“We’re in a barn. Shit.” – Dean Povinsky, Wildlife
Having grown up in the country (not too far from the site where the Daytrotter Barnstormer 5 tour set down in Akron), I’m not unfamiliar with hearing live music in barns – though in my childhood experiences, the bands were usually a sidenote to a pig roasting on a spit or people getting drunk at a company picnic. Don’t get me wrong: there were people getting drunk at the beautiful Conrad Botzum Farmstead Barn Wednesday night, but the main event was clearly the music.
The show started promptly at 6:30 PM, the sun still out, shining in through the open barn door and windows. A group of photogenic young men dressed all in black with matching teal armbands (“We chose black for our uniforms,” keyboard player Tim Daugulis commented later. “What a great idea.” “Oh yeah: daylight,” singer/guitarist Dean Povinsky added) drew people into the barn from the deck and surrounding grounds with their energetic set. This was Wildlife. Belting out passionate vocals and rocking hard, half the band’s black uniforms were sweat-soaked by the third song. I liked Wildlife immediately and even got goosebumps during an a cappella break toward the end of the last song of their set.
Next up was Princeton, an L.A. band led by twin brothers Matt and Jesse Kivel. Their synth-heavy mellow dance music was not my thing, but they had a friendly presence, and the woman in striped jeans to my right danced ecstatically through most of the set.
Doug Paisley was probably the artist on the bill who most fit people’s idea of music you might usually hear emanating from a barn. Looking like the lovechild of Thurston Moore and John Doe, Paisley is a sweet guitarist with a comfortable, weathered voice. In his songs, he is a storyteller, but he joked about trying to keep quiet between songs because stage banter didn’t seem to work for him. “I don’t like telling the same jokes every night,” he said. “I think you should keep things fresh. That may be my problem.” Either way, he had a barnful of people quietly transfixed by the end of his set.
(In a slightly mistimed moment of serendipity, a bat flew high over Paisley’s head a couple of songs after he played “Bat Song”.)
For the seventh inning stretch, White Rabbits brought their spirited Brit-style pop-rock to make the barn bounce. They brought out a crop of new songs that still managed to engage the crowd, though it was with their last couple of songs, more familiar tunes, that really brought punch to their set.
I have gushed about Hacienda on this blog before, and this is going to be more of the same. I tell everyone that they are one of my favorite live bands for a very good reason. These guys always serve up a loose soul groove while still being a very tight unit, and there aren’t many bands who make me dance more at shows. The Villanueva brothers and cousin Dante brought out a bunch of new songs from their third album, recently recorded at Dan Auerbach’s relocated Easy Eye Studio in Nashville, my favorite being “You Just Don’t Know” with its superior soul groove. And while the new songs were great, it was in the more familiar tunes where they really laid it down. They ended their set with a spectacular version of their Everly Brothers cover “You’re My Girl” that featured an extended groove-jam intro and left the crowd hollering for more. They proceeded to top themselves with an encore of “Mama’s Cookin'” that could have set the barn aflame had it gotten any hotter.
All in all, a great evening in a great setting. I’d like to extend my personal thanks to Sean Moeller and the Daytrotter crew for bringing this great tour to Ohio this time around.