Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
Soulful tunes, warm weather, and cold brews were to be had as Pisgah Brewing Company kicks off the summer in Appalachia with their first of many outdoor concerts this year. Pisgah’s first 2013 outdoor show featured roots rockers Dangermuffin, local bluegrass outfit Town Mountain, soulful folk masters Elephant Revival and slam grass innovators Leftover Salmon. With a lineup like this in such an ideal setting, I knew western North Carolina was in for an elevating experience.
One of the best reasons to make it out to a Pisgah outdoor show, if you haven’t already, is the environment. Somehow Pisgah Brewing has managed to create a music lovers haven complete with a beautiful outdoor woodwork stage, lush scenery, food vendors, and some of Western NC’s finest craft beer, all in an unassuming location. Overall, the vibe Pisgah has created is reminiscent of many small bluegrass festivals in the Blue Ridge. With blankets spread, lawn chairs out, and beer on tap, the stage was set for the perfect outdoor listening experience.
Nederland, CO act Elephant Revival was the first of two acts I was able to hear as the sun began to set behind the mountains. This eclectic folk group filled the summer air with their caressing vocal harmonies and a simple, yet effective string band sound that denotes African and Celtic influences. The cohesive sound created by the chemistry of the group was incredible. Although each member was talented enough to stand alone as a solo artist, the sum of the whole was far greater in sound than each member alone. The aural landscape created was filled with unique harmonies and call and answer type string band accompaniment. Elephant Revival truly stands apart in my mind for each member’s ability to contribute, not only as multi-instrumentalists, but as vocalists as well. I couldn’t help but fall for the heartfelt yet charming cries of the lead vocalist Bonnie Paine. Her voice soothes the soul and pulls the heartstrings in a way that few vocalists can match. In addition to providing tender vocal lines that haunt the mind for days after, Bonnie Paine also served as an excellent rhythm section. The tapping of her washboard created an exceptional drive to the music as she commanded the instrument in way I didn’t know was possible. In all, if you enjoy bluegrass and folk music, do not miss your next chance to catch this group.
The next act to take the stage was headliners, Leftover Salmon. I caught Leftover back in October at Harvest Festival in Arkansas, but it wasn’t until this show, at Pisgah, that I was really able to see what they are truly capable of. Salmon kicked off the evening with a high energy multi-genre set.; African rock, Latin, jazz, and Cajun influences glide between one another seamlessly keeping the listener endlessly guessing what’s to come next. To my surprise, they brought out Bonnie Paine, from Elephant Revival, to accompany the band on washboard for the last 30 minutes of the set. Bonnie’s washboard skills perfectly complimented leftover salmon’s Cajun elements making me wonder, “Why doesn’t Leftover always have a washboard player?”
Leftover Salmon surprised me even more with the diversity of experience between the Pisgah show and my previous Harvest Festival experience. Their repertoire is clearly expansive enough to keep you coming night after night on tour. If electric world infused Americana gets you floppin’, then be sure to make it upstream to a Leftover Salmon show.