There's a sort of thesis I've massaged over years of seeing shows that has something to do with larger than life music being performed onstage by humans for other humans. It's hard to put into words, but, to borrow Justice Potter Stewart's phrasing, "I know it when I see it."
I saw it last night at the Kent Stage, where The Wood Brothers threw down a two-hour set of jazzy folk funk and generally communed with the eager Tuesday night crowd.
To be more specific, I saw Chris Wood thumping minor-key earthquake tones into jaunty Americana reflections. I saw Oliver Wood scratch nickel-wound yearning into the hardwood stage. I saw Jano Rix turn a guitar into a drum set. (He called it a "shuitar.")
The show opened with "The Muse," a delicate ballad that had Oliver crooning about the ups and downs of life, "trying to work some things out and not gettin' too far..." Chris took a bow to his upright bass, and Jano cast melodica washes across the background of the song.
From there, the set arced through heavier, danceable numbers ("Shoofly Pie") and downtempo introspection ("The Shore," lovingly sung by Chris). Later on, Oliver dedicated "Postcards from Hell" to all the musicians they've grown up alongside and all the musicians working sports bars around Northeast Ohio, unable to be at the show last night — all the "regular guys" who inspire them everyday. "I got a soul, but I won't sell," Oliver sang in that last one.
Throughout, the small crowd was extremely engaged with the music. There was a certain mood touching every moment of the show — that je ne sais quois — a mood that had talented musicians just leaning back into the groove, throwing down some stirring storytelling and mind-bending instrumentation. The savvy lighting around the stage also added to a sense of otherworldliness.
These guys are the real deal.
For the encore, the audience suddenly rushed toward the front of the room, growing louder and dancing with more intensity. "Luckiest Man" closed out the show and gave the Kent crowd one more high-powered rocker before we all slipped into the rain outside, all awash in the blood-moon afterglow of time well spent.