Clearly from a different era, The Deslondes jumped on stage Saturday night, unironically sporting cowboy boots and rolled up sleeves — even the guitarist wore a pair of overalls and a trucker hat.
Not many in the crowd had heard of The Deslondes, the preface to Old Crow Medicine Show, but they were an instant crowd-pleaser with their fast-paced, boot-stamping numbers. Hailing from New Orleans, the bluegrass-y country quintet appeared to have been taken straight from a Southern street corner, where they were likely singing songs around a fire. Their tunes exuded the kind of raw authenticity you find in old-school country music — from the unfiltered vocal harmonies to the percussionist tapping a brick with a hammer to keep time.
Soon after a break came Old Crow Medicine Show — the headliner September 20 at San Francisco’s The Masonic and the newest member of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry — a seven-piece band with more than enough energy to have most of the crowd hoedowning as if we were at a county fair. The Crows’ frontman Ketch Secor introduced his ensemble with exaggerated expressions and an accent thick with Nashville twang.
The Crows don’t seem to take live performing as a routine activity — each new city is a new place to find “hillbillies,” as they called the crowd endearingly, and a new set of people with which to share a good old-fashioned country music hootenanny. Each of the musicians performed with at least two instruments, ranging from guitars, dobros, banjos, pedal steel guitars, harmonicas, and perhaps most frequently, fiddles. Mandolin player Cory Younts was a crowd favorite, skipping up and down the stage with what looked like a country descendant of a Celtic jig.
Teasing the crowd towards the end of the show, Secor stood, fiddle bow raised above his head. Some of hairs dangled loose, having been pulled out by his vivacious fiddling. As soon as he began playing the familiar melody of “Wagon Wheel,” the crowd roared with approval. As to be expected, this song, penned by both Secor and Bob Dylan and which reached platinum in April 2013, finished the set. As a final encore, the Deslondes joined the Crows on stage in a giant mix of string instruments and southern accents to belt out the lyrics to “Cocaine Habit.”
Old Crow Medicine Show continues its tour on the West Coast and into Canada, accompanied by The Deslondes. Check out the remaining dates here.