Find Where I Belong

Stage Set Up for the April Watkins Family Hour

It had been a while since I last attended a Watkins Family Hour show and with the addition of a couple guests I wanted to see, it was a no-brainer to head up to Largo at the Coronet for the show on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. I will jump right into the set list and the recap of the concert.

  1. Sara Watkins started the show off with an fiddle tune (no name check), with Sean Watkins quickly joining in on his guitar.
  2. Love Needs a Heart” Jackson Browne cover. The pair talked about how they had recently been in Canada for two weeks with Jackson Browne, so they decided to play one of his songs that he had co-written with Valerie Carter. Sean started playing the intro on the guitar and then stopped. Sara explained, “I sing it in a different key than Jackson does,” as Sean changed the position of his capo.  They went on to perform a lovely rendition of the tune. When the song finished Sebastian Steinberg walked all the way across the stage carrying his upright bass and exited on the other side. It seems someone indicated he wasn’t needed for the next song. Sean joked, partly alluding to Sebastian’s long gray hair and beard, “That was Father Time that was paying us a visit to remind us that time passes.”
  3. Not sure of the title of this next one, but it was (a new?) one of Sean’s with a repeated line “I can still write you a song.” After the song, Sean explained that there were a lot of murder ballads in bluegrass music, but he would have difficulty writing one since it wasn’t exactly “write what you know.” He said, “I could imagine myself doing a little light stalking, that’s as close as I can get to a murder ballad.”  Sebastian came back on stage and noted that on the set list he was meant to play on the third song but that was, “Bullshit.” Then he went on to express, “I wouldn’t upset Sean, you might be subjected to some light stalking.” Special guest Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids was then introduced. There was a lot of banter on whether or not they would play the following song as they hadn’t had a chance to properly rehearse it. Regardless, they managed to create an enjoyable performance.
  4. Price to Pay” Lucinda Williams cover, Joey on guitar, with Sara singing the lead and Joey and Sean providing supporting vocals.
  5. Wayfaring Stranger” American folk song.  Joey remarked that he just met Jon Brion ten minutes ago and he requested for him to come out and play on this song. Joey asked Jon if he could embarrass him with a story and Jon responded, “I’ve been embarrassed before,” essentially giving him the go ahead. Joey told a story about how he used to see Jon’s show somewhat regularly at the old Largo location. He mentioned how there was one time when “one guy in the audience” (presumably Joey), requested a Kinks song repeatedly. Jon wasn’t playing it and eventually said that he wasn’t going to play that song. Joey said to the present audience, “He persisted. He was warned, but he persisted.” So “the guy” shouted out, “You don’t know it.” The response from Jon Brion was to play a medley of the whole album (that that song was on), except skipping the one that was requested.  Joey said it was one of the best things he’d ever heard. Anyway, the group then played “Wayfaring Stranger” with Joey on banjo and Jon fiddling around with his guitar and amp in the back and if he ended up playing anything at all it was barely audible.
  6.  Next, Joey played a new song that he wrote. He prefaced it by stating, “Everyone’s down on what’s going on. I’m more of an optimist…this song taps more into the bright side.” It starts off so, “It’s a good day to be alive…the sun is shining bright today,” but gets more warped as it goes along talking about women with coat hangers in back alleys, for example, and “I saw Lady Liberty kick off her shoes and run.” Joey exited the stage after performing this one.
  7. Walk Away Renee” Left Banke cover. Sean and Sara gave a prolonged explanation about the A.V. Club, before Sean sang this one which he chose to sing when he was visiting the A.V. Club. The good news is his original performance is available at the link. Sebastian and Jon exited the stage and we were left with just Sean and Sara.
  8. DestinationNickel Creek song from A Dotted Line. Sean said, “We enjoy playing this as a duo,” then realizing how that sounded he quickly added, “It works.” Not that they had any problems with the other guy (Chris Thile) who usually plays it with them.  Sara started off the song playing her ukulele and deftly switched to her fiddle for the ending. Borrowed a line from this song for the title of the post.
  9. In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine cover. Pete Holmes and Valerie Chaney were welcomed to the stage and they told the story of their recent engagement, when Pete proposed in a hot air balloon over the Santa Barbara wine country. The story was divulged over a walking bass line provided by Sebastian Steinberg. At one point, Jon Brion sneaked onto the stage with a couple of drum brushes and played some rhythm on the side of the upright bass, later moving over to do the same on the top of the piano. Pete and Valerie then sang the duet of the John Prine song with Sean, Sara, and Sebastian providing the musical accompaniment.
  10. Deportee” cover of a song written by Woody Guthrie.  Willie Watson was the next guest to the stage, singing this song with support from Sean, Sara, and Sebastian. During the song, Jon Brion joined on stage to play guitar and mid-chorus Joey Ryan returned to the stage to join in with harmony. Willie is quite the find if you like old school folk music. He sounds like he could be a Guthrie. Introducing the next song, Willie said, “This has been by far the most comical Watkins Family Hour I’ve ever witnessed. Well, that’s all over now.”
  11. Gallows Pole” traditional folk song, link to a different concert where Willie sang this song live. He also played the harmonica on this one.
  12. My Baby Left Me” a song written by blues singer Arthur Crudup and popularized by Elvis, link to a different concert where Willie sang this song live. Willie was joined by Sebastian on this song. Willie headed off stage after this one.
  13. Caroline No” Beach Boys cover, sung by Sara. Before starting this song Sean mentioned that he is borrowing a bass harmonica from Jon and that the first time he had heard one it was on the song “I Know There’s an Answer,” which is also on the Pet Sounds album. Jon played guitar on this one, but his volume was so low in the mix I had to really concentrate to hear what he was doing. At the end of the song the other musicians left the stage for Jon to perform a couple songs.
  14. “Trial and Error” Jon played on piano and delicately sang one of his own songs.
  15.  “I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” Jon played a jazzy rendition of this song on piano with varying dynamics and swift changes in the manner of approach and pace so that at moments Sebastian, who was playing along on bass, seemed to have difficultly keeping up with him. Thankfully there were many more moments of beautiful synchronicity to make this one of the highlights of the evening.
  16. Like a Rolling Stone” Bob Dylan cover. Everyone came back on stage for this tune which included an audience singalong and closed the main stage show.

A few of the musicians felt like playing more that night, so the Little Room was open for part 2.

  1. I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” traditional folk tune.  Willie Watson led this one, playing his banjo with Sara and Sean backing him up.  Link is to a version of this that Willie played recently elsewhere.
  2. Leaving Home” Charlie Poole cover. Willie sang this one too and I must reiterate how his voice is so perfectly suited to these old songs. He left the stage when the song was over.
  3. Miss the Mississippi and You” Jimmie Rodgers cover. Sara sang the lead vocal on this tune and Sebastian joined in on bass with Sean still on his guitar.
  4. Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan” traditional Gospel tune.
  5. Broken Headlights” from Retrospect, Joey Ryan came on stage to play one of his original tunes. This was the one song I wanted to hear him play if he decided to delve into his back catalog, so that made me pretty happy.
  6. Joey sang a new song of his, possibly called “Mourning Again in America.” It included lyrics such as: “Fell asleep with the TV on, finally feeling like I belong, woke up to a funeral song, everything I knew was gone.”
  7. Crime of Passion” performed solo by Bhi Bhiman, a friend of Joey’s who was in the audience. Sara called him up to the stage and Bhi decided to do this one after hearing the talk earlier on the main stage about murder ballads.
  8. 9 to 5” Dolly Parton cover. Sara introduced this one and sounded like she was inspired to sing this tune after having recently been watching TV in her hotel room while on tour. Sara, Sean, and Sebastian played on the song, with Jon Brion joining in on piano and eventually getting out his guitar thumb pick to add the rhythm of the typing sound that can be heard in the original version. It was a fun way to end the night.
New Watkins Family Hour Poster in the Largo Courtyard