Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show And More Delight on The Lefty Stage At Palomino Fest
LOS ANGELES, CA- Country, roots, and Americana from established and rising stars in music were on full display at Goldenvoice’s Palomino Fest in Pasadena, California on July 9, 2022. The one-day music festival was held at Brookside at the Rose Bowl and featured 19 artists whose performances were spaced across two stages. With the legendary Willie Nelson slated to perform, the producers named its two stages after Willie’s 1983, honky tonk album with Merle Haggard “Pancho & Lefty”.
The “Pancho Stage” was designated as the main stage, and “The Left Stage”, which was appropriately staged left of the Pancho Stage, was the secondary stage. Below are some thoughts on each performance Blurred Culture was able to catch on the Lefty Stage. Don’t forget to click through the artist’s image to check out their full photo gallery and some found fan-video from the performance!
As I waded over to the Lefty Stage, Ms. Wyatt was asking the crowd if anyone knew what and where the original Palomino was. The crowd’s response ran the gamut from “strip club in Vegas” to “yer mom’s house.” Not sure what the proper answer was but the question begs the question or, rather, the point: that this is a curated collection of artists, all gathered under the outstretched wings of Uncle Willie’s subtle grin of approval, a man whose aforementioned iconoclasm is always tempered by an unflinching respect for the iconoclasts that came before him. Simply said, history matters. With no tradition, there’s nothing to disrupt. Picasso wasn’t born a cubist, or if he was, he didn’t discover it to the world until he’d mastered the tradition he was about to dismantle.
So… Palomino. Some names are arbitrary or serendipitous but some are carefully chosen. Jaime suggested this festival’s title might have significance that can’t fit in a hashtag. Pros know. And she looked all the part of a pro. Dark hair falling down both sides of a baby blue suit, Ms. Wyatt could’ve been the CEO of Shitkickers Inc. Queen of the South, Nashville Edition. Are we still allowed to say people look sexy? She did. Looking sharp and belting it out to the early crowd. A crowd that wasn’t thin on numbers. Ticketholders seemed to recognize this lineup was strong, top to bottom.
“In my story, love fucking wins!” That was the intro to “Wasco”, a beautiful ballad about a couple of losers finding victory in … each other. Damn, maybe that’s why a semi-lit nerd and sucker-chump romantic like myself feels so many feels when I hear and listen to these artists sing their STORIES. Because not all music has to tell a story. Sometimes a beat is all we need to feel what we gotta feel. Sometimes a scream or a guitar solo gets you right in the kishkes in just the right way. But a good story hits different. And I’m not sure there’s a genre that’s more committed to and better at telling STORIES than … what do you want to call it, country? Americana? outlaw? … awesome? Bless the names or fuck em, it’s all good.
Alas, stories don’t always pay the bills. About middle to late set, Ms. Wyatt mentioned to the crowd that they could spend their well-earned money on merchandise and their time on Spotify, because this thing she’s doing up there on the stage and in the studio, it’s a living. It’s a hustle. And all too often, it’s a sacrifice to be an artist. That said, when Wyatt proceeded to belt out “Neon Cross”, it popped with an energy that reached far beyond the boundaries of the recorded version. A rendition that could only be appreciated live. Which leads me to my parting thought: Go people! Go to concerts! Go hear, breathe, sweat, sing, clap, dance, love, make sexy time … with each other. All of it. Feed your soul, feed an artist.
I forgot how much I loved a good banjo/mandolin jam…. until I was reminded how glorious they are by Sierra Hull.
There was a good year in my college days that I went on a Bela Fleck bender. Every since I found that Flight of the Cosmic Hippo CD at my university’s record store, spend hours on the weekend digging through record crates finding every Flecktones album I could find. That musical journey had me diving into bluegrass and I’ve got a nice collection of some quality vinyl on my shelf as a result.
This performance by Sierra Hull was my introduction to her and her music. As soon as I saw her strap on her mandolin, my curiosity piqued. As soon as I saw her fingers start to pluck away at those strings, my jaw dropped at her virtuoso skills. Mind blowing. I’m sure she could have played an entirely instrumental set, and the crowd would have been satisfied. This young lady’s mandolin skills are beyond reproach.
While I was gobsmacked by her mandolin skills, my festival coverage cohort, Max, pointed out that I should discount her vocal abilities as well. I couldn’t agree more. Her voice is no joke. There was something deceptively powerful in it, and as Max pointed out, her voice was “like getting knocked flat on your ass by the softest wind.” I don’t think I could have said it better. Just lovely.
Amythyst Kiah’s music slaps. If you don’t consider yourself a fan of blues/folk music, I highly recommend that you give Amythyst Kiah’s 2021 album Wary + Strange a listen. The album as a whole is a solid, but when you cull out and playlist those hard hitting blues jams with the amplified distorted bass lines (“Black Myself”, “Hangover Blues”, “Fancy Drones (Fracture Me)”, “Sleeping Queen”, “Opaque”), I guarantee you’ll have “stank face” for a solid 20 minutes.
What makes Amythyst’s recordings so good is the passion in the vocals expressing the powerful messages in her lyrics. I got a taste of that expressive power at Palomino, but I think… and now this is just my two cents … I probably would have enjoyed my first Amythyst experience in a setting other than at a festival. I think I would have really connected more with the music… and forgive the cliche… if I had witnessed her perform in a darkened concert hall as opposed to under the bright afternoon sun. I feel that gravity and heaviness of her music … the power of her music … demands a venue that requires full attention and focus. You lose a little bit of that with drunken cowboys on a sunny afternoon.
Valerie June seems to embody the ethos of “punk is as punk does”… in an Americana/Roots/Blues kinda punk way. Twangy opry vibrations packaged in dreadlocks and rhinestone studded shorts topped off with bright red leather boots. Fearless in many ways.
My mom taught me young to recognize and appreciate those who let fly a little bit of their freak flag, and there’s something so organically individual about Valerie that my momma would have loved it. As Valerie took a guitar solo from her knees onto her back, she flew plenty.
As a follow-up to her highly acclaimed 2021 album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers, Valerie is planning to release a collection of covers soon. The EP, titled Under Cover, has her covering Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed”, John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms”, among others. If you haven’t heard her cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”, I suggest you do that now. Valerie’s Palomino performance, however, focused on her established repertoire, leaning more towards her country/bluegrass fare than her folk fare with songs like “Rain Dance”, “Shakedown” and “Workin Woman Blues”.
This was my first time experiencing Morgan Wade and her music, and I was drawn to it and her. There’s something about raspy female country voice singing songs about heavy topics that aren’t really common in country music (i.e. metal health and addiction) and Morgan’s got me longing for more. Have you heard her song “Run”? Man… that one’s a heartbreaker.
A relative newcomer, her 2021 debut album Reckless (an album that I only dove into after seeing her at Palomino) is a terrific album. If you are partial to country music that straddles the pop genre, odds are good that Reckless is an album that’ll you’ll want to pick up at the local record shop. It’s a real polished album in terms of production and is easily a candidate or on your digital playlist as you take a leisurely drive with the windows open along the coast on through the country.
But if you take the time to listen she’s singing about, she’s really digging deep into some personal stuff. Watching her perform songs from her debut album at Palomino, even with the drunk mid-afternoon crowd chattering away, I really felt that I got a real good look into Morgan, her music, and her soul. “Don’t Cry”, “Last Cigarette”, the aforementioned “Run”… she really sang her soul out there and was an eye-opening introduction to her talent.
I love it when a live performance exceeds expectations. I enjoy Charlie Crockett’s recordings, but to be frank, I feel like I’ve listened to tons of demos that pop into my inbox that sound kind of like Charlie’s music. Solid but vanilla. No real punch. I’ve always felts that there was a limit to his range. A musical ceiling to his mystique. But live? Hold your horses.
Charlie’s mystique explodes live. Live… in his baby blue, sequined suit with tassels, he and his music are sharp. His performance is filled with a badass swagger that is accentuated by his amazing backing band. When I say, “You gotta see him live,” just trust me. What you thought you knew will mean squat.
The climax of Charlie’s set was set during his performance of “Run Horse Run”. That song … the way that Charlie suavely amped up the velocity… was pure fire. In that moment, Charlie tapped into the kinetic potential of his talent. That’s the pocket. That’s what made me a believer.
At some point during my musical journey through country music, Turnpike Troubadours’ 2012 album Goodbye Normal Street found its way onto my shelf of compact discs. It’s funny… when I saw that Turnpike Troubadours were performing at Palomino Fest, I had to go to my garage and check my collection to remind myself that I had actually purchased that album close to a decade ago.
Although I haven’t kept up with their repertoire since that 2012 album, I found myself thoroughly enjoying their performance on the Lefty Stage at Palomino Festival. I only recognized two songs from their set (“Good Lord Lorrie” and “Gin, Smoke, Lie”, both of which are on Goodbye Normal Street) but it’s easy to get down with a band when they are all having a rocking good time up on stage.
Apparently, Turnpike Troubadours took a break starting in 2019 to allow for the band’s frontman and head songwriter, Evan Felker, to get sober. With 3 years of sobriety under his belt, and with the band reuniting this year to perform and share their music live again, the crowd at Palomino, which was noticeably packed during their performance, were ravenous for some of that Turnpike Troubadours rambunctiousness, and they were rewarded in spades. All of the joy that the band had while performing, spread out into the crowd and made for one hell of a joyous, and triumphant, occasion.
Nothing like some good ole mountain music, Americana revivalists. Old Crow Medicine Show always put on a good show with their folk/bluegrass jams, and they always get the crowd motivated to stomp their boots to the music. Whether the fiddle player is going H.A.M. or the banjos are dueling with absolute reckless abandon, there’s never a dull moment with the gents of Old Crow.
With songs like “Humdinger” and “Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”, they kept the party-like atmosphere of their performance steady throughout the entirety of the performance. The only “lull”, was when they performed their seminal mid-tempo hit “Wagon Wheel”, but with the crowd singing along to every word in the chorus, you couldn’t say that it really was a lull at all.
But as soon as “Wagon Wheel” ended, and they segued into their closer, the crowd got a rocking country cover of KISS’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”… about as big of a party song in any style you could ask for. Tons of fun.
Closing out the evening on the Lefty Stage was the inimitable Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. My relationship with Jason Isbell’s music has always been a funny one. To say that his music is moody may be an understatement … but I’ve always felt that I’ve had to be in the right mood to really enjoy his work.
His music (or at least the music that I own or have enjoyed on playlists) is generally pretty heavy. Lots of issues. Lots of southern sadness. Lots of loss. That doesn’t mean I have to be in a sad mood to enjoy his music. I just think what leads up to his music (course, and events of the day) … for me at least- affects how much I can appreciate and joy his music at that moment. That being said… on this night… I fell into Jason’s music.
I think it was the culmination of the work throughout the long day. My body was on the verge of giving out, with my body longing for some extra caffeine to push me over the goal line. Performing a set that consisted of both 400 Unit songs and his own solo material, the crowd was treated to a setlist of some of his biggest hits (“24 Frames”, “Travelling Alone”, “If We Were Vampires”, “Last Of My Kind”, “Dreamsicle”, etc.), I honestly just let his music massage my brain into a moldable mass of “just let go”. By the time his sang the final chorus of “Cover Me Up”, I could have easily called it day, completely at peace with where I was at in that moment. Bliss defined.