The Orange Peel was pretty full last Thursday night for the Abigail Washburn / Wood Brothers co-bill show. Abigail’s band opened the show with a dramatic set including a surprise performance by banjo great, Bela Fleck, and a self-destructing upright bass. As the bassist, Jon Estes, finished up an incredible solo, the neck of his instrument came right off. The video of that is definitely worth watching on YouTube.
Being a trio, and following very full sounding eight-piece band, I was a little concerned about the Wood Brothers set. A completely futile worry, because seriously, no one grooves like the Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood is the older brother and frontman of the band, doing most of the lead singing and song writing (and he plays guitar). Chris Wood adds harmonies and has upright bass super-powers. The grooves, riffs, leads and back beats he wrestles from his instrument are absolutely astounding. There are two worn-out spots on the top and side of his bass where he uses his fists against the body for additional percussion. Newly added drummer and shitar player, Jano Rix, covers any other possible groove needs. “Shitar” is not a typo, that’s what they called his instrument. It looked like regular guitar with other percussive instruments attached to the body.
The headstock was wrapped in a towel (so clearly the strings were not used or tuned), and it sounded as if the body may have been filled with dried beans or something similar. Rix wore this shitar with a strap over one shoulder, hanging straight down the front of his body, headstock resting next to his left ear. He used his hands to beat on the guitar body in various places creating a very unique hand percussion sound.
The trio debuted some songs off of their upcoming album which will be released August 2. “Shoe Fly Pie” was a stand-out, high energy song, that flowed through about three different time signatures, displayed perfect three-part harmonies, with an absolutely infectious bass line. The band also played some of their older favorites like “Luckiest Man” and “Postcards from Hell,” the latter being sung in unison by most of the audience word-for-word. I would be shocked to learn of anyone who left that show even the slightest bit disappointed.