Folk trio The Lone Bellow made their first appearance before a live crowd following the pandemic at Bethesda’s Strathmore recently. The venue is transitioning toward a past-pandemic world and, for now, they are holding socially-distanced shows on their outdoor patio.
The Lone Bellow played two shows that night. At the early show, the sun was still bright and clear, and it was an unusually temperate day for mid-June, making for a perfect night for live music. After the opening number, frontman Zach Williams said, “I love that the cicadas are out this evening;” later, guitarist Brian Elmquist commented on how perfect it was: “the cicadas, the birds, and a folk guitar melody.”
On June 17, TLB’s opening number, “Good Times,” received a powerful round of applause from an appreciative crowd. “It’s so good to hear your claps,” Zach said. Speaking about playing livestreams, he added, that when you “finish a song, it’s just you and the silence…that was the first applause we’ve heard in a long time.”
“We put out a new record two weeks before the pandemic.” Zach explained, referring to Half Moon Light, and adding a biting comment about the failure in strategy. With the pandemic, the band hadn’t had the opportunity to play the new material for live audiences, so several songs debuted on Wednesday evening, including “Dried Up River,” “Goodness,” and “Martingales.” Introducing the latter, Zach told the crowd, “I’ve been wanting to sing this song for people for a year and a half.”
TLB were clearly delighted to be playing for a live crowd again, and there was a visible, audible joy in the banter between the band. Taking Zach’s guitar, multi-instrumentalist Kanene Donehey Pipkin teased him about his ugly tuner, comparing it to various boxy cars. Over the course of the show, Kanene played resonator and acoutic guitar and mandolin. She sang lead on “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” and “Call to War.”
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Zach also engaged with the crowd. After TLB played “You Never Nobody,” he asked, “Anybody come in from out of town?” Someone answered, “Baltimore,” to which Zach replied, “Alright!” He joked that this was “my favorite part of the show, when we just tune our instruments into the microphone.”
Other songs included “I Can Feel You Dancing,” “Count on Me,” “August,” and “Feather.” On several of the numbers, the band got the audience clapping along, while, on others, Brian stamped his foot rather impressively, considering how soft and thin his loafers appeared. On nearly every umber, the bands trademark gorgeous, close harmonies were on full display, with the band finishing several songs with just their voices together.
Closing their set with “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold,” TLB returned for an encore following a standing ovation. They played a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and sent everyone home with “Tree to Grow.”