The Wood Brothers played the Fillmore here in San Francisco last Saturday night, and exceeded every expectation I came in with and shattered any previous judgement I had. I knew they were good, but I didn’t know they were this good. With a little help from some industry icons like Amy Helm and Amos Lee, The Wood Brothers laid down some of the most harmonious bluegrass I’ve ever heard.
The night began with an opening set from Amy Helm, daughter of legendary musician and The Band drummer Levon Helm. Amy’s set was fantastic — warm, dialed in, and straight from the heart. With a voice you instantly fell in love with (regardless of gender).
Now, having never actually experienced either of these bands live before, I wasn’t quite ready for what I was about to experience. Comprised of brothers Chris (upright bass) and Oliver (guitar) Wood with drummer Jano Rix, The Wood Brothers have been at it as a unit since 2006 and currently call Nashville, TN home. The group came on and wasted no time, opening up with a few of their more popular songs like “The Muse” and “Keep Me Around” — but where some fans might scoff or begrudgingly wait for more “deep cut” tracks, the crowd was immediately swept away in the music, dancing, singing along, hootin’ and hollerin’. And not only are these men great lyricists, but they weave in and out of songs with copious bass solos and improvisational jams.
As the night carried on they played hits like “Who The Devil,” “Try Try Again,” and closed out the night with “Get Out My Life Woman.” You can check out the (almost) complete setlist here.
While there were several highlights (notable sit-ins from both Amy Helm AND surprise guest Amos Lee during “Luckiest Man”), it was the incredibly intricate, almost devilish, jams towards the end of “Wastin’ My Mind” that floored me. This is one thing they do incredibly well — going from a harmonious duet, to solos (both guitar and bass), to gut wrenching jams — and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given the musicianship of the members (for example, Chris Wood was a founding member of Medeski, Martin, & Wood. If you don’t know who this is, educate yourself).
All in all, I was blown away. At one point noting that “it smell(ed) like Colorado in (t)here,” the band was not only talented, but wildly entertaining. I will most certainly be catching The Wood Brothers next time they’re here in town, and would highly recommend them to anyone who loves bluegrass, rock and roll, or just damn talented musicians.