August 26th, 2012 at 8:39 pm
“You got gold / Gold inside you / Well I got some / Gold inside me too,” he proclaimed during “You Got Gold,” one of 18 songs he would offer during his 90-minute set, which came as part of the Fayetteville Roots Festival.
Behind his rough-hewn voice, Prine does contain a bit of gold inside him, particularly as a songwriter and lyricist.
Prine doesn’t play many shows (he isn’t scheduled to perform again until late September), so it was quite a coup for the Fayetteville Roots Festival to land a songwriter of his caliber. Northwest Arkansas responded by filling the Walton Arts Center, where few seats could be found. Prine was the only performer who would pack the seats, which were only 75 percent full for his wonderful opening act, Darrell Scott (more on him later). Prine was somewhat of an outlier for the festival – his set was one of the few mainstage shows that utilized electric instruments. Although he played acoustic guitar, his bandmates toggled between acoustic and electric instruments. Even then, his songs were still tastefully adorned. With the exception of a slide guitar solo, the focus, as it should, fell toward Prine’s lyrics. He played several of his hits, including “Storm Windows,” “Lake Marie” and “Angel From Montgomery,” a song popularized by Bonnie Raitt.
Prine was more animated with his stories than he was onstage, although the 65-year-old did some Elvis-style hip shaking during “Lake Marie” to close out the set.
He would perform several of his songs without his band, relying on his voice and the strengths of his songs, such as during “That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round,” one of the evening’s highlights. He would also leave the stage for a moment to deal with a nosebleed. While he was absent, guitarist Jason Wilber filled in with the song “Lazy Afternoon.”
Prine will never be considered the world’s greatest vocalist. He likewise isn’t in the running for guitar-playing awards, either. But the man can write a song, and he did much to prove that point on Saturday night. He does have a bit of gold left, it would seem.
Darrell Scott set the table for him with a free-flowing but beautifully paced set of original tunes. Scott was a joy to watch, mainly because he looked so overjoyed to be onstage. When he broke a string on his guitar, he made a crack about how someone ought to play the piano that was conveniently sitting onstage. So, he played piano while a stagehand replaced the string somewhere offstage. He talked about being country before Toby (presumably referencing Toby Keith) but Scott isn’t quickly pigeonholed into country music. He played bouzouki, guitar and piano with equal skill, and he showed off his voice on many occasions, too. He closed his set with a song he told the audience he performed many times during his recent tour with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy (yes, that Robert Plant). Scott’s take on Porter Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind” left the audience satisfied, too.
Earlier mainstage sets by Gregory Alan Isakov and Joy Kills Sorrow proved worthwhile, too. Isakov and his backing band softened the traditional singer-songwriter style, hushing the crowd to the point where I could hear the camera zoom lens of the woman sitting next to me retract and expand. Joy Kills Sorrow, a quintet from Boston, offered a contemporary version of roots and Americana, providing Of Monsters and Men style of harmonized folk pop. Joy Kills Sorrow’s cover of Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” only further proves their mainstreaming of folk.
The mainstage shows didn’t begin or end the day’s musical offerings. I didn’t catch any of the early shows, except for a bit at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market, but I did catch much of the official post-party at George’s Majestic Lounge. Each of the bands there delivered unique takes on the throwback music concept. Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three sound like they just stepped out of a time machine with their early century blues. Adam Faucett offered bluesy, folksy, sturdy material. Locals Cletus Got Shot play bluegrass, but only in theory, taking acoustic instruments and then cranking the speed up to 11 and the volume and attitude somewhere in the same vicinity.
It all made for a remarkable night of music at George’s, but it comes as a further indicator of growing pains for the festival. Only this year has the festival needed so many venues to contain all its music. Tickets for the shows at George’s Majestic Lounge originally retailed at $25. Those same passes were being sold for $8 at the venue on the night of the show. The $25 price brought few out for a similar experience on Friday (Aug. 24) night, so the price was lowered. Indeed, the price for all Roots Festival tickets seemed to fall on the steep side. The $250 full festival pass covering four days of shows was likely a value to some, but I know from experience $250 will also get you tickets to Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee with 125 bands and four simultaneous stages. These are surely much different festivals, but the larger point remains: Fayetteville Roots Festival is not cheap.
Roots Festival is growing at a remarkable pace, from a small show attended by friends a few years ago to the four-day, multi-venue experience that conclude later tonight (Aug. 26) with a series of shows at George’s.
The festival organizers will have to work hard to make the Fayetteville Roots Festival much larger than it was in 2012.
John Prine Setlist: 1) Spanish Pipedream; 2) Picture Show; 3) Humidity Built the Snowman; 4) Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Any More; 5) Six O’Clock News; 6) Souvenirs; 7) Grandpa Was a Carpenter; 8) Storm Windows; 9) Lazy Afternoon [performed by guitarist Jason Wilber]; 10) Fish and Whistle; 11) Glory of True Love; 12) Angel From Montgomery; 13) You Got Gold; 14) Mexican Home; 15) That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round; 16) Bear Creek Blues; 17) Lake Marie;
Encore: 18) Paradise