like watching other shows. The stage production is minimalistic and the whole performance feels raw. You are watching three guys play traditional rock n’ roll music with elements of blues and country thrown in.
The Wood Brothers are releasing a new album, “The Muse,” on October 1st and their performance weighed heavily on songs from the upcoming album.
The band mixed in a few crowd favorites including, “Atlas,” from their first album, Ways not to Lose.
About two thirds of the way through their set, reinforcing the traditional rock n’ roll aspect, the band asked the crowd to, “Shhh,” as they took out Big Mic, a single microphone. If you have ever seen old videos of Bob Dylan performing his solo work from the 1960’s, the microphone looked like that. Aside from a few drunken shouts, the crowd at the Vogue fell silent as the band gathered tightly around Big Mic and played, “Firewater,” from their new album, unplugged. It was amazing to hear how good the band sounded playing through the sole microphone.
The band restored energy into the crowd when they launched into, “One More Day.” The song featured a prominent drum solo which saw Chris Wood dancing like a mad man all over the stage. I had yet to see this at a Wood Brothers show and it was impossible to not convulse with laughter.
Concluding the show was a cover of Missippi John Hurt’s, “Make me a Pallet on your Floor,” a classic blues song.
After they left the stage, the crowd starting screaming and stomping, demanding an encore. The Wood Brothers returned to the stage to play, “The Luckiest Man.” Oliver’s vocals really shine on this song and the crowd sang along for the duration. It was hard to leave not feeling lucky after such a soulful performance.
To get a feel for how the Wood Brothers sound, check out this full session via Liveset below.
The drive in to Legend Valley was much less scenic, as expected, than the drive up Marvin’s Mountain. I entered the line around 2 p.m. (gates opened at 11 a.m.) and spent about two hours in line. After a scorching hot set up that required parking in The Bronze Lot and carrying gear across the dirt road to a tent-only area, I headed to the concert bowl for my inaugural visit inside of Legend Valley. Initial thoughts about the new home of All Good:
- The layout is a little odd, requiring festival-goers to cross a street from the campgrounds to the two main stages. Security and police did a nice job of directing the bumbling hoards of hippies through the bottleneck, but they did have a tendency to mean-mug the weary ragers on their final trek home at the end of the night.
- Speaking of security, the campgrounds were not friendly and security was more strict than usual. I personally witnessed hired help (with no real authority) approach a campsite to break up a friendly circle of toking friends who were minding their own business. Standard protocol has always been to look the other way if the party is not making a scene or blatantly dealing; this was not the case at All Good 2012.
- Once inside, the concert bowl looked and felt very much like the arena from All Good’s previous location on Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia. The singular gathering spot is one of All Good’s best qualities; knowing that everyone enjoying the festival is in the same place to hear the same music at the same time creates a special bond amongst the listeners.
- Also, have no fear- All Good may not be on a mountain any longer, but there are still plenty of hills to be climbed!
Rain was off and on all day on Thursday, so trails were muddy and grass was damp. Temperatures dropped after the moderate morning rain, but eventually rose in the afternoon.
During the Bob Weir set, the crowd was large and filled the bottom level of the arena. The hill at the back of the venue was populous, but not compact or impossible to navigate though. The Werk’s played a short 45-minute set, but received much applause and enthusiasm from the Thursday night crowd. A team of six people carried totems across the front of the audience that together spelled WERK IT. The band made several references to their upcoming festival, The Werk Out, which is also relocating to Legend Valley this year. Before concluding, they gave a shout out to Lotus and Greensky Bluegrass, suggesting everyone catch their sets later in the weekend.
Phil Lesh & Friends was a great headlining set for Thursday night after a long day of travel and camp set-up. Hardcore fans easily took a front seat for the show right in front of the stage, while the rest of the fatigued festival-goers sprawled across the back hill to rest and relax during the easy-listening jams.
Shpongle brought a party for those who were ready to get down, but his trancy, tribal sounds were a bit too much for the majority of All Good’s heady attendees. Friday morning, discussions of the previous night’s adventures suggested most hippies stuck around long enough to check him out, then headed back to the home base for the night. Those who did stay were fortunate enough to behold Shpongle’s asthetic smorgasboard of lights and thumping beats.
Shpongle photos by B. Hockensmith Photography
As early as Friday morning, the giant “WELCOME TO ALL GOOD” letters had already been rearranged to read “COME TO LOVE ALL”; I don’t know who was frisky enough to make such a bold move so early in the weekend, but it’s an All Good tradition that an AG OG made sure to carry on from previous years.
Long before I made it to the concert bowl on Friday afternoon, however, I managed to find my way to The Grassroots stage tucked into the thick of the campgrounds- yet another nod to All Good traditions. Customarily used to host early morning shows (and now also used for late night DJ sets), The Grassroots audience is a special one- comprised of the ragiest of the ragers who have yet to find their bed from the day before mingling with early risers who most likely skipped out on the previous night’s festivities altogether.
It was still raining hard enough on Friday morning to necessitate rain boots and an umbrella, but not enough to deter this Dirtfoot fan from catching the band’s 9:30 a.m. set. With no chance of waking fellow campers at my site to accompany me, I draped my Dirtfoot flag around my shoulders (made for my inaugural trip to Wakarusa last year) and set off to find my favorite gypsy punk country grumble boogie band.
A small handful of people peppered the otherwise desolate Grassroots Stage as Dirtfoot kicked off the morning with “Rest My Head”, a classic from their 2006 album Entertain Me. Diehard fans clung to the gate in front of the stage and shouted the chorus with the band, “We don’t want your bullshit, oh no! (oh no!)” Front man Matt Hazelton immediately thanked those in attendance for “being out in the rain” and swiftly moved into “Gonna Get Ya”, featuring a banjo/saxophone interlude. Three songs in, Dirtfoot finally warmed up (and the audience finally woke up) during the ultra-funky crowd pleaser “Rhinestone Ring”.
The audience was verbally thanked at least two more times for getting out of bed so early to come jam with them, but Dirtfoot also showed their appreciation by an engaging, robust show that included a lengthy version of “Back of a Stranger”, requested whistling assistance from the crowd on “My Girl” (not to be confused with The Temptations classic), and special jig by acoustic bassist Nathan Woods that involved straddling his instrument.
The rain eventually stopped (for the rest of the day) and people began to show up in record time, as if they had been huddled up in their tents listening from afar wishing the rain would stop so they could come see what the ruckus was all about. Admittedly, the Grassroots Stage isn’t entirely convenient to get to (the main venue is on the opposite end of the festival grounds) but it does have one perk: it’s totally BYOB with no security gates to pass through.
That’s right; I had a Sun King Cream Ale for breakfast on Friday morning at All Good.
The simplicity of The Wood Brothers set made it one of the standout performances of the weekend. With just three members and four instruments (Oliver Wood on vocals and guitar; Chris Wood on vocals and bass; Jano Rix on vocals, drums, and shuitar) the emphasis of their show was purely songwriting and instrumentation.
They began with “Up Above My Head” and followed with the endearing “Liza Jane” during which Oliver Wood bore a facetious face as he sang the opening lines “When I was a little boy I like to goin’ swimming, but now I am a bigger boy and I like to go with women”.
“We’re honored to be here on a great weekend of music,” Oliver paused to speak to the crowd that had assembled and then added with a burst of enthusiasm, “The suns poking out!”
The satisfying set moved along swiftly with more audience pleasers including the celebrated “Luckiest Man Alive”, which featured Rix on the melodica. “One More Day”, a song from The Wood Brothers’ new live record, incorporated a twangy interlude that completely stoped for several seconds of hesitated silence until it kicked back in for another run of the chorus and an extended jammy breakdown.
“We’re gonna play a tune from our first record; it’s a true story,” Oliver announced as Chris snuck a drink of water, to which a fan shouted out, “Coconut water!” Oliver replied, “Who likes coconut water? You like that?”
The song was “Spirit”, immediately followed by another heartfelt introduction from Oliver. “This is a song that goes out to all the fantastic musicians playing this weekend. It’s another true story. It’s about a guy who plays music ‘cause he’s gotta play music. I bet you if you asked anybody- Elephant Revival, The Wood Brothers, any of these folks playing- if there were no lights and no stages and no fans, we’d still be playing. That’s what this song is about. And a little bit of this goes out to the fans who appreciate it and who come to listen. It’s a song called ‘Postcards From Hell.’”
The song was met with cheers of joy and fervent singing from fans. Jammy, bassey “Shoofly Pie” sustained the excitement well into a guest appearance by “artist at large” Roosevelt Collier of the Lee Boys who also sat in with Galactic, ALO, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Tea Leaf Green, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Rex Jam, and Lettuce over the course of the weekend.
Moon Hooch, personally recommended by All Good founder Tim Walther, did not disappoint at their first major festival performance. The young band from New York, comprised of only two saxophonists (and all variations of the instrument) and a drummer, gave All Good a polished show that was well-received. With only one album of released music (and another one, called This Is Cave Music, in the works), the set remained true to their written songs but ventured into experimental, electronic territory.
Read my full interview with Moon Hooch here.
Rubblebucket came straight from their west coast performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show to their interactive, spirited show at The All Good Festival in Ohio. They’re currently promoting an EP that’s set to release in September and their schedule is consequently packed with very little wiggle room.
Unless, of course, you’re talking about their live show- because that’s filled with plenty of wiggle room. The eight-piece band lived up to their reputation as an “indie dance jazz” band complete with trumpet, saxophones, trombone, synths, organ, drums, percussion, electric guitar, and bass guitar. Leading lady Kalmia Traver is quite wicked and very out-there, channeling the late, great, psychedelic Janis Joplin- both in personal and musical style.
Trumpeter Alex Toth was equally as entertaining; throughout the show he danced in step with trombone player Adam Dotson as they waved their horns back and forth in the air. Later, nearing the end of the set, Toth exited the stage to catch a ride through the crowd on the shoulders of one unsuspecting spectator. By the show’s conclusion he had donned a blue vest equipped with Christmas lights and tied a neon scarf horizontally around his forehead.
To top of the sporadic and wonderfully chaotic set, two gargantuan robots named Bert and Sam wobbled into the audience from side stage to dance and play with fans in the last moments of Rubblebucket’s show.
The Yonder Mountain String Band played an energetic show, as was expected. Although their set was scheduled to end at 9:30, the festival’s emcee confessed All Good’s love for the rowdy bluegrass band (remember when they played the late-night set last year in West Virginia?) and admitted that they would break the rules for Yonder and permit an encore to appease the audience.
The Flaming Lips’ Friday night headlining set was as untamed and disorderly as I expected it to be. It began slow and stately but quickly transformed into an explosion of confetti, lights, streamers, large balloons and people dancing on stage. From my vantage point on the field, a loudspeaker was affixed to a tall pole several rows back and blasted a siren at my back as one early song faded out, sparking a moment of panic; “Is an emergency evacuation about to unfold?” I wondered to myself, but quickly returned to a state of blissful awe when the show’s theatrics continued. The highly anticipated “crowd ball” also came early in the evening and lived up to its expectations as a clumsy Wayne Coyne struggled to walk across the sea of people from inside the giant, see-through ball.
To continue the sensory overload, the show proceeded with lasers and fog and rapidly flashing projections of wild animals snarling their teeth. Coyne proclaimed his visit to All Good as “the best festival all summer” as he stared into a camera hanging obnoxiously close to his face from the microphone stand. In one of the calmer, but most revered, moments of the night, The Flaming Lips performed “Ego Trpping At The Gates of Hell”. The encore brought Coyne to the stage with a bullhorn in his hands from which he gave a speech about the necessity for the world to be full of “people like you guys”.
Flaming Lips photos by C-Style Photography
The announcement of All Good’s relocation months ago sparked a wildfire of complaints and concerns about leaving behind the breath-taking West Virginia mountaintop that has been the festival’s home for so many years. Indeed, the beauty of Marvin’s Mountaintop cannot be matched- not on a plateaued mountain in Arkansas, in a forest of lazers and lights in Michigan, or even in the hills of southeastern Ohio. The sights I saw and the vibes I felt in the mountains of West Virgina will forever rest in my heart.
BUT, as the Rolling Stones once sang, you can’t always get what you want. And while I would gladly tack back on the extra five hours of travel time to return to Marvin’s stunning Mountaintop, I believe that All Good has made the right decision in moving to a safer, more accessible venue. Legend Valley’s concert bowl- lined with trees at the top of the hill illuminated by colorful lights and flanked on either side with the famous “Welcome to All Good” letters and a huge Buddha statue- did the best it could possibly do at living up to the teenaged festival’s previous home. Matched with an equally impressive lineup rooted in the rock and roll of classic festival forefathers, there’s no way any one couldn’t have had a memorable time during their stay at Legend Valley.
Like the bumper sticker said that was being sold in the merchandise tent: it’s ALL GOOD.