The Spin followed the sea of bobbing folding chairs being carried on the backs of concertgoers into the The Woods Amphitheater Saturday evening. These were nice folding chairs, the kind that have special backpack straps for ease of transport, designed for and purchased by people for whom outdoor summer concerts are a way of life. The women were all beautiful in their sundresses or cutoff shorts with strappy sandals, and the men all looked vaguely militaristic with short hair, cargo shorts and flip-flops. “I need to get in shape,” said one such dude behind us as we waited in line for one of six porta-potties. “I’ve shrunk 20 pounds.” The Woods’ audience, we decided, is basically the Live on the Green audience with gainful employment.
Despite a high in the 90s on Saturday, by around 7 p.m. the air was pleasant, and the sun was setting as we made our way past the food trucks to the grassy field to set up our own lawn chair — ours may not be as nice, but we’re not fool enough to show up without the requisite gear. Onetime Scene cover duo Shovels & Rope opened as the sun set behind an overcast sky, turning everything mustard. Cary Ann Hearst, the better half of the South Carolina-based alt-country husband-and-wife outfit, grew up in Nashville, and she had plenty to reminisce about. Though their set, pulled from their 2012 release O’ Be Joyful and the upcoming Swimmin’ Time, had plenty of energy, the audience remained ambivalent, seated comfortably in their chairs. The band themselves seemed dwarfed by the massive stage, and they stayed attached at the hip for the set as though they’d get lost if they ventured too far from one another.
“You should write something about the ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ part,” said our date of Shovels & Rope's one cover, “and how on that last song they were so close they were almost kissing.”
Shovels and Rope wrapped up just after 8 p.m. as a light but steady rain began to strengthen. Our ink was starting to smear, and reportage was suddenly in jeopardy. Around us a few contraband umbrellas surreptitiously opened. But Old Crow Medicine Show has some kind of magic about them — they must, as their appearance onstage seemed to quell the coming storm. The rain petered off, the milling-around music cut out, and the lights dropped suddenly at 8:37 p.m. Just like that, the apathetic crowd rose to their feet and began cheering for the seven men back-lit by an instillation of mason jar lights shaped into chandeliers.
OCMS opened with “Bushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer,” the first track off their latest, Remedy. Contrasted with Shovels & Rope, Old Crow was just so big, so full, that the crowd couldn’t help but get moving. It was a spectacle, and vocalist and lead fiddle player Ketch Secor busted a string in the first song — he actually switched fiddles mid-solo. With such a rich Nashville heritage, Old Crow couldn’t help but talk about their town in nearly every song segue. All the hip neighborhoods received their shout-outs, including 12 South, Sylvan Park, East Nashville and Inglewood. Their song “Caroline” had the lyric “We were the Sounds’ biggest fan” slipped in, and Secor reminisced about drinking Fat Bottom beer and being drunk in the Slow Bar parking lot. “You’re looking at the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry,” Secor said after their initial flurry of songs settled, and the audience roared in appreciation. Sure, Old Crow has its history in a number of places. But at The Woods they were a Nashville band that broke big playing to their hometown crowd. “It’s just such a great reunion here at the Woods,” he’d say later.
Throughout their songs, the band would periodically clump together in living tableaus that would have been comical in their kitschiness were it not for the fact that they coincided with the hottest fiddle solos we’ve maybe ever witnessed. About an hour into their set, a strong, cold wind began whipping up, flipping blankets on the field and setting all the mason jars swaying. But the wind was quickly replaced by a warm, wet breeze from the other direction. “Wagon Wheel,” normally reserved for Old Crow's encore, was met with little fanfare as the rain started coming in. The audience had its turn to join in, and then it was announced that the set would be cut short due to the coming storm. Old Crow played their last and took a group bow as the spotlights came on. By then, the older members of the audience were already rushing out to beat the traffic and weather, lawn chairs in tow. We weren't far behind.