My Grandmother would call it chutzpah to do what the Lumineers did Sunday night at Sunset Cove Amphitheatre. For a one-hit wonder to play their one hit four songs into their set takes what my high school gym coach called balls the size of Jupiter and Saturn.
The Denver-based band proved to be endowed with planetary fortitude, playing their smash song "Ho Hey" very shortly into their one-hour, 15-minute routine. Even though it was a pleasant evening in a grassy, not-too-overwhelmingly crowded setting, it takes a lot of faith that the audience will stick with you through the unfamiliar. But the Lumineers seemed confident the massive success of their first self-titled album was no fluke, going so far as stopping "Ho Hey" two lines into the song with singer Wesley Schultz chiding the audience, "Put away the cell phones. We want you here to us."
A few people obeyed this request, but most continued recording their favorite song, but it was worth a shot. If anyone would want to relish the here and now, it would be the Lumineers. After years of struggle, Schultz and co-founder/drummer Jeremiah Fraites found overnight success with the folksy catchy hit, which has now played at a hundred million thousand wedding receptions over the past year.
It almost didn't seem fair that Philadelphia's indie rock group Dr. Dog had to open for a band with only one album. Dr. Dog, with its Beatlesque vibes, has been selling out decent-sized clubs for the past decade. Consistently putting out quality tunes over seven LPs, the band seemed out of its element. In an interview with New Times last week, singer/guitarist Scott McMicken admitted that being an opener and playing these bigger crowds was a learning experience for the band. And while many of the songs, such as "Lonesome," sounded as crisp as they did on their albums, Dr. Dog felt a little rushed and seemed almost relieved when it told the crowd this was its last gig on this tour.
On the contrary, from the opening song, "Classy Girls," the Lumineers, bathed in purple light under a rising moon, seemed perfectly at home projecting to the masses. With their piano and cello and occasional accordion, they were reminiscent of an old-timey Dave Matthews Band.
Their musicianship and enthusiasm was much deeper than their catalog. As mentioned, with only one album to their credit, they were dependent on a couple of covers to fill their set. They played "Ain't Nobody's Problem," which they did their darnedest to hype as being written by a buddy of theirs named Sawmill Joe. Later came a sped-up, more clearly enunciated rendition of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Maybe next time, they can add Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" to their repertoire; its chorus of "hey ho" would compliment their "Ho Hey." But why should they take my advice? This is a band that knows what it's doing and gave its fans exactly what they wanted. Both my grandmother and my high school gym coach would be proud (and might have even tapped their toes to the songs).