Lucinda Williams is a country music icon. A goddess. The rebellious, sensual soul-daughter of Loretta Lynn. That the Swell Season, and not she, was slated to close out the night felt like a betrayal. Whether or not the Swell Season even qualifies as roots music is debatable. Not to rag on a band that's been through so much recently, but the Swell Season has put out three full-length records to Williams' nine. The woman has been putting out music for more than three decades and has three Grammies under her belt. Surely that alone deserves a headlining slot.
Dylan Priest Lucinda Williams performed at Marymoor Park Saturday, August 21
Williams, is also a class act, however (classier than me, anyway), and her excellent performance betrayed no signs of annoyance at being passed over as the festival's headliner. During the show, she announced that she and her band recently finished an album, which will be out in October, and played a song from that record called "Buttercup" about breaking it off with a drug-addicted Peter Pan of a boyfriend (complete set list available after the jump).Lucinda Williams has never shied away from racy, overtly sexual subject matter in her songs (what is "Essence" if not a poetic, thinly-veiled reference to spooge?), and her music's overt sensuality is one of the things I've always loved most about it. When the band (guitarist Val McCallum, bassist Dave Sutton and drummer Butch Norton, all of whom were fantastic) began playing the opening bars of "Righteously," I got really excited. It's one of my favorite songs of hers. Alas, it was a bit of a letdown. There was nothing technically wrong with the performance, but Lucinda delivered the song without the conviction she brought to the rest of the performance -- particularly break-up jams like "Change the Locks" and "Joy."
Before the show, I didn't think much of the Swell Season, but the band's live show forced me to reconsider. In busker-esque fashion, the Swell Season does a brisk business riffing on songs that already exist -- "Falling Slowly," "True Love Will Find You in the End"-- and Glen Hansard's likable onstage persona is similar to that of a seasoned busker. I liked the band fine, but if it wasn't for Hansard's and Markéta Irglová's angelic voices, the music wouldn't have held me, and I still chose to leave a few songs early to beat traffic.
As for the rest of the day, the best supporting acts were all locals: Sera Cahoone, the Cave Singers, and the Maldives. All three bands debuted promising new material, and the crowd response to the Cave Singers, in particular, was fantastic, and the band responded in kind; by the end of the set, Pete Quirk was breathless and dripping. I wish the Maldives had played more of the fantastic new material they played at Doe Bay for the No Depression crowd, but since bassist and drummer were both gone, Kevin Barrans had to sub on drums, which might explain why the band didn't debut more new material. Not that the set disappointed in any way; it just made me feel even more privileged to be one of the folks who got to see their set at Doe Bay Fest. And guitarist Jesse Bonn still whipped out that rock star jump he's gotten so good at. Meanwhile, the Head and the Heart's acoustic incarnation dominated the assortment of buskers assigned to perform between mainstage sets.
Other highlights included:
- Kim Ruehl tap-dancing to Sera Cahoone's band playing "Rocket Top"
- Chuck Prophet: "Sorry if the band's a little lackluster. They've been up all night. Fucking."
- Pete Quirk on Derek Fudesco: "I just want to sit on his lap, you know?"
Lucinda Williams' set list:
"Tears of Joy"
"Change the Locks"
"Out of Touch"