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Railroad Revival: Old Crow Medicine Show

I like to think that if I ever get around to hiking the Appalachian Trail, that Old Crow Medicine Show will be my soundtrack. It’s back country hillbilly music that I can’t get enough of and they brought that to the stage on the Railroad Revival Tour. They were a perfect group to start off the night of music and revelry with their fiddles and banjos that they played ferociously. I’d love to see them again when they are more of a headliner as they seemed to get lost in the Edward Sharpe/Mumford anticipation. Perhaps a show with Yonder Mountain String Band?? My knees are weak at the thought.

Railroad Revival Tour

By the end of the second act of the Railroad Revival concert last night, Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons had played no less than three different instruments (plus vocals), and his own band had yet to perform. When they did eventually go on, he would add at least 2 more instruments to that list. There was no question among the cheering crowd or the bands that continually requested him on stage that Mumford’s musicality is something to be celebrated.
Everything about last nights Railroad Revival show seemed like a celebration. Fill a stage with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, and the camaraderie of a group of musicians who have spent the past six days jamming with one another aboard a train and it’s hard not to be infected with their energy and excitement.
Old Crow Medicine Show started off the set with their sound that transported me deep into the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Alex Ebert commented later saying that their name was appropriate because their musical medicine was sure to cure any ailment of the soul. He might be right. When Edward Sharpe came out on stage a friend of mine said, “It looks like a bunch of homeless people from San Francisco got together and started a band.” That’s exactly what they look like, and damn can they put on a great show! Mumford and Son finished off the set and for their final number, The Cave, they brought out the entire Austin High Marching Band to accompany them. It was perfection. Then again, I’m partial to both Mumford and Sons and marching bands.
The finale brought all the musicians on stage for a jam of Woody Guthrie’s, This Train Is Bound For Glory. As I danced and sang along in the heat and sweat of a hot Texas night, I couldn’t help but feel so lucky to be a part of this concert experience. It is a train that is bound for glory for sure.

Railroad Revival: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros

At first glance, there seems little about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros that should work as a successful and popular rock group. Yet everything about this 11+ member group that very closely resembles street people works remarkably. Alex Ebert commands the stage and the audience (which he is sometimes in) with his energy and hippie vibe. It is the closest I’ve ever felt to being part of the 60’s and 70’s concerts my father once experienced.

Alex Ebert of Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros

Their songs are infections, especially Home, which had the entire crowd dancing, whistling, and singing along. I am never entirely sure if Alex is outrageously drugged up, bat shit crazy or both. Whatever it is, he is fun to watch and they are a band always worth seeing in concert.

Big Easy Express!

In 2003 a movie called Festival Express came to the theaters. It was a documentary about a group of musicians that included Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band and other notable artists of 1970 who traveled across Canada by railcar performing concerts along the way. I called up my dad to see if he’d be my date to the film. “It’s about a bunch of bands you love” I told him. We sat in the dark of an old art house movie theater and as the film opened on footage of the first concert, my father leaned over to me and whispered, “I was at this concert.” Of course he was.
Railroad Revival is my Festival Express. “A bunch of bands I love,” comprised of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show are traveling by railcar across the southern US giving concerts along the way.  They are even filming the experience for a documentary, which I can only hope comes out sooner than the 33 years it took Festival Express.  To say that I am giddy/excited/euphoric is an understatement.
This afternoon, completely by accident and serendipity, I caught their train rolling into town. I threw my car into park and leaving the keys in the ignition and doors wide open, I raced out into the grass and watched as it casually rolled by in front of me. Artists waved from the windows, musicians played guitars in the open windows, and I was so filled with bliss at being a witness to such an event that I found my hands were shaking too much to take pictures. Fortunately, my mother had more composure and documented the occasion for me.
What is it about a group of musicians that can bring me to a shaking mess beside the railroad tracks?