On May 2nd, The Kirkland Art Center hosted the much-anticipated David Wax Museum with opening act Rusty Belle. As I entered the venue to prepare for the evenings photos, I knew I was in for a treat the minute I took note of the stage. Foreshadowing for what was to come, I found a myriad of musical instruments, some common, some not so much. Makeshift instruments, including coffee cans, baby shoes, canteens, washboards, and donkey bones, scattered across the stage as a hint of cultural sounds in store for us that evening.
As Rusty Belle took the stage, this trio of musicians jumped right into the mix, treating audience members to a back home, feel-good, foot stomping, “what music is about” performance. Comprised of brother and sister, Matt and Kate Lorenz along with friend, Zak Trojano, these three bring a distinct twist to their bluegrass sound. Their unique approach using commonplace items brings you back to what it was like generations ago when music was a celebration of friends and family gathering to just enjoy the sound and each other’s company. With our fast paced lives, Rusty Belle brought us back to those times and totally entranced the audience with their music.
As David Wax, Suz Slezak, and the band members took the stage, the audience was primed with anticipation for their set to begin. Clearly I was amongst a huge following and was excited to see what was in store as a newcomer. They certainly didn’t disappoint either. Their amazing mix of Americana and Mexican variety melted together with a distinctive sound all their own. With the use of a donkey jaw bone as one of the instruments of the evening, the sound added a cultural percussion that amplified the effect even more so. Numbers such as “Knock Knock Get Up”, “Harder Before Its Easier”, and “Yes Maria Yes” are only a few of the songs that sealed the fate noting them now as one of my favorite live shows to see. Joined on stage by Rusty Belle on a few numbers only exaggerated an already outstanding performance by this group. As they all unplugged and came out into the audience, it was apparent why this band is held in such high esteem by followers. Their connection to their music, each other, and their audience captivates and casts a spell over those in proximity.
Even though the performance was held in an art museum, there was no still life in any proximity of this group. Audience members were dancing, clapping, stomping, and singing along as though they were part of the performance. As the show ended, one could only feel as though they had truly experienced what American music is all about. The blend of bluegrass, mexican, rock, country, jazz, and funk gave these two bands their unique sound, but also brought those in the room back to the roots of what music was all about: a celebration of family , friends, and the sounds around us in the art of music and culture.