The second night of the 2017 Americana Music Festival was an abbreviated one in the Showcase venues, with only two or three acts performing due to a late start caused by the Americana Music Awards ceremony. But that abbreviated slate didn't mean less energy as Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real and The Wood Brothers brought an electric rock and roll party to the Cannery Ballroom.
Lukas Nelson has an Americana pedigree that can't be beat. Not only is he the son of country outlaw and proto-Americana pioneer Willie Nelson, but he and his band Promise of the Real also served as the touring band for another Americana god, Neil Young. But, while Nelson has certainly learned a thing or two about performing and holding a crowd from those two music titans, he proved on Wednesday night that he isn't planning on standing on anyone's shoulders to success.
Nelson and Promise of the Real owe more musically to hard driving Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Outlaws than to either the elder Nelson or Young. During their 45 minute set, the band played their audience like another instrument, hitting them hard with driving electric rockers like “Die Alone” before slowing things down with a ballad like “Forget About Georgia”, before cranking up the feedback again.
The packed house at the Cannery Ballroom were certainly on board for the ride as they gave Nelson and company as much energy as they were willing to take. They seemed determined to pack a full night of music into just two acts.
Closing out the night at The Cannery was a band that is different in many ways from Lukas Nelson, The Wood Brothers. But then the band consisting of brothers Oliver and Chris Wood and Jano Rix are different than any band in Americana music. Pulling equally from Oliver's past as guitarist for an electric rock and funk band and from Chris' jazz-infused rock with his other band Medeski, Martin, and Wood, The Wood Brothers duality can be summed up by the appearance of the brothers themselves.
To the left of the stage is Chris, short haired, stoic, and playing a huge acoustic upright bass. On the other side of the stage is Oliver, long haired, high energy, and wielding an electric guitar like it was a weapon of mass destruction. Between, and sometimes behind, them is Rix, whose percussion and multi-instrumental skills brings the whole thing together.
Many of the Lukas Nelson crowd left after their set but were more than replaced by almost rabid Wood Brothers fans. They crowded the stage to get a listen to a setlist that pulled from the band's old and new material.
Musically, it's hard to think of a three piece act in Americana with more pure musicianship than the Wood Brothers. But their often complex music never ventures into pretension, remaining accessible to all while weaving layer melodies for those seeking it.