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Old Crow Medicine Show and Fifty Years of Blonde on Blonde

A few weeks before Matt's birthday I heard a concert roundup on one of the two radio stations I listen to in the car (The Colorado Sound) and learned that Old Crow Medicine Show was coming to Denver on May 14.

Matt has a number of options on the table for post-Air Force life; one of those options is to buy and retrofit himself a school bus, grow a foot-long beard, and follow Old Crow Medicine Show around the country to bluegrass festivals. While I have zero interest in living on a school bus, I do like Old Crow Medicine Show and back in March, a concert on a school/work night in the middle of May seemed like a great idea. I made tickets myself to present on his birthday because you never can tell what shady-looking piece of paper ticket you're going to get when you choose the option to have them delivered by mail.

Old Crow Medicine Show at Paramount Theatre poster

It wasn't quite as easy to pull off a Sunday night concert as my March self thought it might be (especially after an already full weekend) but it was still a good idea. We listened to Blonde on Blonde on the way down to the Paramount Theatre, which is a grand old place downtown (read more about it here). It is hard for me to attend concerts in cool venues with only my phone, but I did my best to catch a few details.

The Paramount Theatre Denver

Old Crow Medicine Show at the Paramount, Denver

The inside of the theater is ornate, though it is also one part optical illusion because so many of the details on the walls and ceiling are painted. We were in the balcony and on the wrong side for the most detailed painted scenes, but it was cool to see how much technique was used to create the illusion of relief. I wondered how much of the style was dictated by the times—I can't imagine it would have been easy to construct such a place during the Depression.

trompe lo'eil at the Paramount, Denver

ornate light at the Paramount Theatre

The beginning of the concert was sudden: the band marched out (complete with a bass drum and snare) to the first song on Blonde on Blonde, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. The whole schtick of this tour is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of when this album was released, so it made sense. What didn't make sense: the annoying druggie couple in front of us with zero awareness of the people around them (and the limited personal space a theater built in the 1930s affords). We're all for Enjoying music (with a capital "E!") but they were an oblivious spectacle of what not to do at a concert. They got in trouble three times from various ushers and stumbled out at the intermission, never to return. No one in our section was sad about that.

Old Crow Medicine Show on stage in Denver

Old Crow Medicine Show and John Hickenlooper

What a show. They are masterful musicians, never missing a beat or a note and it's obvious how much they care about this music. [Whispering: we liked the Old Crow Medicine Show version of Bob Dylan's songs better than the Bob Dylan version of Bob Dylan's songs.] After the fourteen songs on the album were complete, they took a good, old-fashioned bow and headed off stage; their encore kicked off with another Bob Dylan song, Knockin' On Heaven's Door. So many people have recorded this over the years that it's easy to forget that it's originally a Bob Dylan song. There was a borderline awkward shuffling around before the next song, but it was all because of a special guest that came out to play with them next: John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado. That's him on the far left, playing banjo. The crowd roared for him and it was fun. True story: this is the second time we've seen Governor Hickenlooper on stage at a concert in Colorado, as he introduced the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks in 2011. This makes me giggle. The best line of the night by far was when Ketch Secor hollered "we're from Tennessee and our governor doesn't play the banjo!"

a crowd at the Paramount

And then we had to navigate thousands of people and drive 100 miles home and be very, very sleepy on Monday morning. Live music is still worth it. So long as I'm not living on a school bus to catch it : )


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