Old Crow Medicine Show’s ridiculously satisfying set held the audience rapt at the Ogden Theatre on Wednesday. Photos by Tina Hagerling.
The band’s blend of old-time mountain music (with both a Rocky Mountain and Southern Appalachian flavor), Dylan-style folk, Memphis blues and traditional tunes made for a near-perfect Americana style, and they played it with a heightened, youthful fervor. The show held a level of comfort that one usually sees in the first show back home after a long tour, though the band hails from Nashville, by way of Ithaca, N.Y., and North Carolina.
Old Crow played a two-hour set, with Ketch Secor furiously fiddling between stints on the banjo, guitar, harmonica and vocals. Critter Fuqua handled banjo and vocals, with Morgan Jahnig on stand-up bass, guitarist and vocalist Willie Watson and Kevin Hayes on the six-string banjo — or “guitjo,” a guitar-banjo hybrid once popular in jazz and swing music before World War II.
The only time they really paused, aside from some good-natured banter with the audience, was to take a true intermission in the middle of the show. Few in the crowd left their coveted spots, in contrast to traditional intermissions, as they hungrily awaited the band’s return.
In the ten years Old Crow Medicine Show has been together, they’ve climbed sharply and steadily in well-deserved success. From busking on the streets of Ithaca in the mid-’90s to headlining the Grand Ole Opry in 2001 and various music festivals, to constantly sold-out shows and awards, their success continues.
The aspect that you don’t see from all of these accomplishments, and that truly backs all of their critical acclaim, is their live show. Led in most songs by Secor furiously fiddling between beautifully-barked lyrics, the five performers traded licks, picked ferociously, beat the bass and created a cyclone of music both complex and endearing.
They tore through a set list featuring the aforementioned “I Hear Them All,” as well as “Down Home Girl,” “Humdinger,” “Mary’s Kitchen” and more with quick, passionate brilliance and an almost punk-rock ferocity. One highlight, in contrast to much of the set, was a soft, beautiful rendition of the title song from the latest album, “Tennessee Pusher,” that brought to mind a feeling of quiet, mountain reverie amidst soft snowfall.
It became obvious as their show ended that there is ample justification for the band’s consistently sold-out shows. Old Crow Medicine Show left the audience at the Ogden that night (continuing their tour with a stop in Boulder the next night), in a state of pure bliss — just as I’d be willing to bet they always do, with every capacity audience, everywhere they go.
Billy Thieme is a Denver writer and regular Reverb contributor.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver freelance photographer and regular Reverb contributor.