There’s a reason that I love live music. There’s nothing like that rush you get when you witness something truly magical take place on a stage. When musicians come together and everything unites for a perfect blend of harmony, charisma, power, and inspiration. If I could spend my life witnessing live music, that’s exactly what I’d do. I believe the true talent of a performer lies in how they inspire you when they take the stage. It’s more than simply being talented, or looking beautiful, or knowing how to move on stage. It’s a combination of musicianship, intensity, emotions, and presence. The Lone Bellow possess all of those things.
This review has been a long time in the making, mostly, because I couldn’t wrap my mind around exactly what I wanted to say about The Lone Bellow. I fell in love with their music upon first listen, I wrote about them for Music Fest Monday, with the intention of checking them out at Stagecoach. Their story, their infectious harmonies, and their unbelievable lyrical stories were inspiring enough to make me put them on repeat in the car and belt my heart out right along with them. Honestly, Stagecoach was a big weekend, but for some reason beyond my own knowledge I was most excited to see this band. Something about them just told me it was going to be an experience beyond my expectations. And that it was.
Comprised of Zach Williams (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Kanene Doheney Pipkin (Mandolin, Vocals), and Brian Elmquist (Guitar, Vocals); the three of them come together to form music that is explosive and dynamic. Zach Williams has a voice that is just as suited for rock music as it is for Americana Folk, not to mention his incredible ability to convey the darkest of emotions through the unique and colorful timbre of his voice. On stage, he loses himself in the dynamics, eyes closed as he sways or beats upon his guitar in a way that lets the audience know he not only understands the pain of which he sings, but he knows it intimately. Brian and Kanene are no different, pouring themselves into the instruments, allowing the soulful quality of the harmonies to swell and burst at the seams of the music.
They shine so much on their explosive, upbeat tracks like “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” and the addictively fiery “Bleeding Out.” On tracks like this their music starts with a steady acoustic sound and builds to something so full you feel as if it can’t just be three people, there has to be a whole choir. Their voices soar over the pounding drums, their bodies move instinctively to the music, and each one of them tells their own personal story as the sink into the emotional backdrop of the music. While Brian belts out “Nothing we need ever dies” over and over again, building until the song reaches the ultimate climax, you believe him. And if you don’t believe him, you WANT to believe him.
Their ballads are just as kinetic in quality, there’s not one track that they sing that lacks emotional truth. Their music is authentic and honest because it comes from their own personal experience, so there’s no surprise they pour all of themselves into each track when they present it to their audience. On songs like “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” there’s a lively sense of despair, something that you don’t hear often, but that they tackle so well in the fluid feel of the mandolin and their back-porch sing-a-along chorus. It’s one of the few tracks where Kanene gets her opportunity to shine, showing off her incredibly soulful voice, pure and without over-vocalization in the absolute best of ways. Their set finished with the “Tree to Grow,” and just as they were winding down the audience wanted another hour or two. Because the Lone Bellow use each of their songs to take their audience on the emotional journey they’ve been on. All of the energy they expose so fearlessly on stage transfers to the audience members, who lose themselves in the beat and the movement of the music. Arms waving, smiles blazing, and hearts racing.
If there’s one band I could tell you to listen to, to go see in concert, to support and follow… this would be THE band. I have no doubts about them, that they have incredible things coming from them, and they will take everything that comes to them with humility and grace. They will continue to create music that is real, honest, and true. I’m thankful more than anything that I had the opportunity to experience them in the middle of a beautifully hot day in the desert, drunk off of whiskey and the sound of their voices as we all huddled in the shade together and shared the beauty of their music.
Come back to California. Immediately. Please.