LIVE REVIEW | Old Crow Medicine Show @ The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland 9/24/14
“The Schnitz,” as the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is known, is a surprisingly classy concert venue. The exterior is a registered historical landmark (built 1927), complete with giant “Portland” sign and flashing lights in the entryway, it certainly evokes pre-Depression era glamour and excess. This all feels slightly out of place, considering the band of the night is Old Crow Medicine Show, a seven-piece Bluegrass/Old Time band known primarily for their single “Wagon Wheel” co-written by Bob Dylan and their several appearances on This American Life.
The opening act, The Deslondes, appeared on stage at 7:30pm sharp, starting with a few slow old-timey songs perfect for a dreary day in the Pacific Northwest. They started to ramp up the intensity toward the end of their set, adding some electric instrumentation to get the crowd ready for OCMS.
Old Crow Medicine Show opened their set with classics like “Alabama High Test” and “Caroline”, as well as songs from the new record Remedy, including “8 Dogs 8 Banjos” and “Sweet Amarillo,” the latter co-written by Bob Dylan in similar fashion to “Wagon Wheel”.
Despite their comparatively large band (seven people!) the stage at the Schnitzer never felt crowded, even when the band gathered around a single microphone for a few intimate moments. To the constant chagrin of the staff of ushers, the exquisite chemistry between multi-instrumentalists Critter Fuqua and Ketch Secor had the audience dancing, sometimes spreading out into the aisles only to be politely ushered back to dance in the rows.
There was a somber moment during “Dearly Departed Friend”, a post-9/11 war ballad that was briefly broken by a confused audience when Secor mentioned drinking Olympia Beer (which is made in Washington). The song ended with a shout to “Bring ‘em home,” a sentiment it seemed the whole crowd could get behind.