LIVE: Old Crow Medicine Show, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR

By Jacob Heiteen

After walking out of their performance at the Schnitz, all I could think was how much I wished more bands were like the Old Crow Medicine Show. For those who don’t know, OCMS started life a group of buskers playing high energy takes on old-time folk songs, when bluegrass legend, Doc Watson, heard them playing outside a pharmacy. He then invited them to play is annual MerleFest, introducing them to a very wide audience and jumpstarting their career.

Since then the OCMS has become mainstays in the bluegrass and Americana folk scene. Their best-known song, “Wagon Wheel,” has become both a campfire and country barroom classic and is so requested that it’s become county/folk version of “Free Bird.” Darius Rucker’s (yes that one) cover of the song last year has only made it more popular, hitting #1 on the country charts and #15 on Billboard Hot 100. They also have recently become members of the Grand Ole Opry and have not one, but two songs co- written by Bob Dylan, the aforementioned “Wagon Wheel” and a new one, “Sweet Amarillo,” which is as good as it’s predecessor. Needless to say, they are the real deal when it comes to modern folk and bluegrass acts.

On a more personal note, OCMS were very important to in developing my love for folk and bluegrass music. While in high school, I devoured their 2006 album Big Iron World, but for some reason as time passed I move on to older variations of the folk genre and lost touch with the band. Seeing them live however has totally reintegrated my love for them. They brought more energy than I’ve seen in any live act this year. This was my first bluegrass show, and as the show went on I started to hate myself for not going to one sooner. Everyone in the crowd was so friendly and more people were dancing there than any other show I’ve been to, despite the seats. The audience also had the biggest age range I’ve ever seen too; with young kids, elderly, and everyone in between, all having a great time. The band was so beloved that the standing ovation before the encore was so intense that it didn’t once wane in the slightest.

The Old Crow Medicine Show was true to their name in that they really put on a genuine show. There were great high-energy songs, which got people moving. There were slower songs that still got people moving, albeit slower. There was even a great part where members of the band gather around one mic and sang some very tight harmonies. They also did great covers ranging from the Grateful Dead’s “Dire Wolf,” to a swamp rocky rendition of Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”, to the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of The Line,” which perfectly ended out the night.

Their originals were great too, my favorite being the “Tell It to Me,” one of their many great songs that makes reference to cocaine, which was obviously paired with there awesome rendition of “Cocaine Habit Blues.” Aside from the songs it was obvious that the band wanted to entertain. They would show off very impressive musical skills and several times their drummer/mandolinist/piano player, Cory Younts, would wow the crowd with his awesome clog dancing skills. Just listing to front man Ketch Secor talk between songs was entertaining, since his Dixieland charisma charmed to no end. Being so used to going rock shows I had no idea that bands can have this good of a time. It will make the next jaded rock group I see fell downright boring in comparison to the near-vaudevillian style entertainment I saw from OCMS. So damn you Old Crow Medicine Show for without a doubt ruining all future shows for me by being so much fun.

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