One thing you can say about The Wood Brothers, they sure know how to put on a show. And it was a celebration that seemed to signal good things to come.
It goes, really, without saying, but it’s been a tough year. For many in attendance at the Frederick Fairgrounds Sunday evening, this was the first time seeing a live performance since the winter of 2020 — a long thaw indeed! But as Oliver (guitar/vocals) and Chris Wood (bass/harmonica/vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix hit the stage things started heating up. That’s both figurative and literal as the summer heat kept drive-in attendees going back for some much needed refreshments from their cars.
About an hour or so before kick off, cars started trickling into the Showtime at the Drive-in at the Frederick Fairgrounds — each area sectioned off for a safe, socially distanced concert experience.
On the stage, the band started off with an older tune, but one with a message we all needed to hear – “Sing about your troubles / And it just may pass” (“Sing About It”). That was followed by “Keep Me Around” and you could tell, as the band played… this felt good. As Oliver said just before going into “Allibaster” from the brother’s most recent LP, Kingdom in My Mind, “for us this is a new thing, being back out amongst the people.”
For me, The Wood Brothers remind me of a mix of those old folk standards and a touch of the funky New Orleans shuffle of greats like Dr. John or maybe Leon Russell. Just listen to tunes like “Don’t Think About My Death” or “Sky High” and that along with the harmonies — two and three parts — is the icing on the groove cake.
“Are you glad to be out of the house? Are you glad to be out of your cars… are you glad to be between a couple of cars?” Oliver joked to a sea of cars and cheering fans in between songs.
Using a guitar fitted as a percussive cajon, Jano kept the beat as Chris went back and forth between double bass and harmonica and Oliver went between slide and finger picked guitar. The artistry amongst the three was no more evident, though, in the “Wastin’ My Mind” which also really highlight those soaring harmonies.
And as the sun slowly started its decent, the band seemed to play the soundtrack to this summer. From “The Little Blue” and “Mary Anna” to the beautiful sentiment that “everybody’s a little bit broken and it’s alright” on “A Little Bit Broken,” the show served up a bit of refreshing lemonade on a scorcher of a year.
My favorite part of the night was the crowd’s participation on songs like the old standard “Little Liza Jane” and how the band played to the kids in the audience. You could tell they were having fun.
It felt like dipping my toes back in the water Sunday night — thinking about live music coming back, but that water felt good. The Wood Brothers continue their tour through next Spring. Definitely check them out on the road here.
Stream Kingdom in My Mind by The Wood Brothers on Spotify:
Here are some photos of The Wood Brothers performing on June 6, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.