The Big Surprise Tour
Koka Booth Amphitheatre—This package of roots-leaners—Old Crow Medicine Show, David Rawlings Machine with Gillian Welch, The Felice Brothers and Justin Townes Earle—could pass for something from Back in The Day. For the sake of this discussion, let's define The Day as 1971, when it wouldn't have been beyond the realm of possibility to have a caravan featuring the Holy Modal Rounders, Neil Young, The Band and Jackson Browne roaming the country. (Or, if you want to ground things in reality, The Grateful Dead, The Band and The Allman Brothers Band, à la Watkins Glen 1973. But that won't give us the same symmetry.) All in all, it was a musical medicine show, only with a tour bus instead of a rickety wagon.
OK, so then the calendar pages tear loose and fly, and it's 2009. The aptly named Old Crow Medicine Show, frisky and frantic and trad-twisting, holds down the Hold Modal Rounders' spot, with OCMS' thrill-ride mountain music an evolution of the Rounders' self-proclaimed "acid folk." Rawlings, a versatile and inventive guitarist, teams with longtime partner in music (and fellow gifted multi-instrumentalist) Welch to embody both Young's primitive spirit and free-world rocking. The Felice Brothers are the ones in charge of rustic symphonies to God, the God-fearing and other inhabitants of Old Weird America, delivered from a New Weird Americana angle. They come to it honestly—and from an area not too far removed from Big Pink. And Justin Townes Earle might not seem the obvious choice for the Jackson Browne role, but when he's not trafficking in his archival-country sound, he can play it anthemic and soul-deep like Browne. Plus, Dave Marsh once called Earle's middle-namesake "the Jackson Browne of Texas."
This wagon unloads on Monday afternoon, with the music starting at 6 p.m. General admission and reserved table seats are $35, and lawn seats are $28, increasing to $30 the day of the show. —Rick Cornell