Words & Photos By Seth Drury
The description of “Brooklyn Country” might not convey the energy in which The Lone Bellow overtake the stages they play or the rooms they fill. Two songs in and dripping sweat, singer/guitarist Zach Williams finally paused to greet the sold-out crowd at the Maintenance Shop in Ames while discreetly trying to replace a broken E string. After explaining his theory of how his back-up guitar, stolen the night before in Chicago, was going to spurn a new artist to a successful career, he decided they would try to proceed with a five-string show. Selflessly, opener Damon Dotson supplied the guitar he had used to warm-up the crowd to help the show go on.
The Brooklyn based band (Willams, Brian Elmquist – guitar/vocals and Kanene Donehey Pipkin – mandolin/vocals touring with husband Jason Pipkin – bass and Brian Griffin – drums) harmonized to a hushed room at times while building to the full volume capable of the band while the captivated audience sang and clapped along. While many of the songs feature the harmonies the group has come to be known for, what was truly impressive was each member taking lead vocals on any particular song as the others step aside and show the strength and musicianship the group contains. This was on display particularly during the middle of the 90 minute set when after playing the frantically charged “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” they spun into a new song, “Georgia Will” (hopefully included in their second album), that featured Elmquist jamming a bluesy riff while Griffin drove the toe-tapping beat to a T. But quickly it was only the trio that remained. After removing the mics from the stage to set up a truly acoustic version of “Watch Over Us” which again featured Elmquist, and in my opinion was the high point of the show. They continued the unplugged feel with a haunted version of “Two Sides of Lonely,” as Willams’ voice hung with the silenced crowd as he poured the passion and soul into the song as if he were alone.
Before the audience fully had time to comprehend the raw talent that had taken place on the stage before them, the full band was back with a classic John Pine cover, causing a handful of audience members to join in. The young trio, starting to headline their own shows, openly admitted to playing and trying new songs on the fly in order to fill their set. Joking that headlining is tough when you only have one album, but the audience was happy to play hamster and take in the new material. The three discussed harmonies in mid-chorus, showing the connection they have that can only be formed from practicing in a van while traveling cross-country. Following the venture into new territory, the lady of the trio, Kanene, had a chance to show her chops with bluesy riffs and playful smiles to the audience during “Button” which is available on iTunes.
The trio concluded to a well-deserved ovation during “The One You Should’ve Let Go.” As they briefly exited the stage, there was no doubt that they would return to close out with a staple from their debut self-titled album. As they played their second song in the encore, Williams brought the whole band to the front of the stage and continued, once again, to move into full acoustic mode. The Lone Bellow showed the connection they had formed with the audience, continuing to sing the chorus of “Teach Me to Know” as they pushed out into the middle of the crowd. Williams directed everyone with his hands and the whole audience harmonized as they were “carried away” to end the night.
- You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional^
- You Never Need Nobody^
- You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To^
- Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold^
- NEW Georgia Will
- Watch Over Us
- Two Sides of Lonely^
- Tree to Grow^
- Angel from Montgomery (John Pine cover)
- Cold As It Is* (NEW unknown title)
- Hickory to help you ride* (NEW unknown title)
- Leave me or Let me Go
- The One You Should’ve Let Go^
- I Let You Go
- Teach Me to Know^
*Unknown Title to song
^Appears on debut self-title album