Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter released his eighth album, Sermon on the Rocks, last fall, leaving behind much of his familiar stripped-down acoustic style for a fuller, more instrumentally dense (and energetic) sound that he’s hinted at in the past but never so fully developed. The album has been well received, leading him to play two packed nights at the 9:30 Club last week.
Thursday night at Wolf Trap was exactly what a perfect summer night looks like-- warm weather, a serene setting, and beautiful, beautiful music. From start to finish, Brandi Carlile, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, and The Lumineers put on show that had the crowd singing along, dancing, and at times, sitting spell-bound.
The evening opened at exactly 7:00pm (Wolf Trap runs a tight ship) with The Lumineers. It’s always fun to watch a crowd discover a new band. People chatted and found their seats through the opening songs of “Submarines” and “I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem But My Own,” but by the time the Denver-based band started “Classy Girls,” the crowd had warmed up, tapping their toes, intrigued to hear more. As they closed up the catchy “Flowers in Your Hair,” lead singer Wesley Schultz thanked the crowd, saying that even with all the seats that were yet to be filled by latecomers, this was the largest crowd to whom the band had ever played.
Unlike their show at Jammin’ Java in April, which was at a small venue filled with fans who already knew all the words to their songs, this time, The Lumineers had to work for it a bit more. They used their hit song “Ho Hey” mid-set to pull people in, and later drummer Jeremiah Fraites stood up during “The Candidate,” encouraging to people to clap along.
Before their last song of the night, “Stubborn Love,” The Lumineers taught the audience the words to the chorus so they’d be prepared to sing along. After a weak practice round, Schultz chided, “I know we’re not Josh Ritter, and I know we’re not Brandi Carlile but if you could help us out a little bit more during the real song, we’d appreciate it.” Emulating the energy coming from the stage, the crowd joined in, enthusiastically singing, “Keep your head up, keep your love!” to close out the set.
If you haven’t made a summer trip out to Wolf Trap yet this summer, you should seize this Thursday. Not only will you have the chance to see songstress Brandi Carlile and folk rocker Josh Ritter, but the opening band—The Lumineers—is worth the trip themselves.
Brandi Carlile hails from Seattle and has been featured on “artist to watch” type lists since she debuted on the scene in 2005. You may know her from singles such as “The Story” and “Turpentine,” the former of which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. She’s touring in support of her latest album, Bear Creek, which was released earlier this month.