8.17.2012

The Boots and Oversized Sweaters Dynasty

It isn't out of the ordinary for me to leave a quality concert feeling motivated to become a quality musician. Something in my brain must firmly believe that attending a show means I suddenly gain heaps of musical ability solely by osmosis. Seeing Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at Humphrey's was no different-- I left the venue with a laundry list of talents to procure as soon as humanly possible. What started with 'sing like Gillian' and 'play like Dave', trickled all the way down to 'be the best sound mixer in the Universe'. I've got a lot to work on.

 Gillian opened the concert with staples "Orphan Girl", "Scarlet Town", and "Rock of Ages"-- the excellence of which assured all of us in the audience that buying our tickets was money very, very well-spent. Having only been privileged to hear Gillian's voice through headphones prior to this show, I was completely blown away with the quality of her voice in person. Pitch-perfect accuracy was achieved with a smile that never faded. Gilllian's crystal clear voice coupled with Dave's rich supporting role made it almost hard to distinguish who was singing which note. Their voices complement each other in such a way that cannot be produced from sound mixing. It was pure; it just worked.

 Thanks to the fog rolling in and a banjo that just wouldn't stay in tune, we were lucky enough for a change up in the set list and a last minute addition of "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor". The quietly earnest tune from the 2003 album 'Soul Journey' was dedicated to the late Doc Watson. Gillian and Dave shared personal stories about the folk guitar legend which instantly changed the mood of the concert from a well-organized production to a laid back, "just-playing-songs-on-our-porch-and-we're-glad-you're-here" kind of vibe. It wasn't long after the mood swing that Gillian and Dave tried out a new arrangement of 'Six White Horses'. Sharing one microphone and providing percussion via knee-slaps and claps undoubtedly charmed every last person in attendance that night. Gillian, clad in an embroidered sundress, showed us her new cowboy boots and started dancing an Appalachian jig reminiscent of D. Ray White. Gillian Welch tap dancing. Does it get better?
I always go to concerts hoping a few songs in particular get played. I was crossing my fingers but not holding my breath that Gillian would play 'Revelator', but during a particularly heartbreaking version of 'Down Along the Dixie Line' I knew that I would be content if 'Revelator' wasn't played at all. But then it happened. Eight minutes of pure, unadulterated bliss happened. 'Revelator' was played flawlessly, and when I say flawlessly I mean I was on the verge of tears for seven of those eight beautiful minutes (I took a one-minute break to write on my notepad something along the lines of "I can't believe this is really happening.") Rawlings' guitar solo was tragic in all the right ways. I might have given myself heart palpitations due to the anxiety of anticipating how good he could possibly be, and as the song went on it became evident he is the only man who can play the guitar that way. Gillian's voice was the perfect mix of heartbreaking and endearing. Luckily the close of that song didn't mean the close of the concert, and Gillian and Dave had the audience singing harmonies to 'Look at Miss Ohio' before they closed the show with the lively 'Caleb Meyer'. After a show like that, the audience wasn't about to just let Gillian and Dave leave, so our incessant cheering enticed them back on the stage for two encores. The ever-pleasing 'I'll Fly Away' and an energetic cover of Johnny Cash's 'Jackson' left us with all the sing-along material we needed to make the drive back home, happily remembering the night we hung out with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings on the porch.

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