Event Reviews
The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers

with Ida Mae

Avalon Theater • Grand Junction, Colorado • July 26, 2023

Oh Brothers! The Wood Brothers seduce an appreciative crowd at the historic Avalon Theater in Grand Junction.

“Can you come back next Wednesday?”

“You guys are amazing!”

“The best show I’ve ever seen.”

The sentiments from Wednesday night’s crowd during and after The Wood Brothers’ set should probably be etched on the stage floor, with respect to the expansive work that’s gone into restoring this gem of a venue in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado.

A woman to my left leans over and stage-whispers, “Do you think [Chris and Oliver] are brothers from a different mother?”

And to my right, a boy, probably twelve, is all grins while his older family member, a local musician and pillar of the community I recognize, is going complete fan-girl over the band’s setup.

The opener on this tour leg is Ida Mae, a pure Roman candle duo of fire that leaves the crowd so enamored that The Wood Brothers have hot grease to cook with before they even set foot on stage.

Chris Wood
Sally DeFord
Chris Wood

Starting off the set with a mellow vibe on “Far From Alone,” Oliver lets us in on the insightful songwriting he, Chris, and “third brother” Jano Rix are known for. Known is a loose term here. In full disclosure, I gave the promoter my vote of confidence that this show would sell, with a solid fan base regionally, although I wasn’t sure if we could lure music lovers who might be unfamiliar. I think the solid fan base brought their friends. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

As the band moves into “Wasting My Mind on You,” I notice people coming out of their seats in clusters, like popcorn on a hot stove. They are bobbing and bouncing, moving into the coveted areas near the stage. This crowd is not sitting still, in an auditorium that typically hosts seated shows where people stay that way aside from an ovation and encore.

We aren’t doing that tonight. This crowd is already moved, and so am I.

Oliver promises that they will pace themselves, in the same sentence that he announces an imminent Wednesday night dance party. He’s clearly reading the room here. These are professionals with souls.

“Pilgrim” brings more human popcorn. If the ceilings of this beautiful room were lower, I imagine people just exploding as they hit the top. As I look around, I see a multi-generational audience on a Wednesday night, going into a happy, bouncy sway, depending on their ability to do either. We’re all singing along. Injecting this familiar single from the band’s latest album Heart Is the Hero is great timing for a set list.

Someone near me shouts, “this is a feel-good band. Yeah!” when we hear the first few bars of “I Got Loaded,” the cover of Little Bob and the Lollipops’ 1965 original. The Wood Brothers are able to make this their own, and I don’t think anyone here even considers it a “cover” at this point.

During a stellar performance of the title track from Heart is the Hero, I sense that some aren’t as familiar with this heartfelt piece, but they try to sing along anyway, respectfully humming when the words don’t come.

This is my first time hearing the band live, but I’m familiar with their work. Ink 19 reviewed Heart Is the Hero earlier in the year, and it’s always a pleasure to cover a live show.

Chris and Oliver Wood
Sally DeFord
Chris and Oliver Wood

This live show is a sonic magic carpet where these three, all with distinct styles and backgrounds, show us their best. I hear Latin rhythm and influence, Afro-beat, swamp boogie, experimental jazz, and country — all presented with seamless confidence from a trio whose chops come from years of study and workshopping on stages both apart from each other and together.

Jano Rix is his own show without upstaging anyone. He’s deep in the pocket while playing keys with his free hand. I don’t know anyone else who can do this well. It’s not a kitsch novelty, like fiddlers who play backward or hang from a trapeze. It’s the mark of a focused multi-instrumentalist who is the perfect fit for this trio. They are in sync. Their face calls are flawless for the timing and breaks. He is indeed, the “third brother.”

Chris Wood, who many became familiar with through his work with Medeski, Martin & Wood, is the sinewy equivalent of a Jaco Pastorius with not-from-this-era dance moves. This crowd and this writer are still trying to figure out how he learned to do that. Some of us probably went home and tried to emulate — with zero success.

Oliver does most of the speaking during the show. He’s got an ease about him that commands us to listen. He’s authentic and in control of the pace with a “trust-me” tone combined with gratitude, expressed often. He misses a bar and comes in early on one song, making the “d’oh!” face for half a second, and moves on. I don’t think anyone else noticed, but I was impressed by the finesse.

Two hours from the downbeat, we get an encore that takes the risk of performing on a single condenser mic for vocal harmony on the country-flavored “Loaded” to a riled-up crowd. Again, Oliver prefaces the song with a soft ask for quiet, as these mics pick up even the most subtle background noise, and “we won’t be able to hear” if that happens. Sure enough, someone decides to have a conversation with her neighbor and the crowd goes into full policing mode in a collective “SHHHHHH.” Enough said.

The Wood Brothers
Sally DeFord
The Wood Brothers

Closing out with a “leave them happy and dancing” choice on the “straight outta NOLA” sound of “One More Day,” we danced indeed. School night or work night, it didn’t matter. Probably a “call in late” morning for those who are on the clock.

A friend gushed in the afterglow saying, “ I call them psychedelic ‘rocknroll’ Americana. I’ve never seen a better show.” Call it what you want. We’d like them back every Wednesday.

The Wood BrothersThe Avalon TheaterSandstone Concerts


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