The Band: The Lumineers, April 19 2013. A folk rock band from Denver, CO, the Lumineers epitomize the roots revival movement that is bringing back acoustic instruments, unadorned harmonies, and Dust Bowl era outfits á la Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s in Come On, Eileen. You all know “Ho, Hey,” from their 2012 debut album, but their songwriting chops are strong enough to keep them from following Dexy and his coveralled- crew into the One Hit Wonder bin.
The Venue: The Greek Theatre, Berkeley. Built in 1903, this amphitheater on the UC Berkeley campus, there is simply no better place to see a show on a warm spring night. The Lumineers thought so too, repeatedly talking about how gorgeous it was and leaving the stage at one point to perform a couple songs from a platform in the back, right in the middle of the crowd.
The Company: It’s my birthday season, so my best friend and most constant concert companion Maria and her teen daughter treated my teen daughter and me to the show. Maria and I got verklempt to see our girls set off into the crowd to throw elbows and move to the front of the stage, like their moms have done together too many times to count. It’s moments like this that you really see yourself in your children.
Opening BandS: When we saw that there were two opening bands, Maria and I both had the “Dear god, why, I’m so tired and don’t want to be out too late,” reflex. Turns out with only one album to their name, the Lumineers’ set needed some filling out, so it was fine. First up was country folk trio Sawmill Joe, whose lead singer had a seriously country accent, which was weird considering he was from Maryland by way of Colorado. Lovely moment when the Lumineers came onstage to accompany them on their song, “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem.” What was a problem: Maria not being able to remember Sawmill Joe’s name, and repeatedly calling them Shoeless Joe, like the baseball player.
Directly in front of us were what I have to assume were two Cal football players: sitting shoulder to shoulder, they had the same dimensions and sturdiness as a queen sized headboard. These two jocks loved the Lumineers, knew every word and shook their booties and did the white-man’s crossed wrist air drumming move. Instead of being annoyed, we were charmed, because every time they got up and blotted out the view with their mega-backs, they’d first swivel and apologize profusely. It was adorable.
Age Humiliation Factor: Self inflicted.
The seats at the Greek are concrete benches with no back support. Maria’s daughter was taking the train from the ‘burbs to meet us, and this is the series of messages that we exchanged with Maria’s husband after we reminded him to send along those camping cushions with backs.
The Lumineers’ eponymous 2012 album was one of my favorites from last year, so I was psyched to see them play live. Their next show on their concert tour was Coachella, so I got to enjoy a Coachella band without having to wear cutoffs and a floppy macrame sunhat.
Worth Hiring the Sitter? Simply put, yes.
I loved how the show was pared down to the basics: piano, guitars, cello, drums, mandolin. Nothing fancy or electronic, certainly no dancing or fireworks, but the band still managed to fill up the whole amphitheater with song and draw the crowd in. It was also nice to hear the singer encourage the crowd to turn off their phones, and “Just be with us here, now.” Most of the audience complied, but even after he asked a second time, the fear of going screen-less for three minutes meant that some idiots kept filming.
Lead singer Wesley Keith Schultz has a rich and distinctive voice, but when they played a song so new that it’s yet to be named and the lone girl, Neyla Pekarek, carried half the vocals, Maria and I agreed we’d like to hear more of her on their next album.
The takeaway: nice, talented people genuinely thrilled to be doing what they’re doing and giving us all something to enjoy in the bargain. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
By the way, I have a new gig as a contributor on NickMom.com – it’s a great site to stop by for a quick dash of midday humor. My two latest posts are in their Top 9 Lists category: Top 9 Teenage Laments That Sound Like Country Song Titles, and Top 9 Things I Have Said To My Son and My Dog. Yes, regular readers. you spotted the blooper: I don’t have a son. But I have actually said all those things to the dog.