As Cristina promised in her blog about OUR favorite festival, Hogs for the Cause, I would follow it up with one about Strand of Oaks.
I’m constantly listening to new albums using Spotify. I scour the sites Any Decent Music and MetaCritic trying to find good new music. The first few seconds of Strand of Oaks HEAL were enough to make me know that this would be one of my favorite albums of the year. When Goshen ’97 bursts into life, the music brings you back to that time when you first discovered your favorite band. It doesn’t hurt that J. Mascis’ guitar shimmers throughout the song and that it’s extremely catchy.
However, Goshen ’97 did not prepare me for how deep the album is. The album comes off as memoir in song. Tim Showalter, the driving force behind Strand of Oaks, was processing quite a bit of pain in the writing of this album and using the music and lyrics to exercise the demons. The record is not depressing, but allows for Tim to help him, um, HEAL. Considering the year I had last year, the album struck a particular cord with me.
When Hogs for the Cause announced that they booked Strand of Oaks, I was excited to say the least. When the night came, I actually stressed about my wardrobe. Not because I’m a snappy dresser, but because it was supposed to be in the high 50s, which after just a week of weather in the 70s equals freezing temperatures for folks from south Louisiana. I chose my Replacements jacket. While waiting for the first band, I checked setlist.fm to see what songs to expect. The last song at the last shows proved that I probably wore the right jacket for more than one reason.
Most of the songs came from HEAL. Goshen ’97 of course rocked which was impressive in that it was only the guitarist’s third day with the band. The title track actually sounded better and fuller live. JM, a deeply personal song about his fallen hero, Jason Molina, was soulful and soothing.
At the end of the set, Cristina came up front. I warned her for the last song, so she could record it. They announced they were going to do a cover, and then they ripped into The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton.” Of course, I turned into the kid that Showalter talks about in Goshen ’97. At one point, he forgot the lyrics but made up for it in enthusiasm. Coolest part, he pointed to me and my jacket mid song, recognizing me as a fan.
Because they are still an up and coming band, Tim and the drummer actually worked the merchandise booth after the show, allowing us to meet the band. They both jokingly admitted they knew they had to cover The Replacements when they saw my jacket, even though it made them nervous. Both were so nice and thankful to be playing a festival for such a great cause.
Both told us we needed to check out Hiss Golden Messenger the next day because he was really great. We had already planned to and so when we took our place for that show, we weren’t surprised to see them rocking out in the crowd just like we were.