For just the evening of April 28, the rousing and high-powered sounds of string band Old Crow Medicine Show turned The Anthem into an intimate and lively country bar.
With no opening act, the crowd waited with palpable excitement for the band to begin the two-hour experience. Old Crow Medicine Show is currently touring to promote its new record “Volunteer,” which was released April 20, while celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary.
Framed by seemingly digital curtains and bathed in blue light, Old Crow Medicine Show, known for its country, bluegrass and folk style, appeared on stage adorned in all shades of denim, some members wearing cowboy hats as the group began the first song. Leading with “Child of the Mississippi” off of the band’s new album “Volunteer,” the slow and easy tune displayed the group’s southern roots and cohesiveness as a band, blending the voices of up to three band members. The group uses a diverse range of instrumentation from a harmonica to fiddle to a cello.
In a departure from the previous song, the band transitioned to the fast-paced “Alabama High-Test” from its 2008 album “Tennessee Pusher.” With 20 years of songs to choose from, Old Crow Medicine Show built a set that takes fans through a range of sounds captured best by the energy of a live performance. Throughout the song, the members would even play to each other celebrating the long instrumentals.
The group then introduced themselves after the self-described “barn jam” before breaking into the slow and steady 2004 song with religious overtones, “Take ’Em Away” from its self-titled album. Throughout the night, fans broke into swing dances with full spins as if the wide amphitheater-like space were a dancefloor.
In another tone shift, Old Crow Medicine Show kicked into a dynamic song fitting for the rowdy crowd titled “Brave Boys” from its 2014 album “Remedy.” The group took a moment on stage to acknowledge its Tennessee roots and self-proclaimed “hillbilly music” fitting for a night of “dance and drink.”
Old Crow Medicine Show’s next song, “All Night Long” from “Live 2003,” continued the theme, powered by dueling fiddles and filled with the vibrancy of a jig. The energy was so palpable that one of the members of the band even started dancing, not to be outmatched by the crowd. The song eventually culminated with all the members lined at the front playing their instruments, creating a rush like a rising wave.
While the band did not spend much time prefacing its songs, the few introductions were purposeful. The members made a repeated point to express their joy about playing in the nation’s capital and took a moment to note the divisive political situation in the country before playing their 2012 song “Ain’t It Enough,” which preaches unity and love, after which they moved on to less political songs. While the group was vague about the members’ political leanings, the song featured sentiments such as “So let the prison walls crumble, and the borders all tumble / There’s a place for us all here and ain’t it enough?” and “Throw your arms around each other and love one another.”
After a few more fast-paced songs, the group ventured back into political territory, taking a moment to dedicate one song to the service members who died young in Iraq, creating a somber opening. Before long, the half-hour intermission arrived after another song with a rousing climactic finish and a banjo solo. The audience waited in the now-bright venue that had been so electric just a moment before.
Similarly to the first set, Old Crow Medicine Show returned with no introduction, letting the music speak for itself. At first, it seemed the second set would be calmer than the first, but some fast-paced dance numbers still found their way into the setlist. After the first song, the group began to engage more with the crowd, asking about the Washington Nationals and offering background stories to the group’s history. The band featured more songs from its new album “Volunteer” such as “Homecoming Party,” as well as older songs that speak to experiences such as life on the road.
The night culminated with the hit song “Wagon Wheel” from the group’s 2004 self-titled album. The chorus of “Wagon Wheel” was written by Bob Dylan, and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show would go on to add the verses creating the legendary track, which Old Crow Medicine Show even performed with Ke$ha on the country television show “CMT Crossroads.” The song demonstrates the band’s adoration of Dylan and many different genres as evidenced by its 2017 live album “50 Years of Blonde on Blonde,” a tribute to Dylan. The uproarious enthusiasm of the crowd fit the history of the song. As the performance closed, the roaring crowd celebrated each band member as they were introduced one by one. However, the band shortly returned to play an encore, ending in a uniform bow to the audience.
Old Crow Medicine Show exhibited a talent for live performance honed by years of touring that could be felt in the energy of the crowd. Despite the members’ many years as a band, the group did not appear tired of touring; instead, Old Crow Medicine Show seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience while performing on stage. Country music fans would surely be satisfied after spending an evening at The Anthem with the band. Even if at times the songs felt like they blended together, the group featured a range of styles such as bluegrass and folk, lively dancing and stories that made the performance a memorable night for attendees.