Dawn Landes, Jason Isbell and Will Hoge played Headliner’s last Friday and it was one of the few shows that I was equally excited for each act. Dawn, a Louisville native, started things off and it had to be that way. Her melodic folk sound warmed the crowd, but required our attention. If we waited until after the crowd was warmed by a few bourbons, her sound would have been drowned out by the bar. For those of you who saw her cover of Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” on youtube, she didn’t bring the “old guys” with her, so, despite requests from the audience, Headliner’s was not graced for the second time with one of the most ubiquitous songs since The Macarena. While her cover of the song is my favorite of the bunch, I’m actually glad she didn’t play it. She played a solid set that highlighted her new album, Fireproof, available on iTunes now, or in stores tomorrow, March 5th. Dawn also stepped in for Jason Isbell who missed his live lunch performance.
Our hometown girl was in a really good mood as well, telling us how she loved Louisville, KY…making a heart out of her hands. After the set, I had the opportunity to speak with her & she was so incredibly nice. We have some mutual friends & I was shocked to hear that she actually managed to keep up with what was happening in their lives. I’d mentioned earlier that my friend Katie tried to get me to go to her concert back in 2000, but if I’d have known how cute she was I’d have been there in a heartbeat. It was great to get to see her play & I’m incredibly excited for all of the buzz that has built up around her & I imagine her boots are going to get a lot of use as her names gets spread more & more over the next year….I think this is the start of something very big for Dawn.
Not much time was wasted between sets and Jason Isbell took the stage next. He was accompanied by the 400 Unit, sort-of. I had been a fan of the Drive-By Truckers, but never had listened to Isbell’s solo stuff and I really like what I heard (he recommended that, in addition to his album we should pick up a DBT disc because he still gets a kick back from some of their songs). We actually got to see the DBT the next day at Ear x-tacy, which was so packed some of our friends couldn’t leave the vinyl section until the show was over because the stairs were so crowded. Isbell’s sound isn’t a huge departure from the DBT, sticking to the classic southern rock and his talent on the guitar still rang through on lead, often breaking out an unusual clay slide (appropriately, it looked like he busted it off the top of a jug of moonshine). If he didn’t have the slide handy, he would simply use the mic stand. He had some big fans in the audience singing every lyric from nearly every song (the ever-important “rock on” fist in the pictures below was amongst them). Everyone was in a good mood and it circulated around the room. Even the band seemed in good spirits, which is amazing after the year they have been having. Perhaps that is why a bottle of Jack sat in the middle of the stage for the occasional pull by Isbell and his band (mostly by Isbell). He played a bunch of songs from his new album. My two personal highlights of the show were the tracks “Decoration Day” and “Dress Blue”, both of which are very emotional and terribly sad tracks, the later being about a soldier who died in the more recent of the Iraq wars, as Jason sings “You never planned on a bomb in the sand”. I think the clear crowd favorite though would have had to have been “Chicago Promenade” as the crowd went absolutely nuts over it, particularly the aforementioned sing-a-long fans.
Will Hoge went on next around 11. Eleanor Whitmore played violin and provided back-up vocals for Will and also made appearances with Dawn and Isbell. She gets the MVP for the night for certain. Will clearly has a certain affinity for Bob Dylan, what with his overall image and style, as well as that harmonica. I’d been hearing so many things for so long about Will Hoge & his live performances (I have a friend who is obsessed). I was really entertained by Will as I thought he had wonderful stage presence & his sort of alt-folk rock sound combined with the incredible energy of his show made for a wonderful night. We talk so much about Dawn being a hometown girl, but Will isn’t far away, having gone to college at WKU for a few years.
I would have liked to have heard a little more harmonica, but I really enjoyed the energy that Will had more than anything…the expressiveness in his face as he sang words that seemed to make him remember what’d he’d written them about in the first place. The highlight of the evening was when Will called everyone back up…not just Dawn & Jason, but everyone in both of their bands…Jason was outside smoking, Dawn came on to stage with a beer in hand…and they all played and had so much fun together. This was the second to the last show, with Nashville being the final stopping point on a tour with a lot of bumps and bruises, and they looked like they truly had all become friends over the trials and tribulations dealt with while touring together, as everyone sung or played with someone from a different band than their own, including the free-floating Eleanor. The concert was exactly the sort of music experience you were hoping still exists, particularly those into that Roots Rock vibe….it was a wonderful show & I’ll be seeing Will again soon, I hope.
Will is heading down to play on the final day of the Langerado Music Fest at the Everglades National Park in Florida this weekend with The Beastie Boys, The National, of Montreal, !!!, Vampire Weekend, Dan Deacon, REM and a ton of others. Talk about a great weekend.
For a few setlists & loads of photos,
Dawn Landes Set List
- Kids in a Play
- Sweetheart of the Rodeo
- Dig Me a Hole
- You Alone
- Picture Show