On July 18th, 2013 the ‘Americanarama’ festival caravan kicked up clouds of dust into Darien Lake Performing Arts Center for an extended afternoon of eclectic and distinctly ‘American’ music. Featuring an impressive collection of talent, the tour spotlights rock and roll innovators My Morning Jacket, alt-country pioneers and sonic travelers Wilco, and the man superlatives won’t do justice for, Bob Dylan. The festival has been wagon training across the country (with Bob Weir hopping on for five dates) bringing a special collection of artists and a communal vibe to each stop.
The intimate and friendly crowd at Darien slowly gathered under the blistering sun for early opener Ryan Bingham, who was well received. Following Bingham the venue was buzzing in anticipation of My Morning Jacket’s appearance. MMJ’s set contained silvery guitars and funky grooves, settling the crowd into a danceable yet experimental place. Live and in concert is the way to enjoy this band, as the energy just oozes off of the stage. Closing their set with the steamy pairing of “Off the Record” and “Phone Went West”, the crowd was primed properly and responded in kind with a fitting ovation.
Wilco followed with an impressive cross-section of their storied career, which fit nicely into a truncated festival set. Opening with the always welcome “Cars Can’t Escape”, Wilco then unveiled a well-paced selection that included tasty samples from the entirety of their colorful pallet such as “Passenger Side”, “Bull Black Nova” and “I’m A Wheel”. A peak moment in the show was the collaboration between Wilco and My Morning Jacket for a sing-along version of Nick Lowe’s, (via Elvis Costello) “What’s So Funny About (Peace Love and Understanding)” that had everyone dressed in sun baked smiles.
As the air cooled and evening closed in, Dylan and his swinging band took the stage for a concluding set filled with new takes on familiar classics. Dylan growled, spat and chanted his way through fresh arrangements of “Times Have Changed” and “Tangled Up in Blue”, and excitedly dictated new songs like “Early Roman Kings” and “Duquesne Whistle”. He also took some breathy harp breaks to the excitement of the crowd. While often an acquired taste these days, Dylan put on a diverse and crisp show covering all corners of his catalog, enjoyable for the uninitiated as well as the diehards.
A wonderful evening of tunes and tales was had by all in attendance. All three of the headlining acts for the first ever ‘Americanarama’ festival shared the common thread of a love for song. While the music of the artists on the bill is as different as it is similar, their common respect for the craft of the tunes and their emotional effect brought them together for this summer of musical symmetry.