Stepping into the first concert venue I’d been in since the beginning of last year — since the start of Covid — it seemed surreal, like I shouldn’t have been there. Like it was too good to be true.
The stage was being set. The lights began to dim. You could hear a crew member tuning a guitar. Patrons chatted softly and sipped their alcoholic beverages, while I nursed my own can of Rosé as I stood with my parents. We wore our Christmas sweaters (we dressed as an awkward family Christmas card), and I noticed two other audience members that were decked out. Clearly the five of us were the life of this party.
I texted my dear friend and tour photographer, Jonathan Sommer, upon our arrival to let him know where we were. He was the one that told me he was coming to Cleveland to see Larkin Poe at the House of Blues. I, like many, had waited a long time to finally hear live music again, so it was a no-brainer. I had to see the infamous, Grammy-nominated sister-duo that he’d been raving about since they began their tour in September.
It sounded like the perfect end to an unintentional hiatus.
At 8:00 PM, the night’s opener, The Collection, took the stage. The seven-piece band donned amusing costumes and evoked lots of personality, and they made me think of a Lumineers/Vance Joy hybrid. They were mesmerizing, and a real joy to witness. They quickly showed they could very well be headlining the show themselves.
Some highlights of their set came during their newest single, “Get Lost,” and their 2018 Entropy album opening track, “Beautiful Life.” And regardless of the silly apparel, the messages of each song shined through.
“Get Lost” illustrates the affirmation of finding yourself through losing yourself, and fighting back against those that shame you for it. “Beautiful Life” was written at the end of a turbulent period where the lead singer, David Wimbish, “lost all [his] foundations”. It opened with a gorgeous acapella harmony with a resounding burst of energy and authenticity. The song reminds the listener the value of hope and embracing the life we have.
Their set finished, and it left me deeply impressed.
At 9:00, Larkin Poe was scheduled to perform. I took a listen to the Nashville band earlier that day — their album, Self Made Man, to be exact — and from what I’d heard, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. Far from it.
Formed around two out of the three Lovell Sisters, Rebecca and Megan, their sound is an edgy mixture of blues and Southern roots rock n’ roll. And they handle their grit with unapologetic strut. Their masterful instrumentation had seeped out of my phone speakers with such ease, poise, and gusto that I was convinced it couldn’t get much better than that. But it was obvious they knew what they were doing. I was ready to be blown away.
And sure- maybe that was a lot of pressure to put on any artist who was touring straight out of a pandemic. But something about them screamed self-assured and fearless. I wasn’t worried.
Four of them came out on stage — the leads, the drummer (Kevin McGowan), and the bassist (Brent “Tarka” Layman) — and they were all dressed like a mariachi band, much to the crowd’s delight.
They opened with “She’s A Self Made Man”, a song I knew. A song I sing along to. A buzz sizzled over the audience, as everyone’s built-up adrenaline finally was put to use. The energy level was potent. The talent was magnetic. From my vantage point, there was not a single frown in the crowd. Many of us had been waiting for a night like this.
This stayed consistent throughout the entire set, especially during “Holy Ghost Fire” and “Wanted Woman / AC/DC.” Rebecca’s voice crooned out rich and strong, her confidence streaming through the air. Her guitar riffs were intricate and effortless, resonating in an electric crunch. At one point, it appeared she smiled directly at me, which led me to fangirl.
Then there’s Megan, the older of the two (sorry), who had an entirely different yet equally as enticing demeanor. She was quieter, and more reserved. But that’s just because she saved up everything she had to say for her lapsteel guitar solos, which were arguably the best parts of the night. It’s something I’d never seen to this extent before, and the unfamiliarity of it instantly captured my attention every single time.
And as all good things do, it finally came to an end.
The lights came up, the crew began to break down the set, and the sea of bodies dispersed in a fleeting moment. One thing rang true more than anything: they performed like they are meant for this. Like it’s as natural as walking, as talking, as breathing. And there’s really not much else to say, other than the verdict is in: I’m blown away.