Amy Ray and XPN go way back. She has appeared at World Cafe Live and on World Cafe the show countless times, both as one half of Indigo Girls and as a solo artist. She will play World Cafe Live again tonight and XPoNential fest in July. Before all that though, she and her band treated us to a fantastic Free at Noon set. It was a great way to roll into the long weekend.
Opener “The Rock Is My Foundation” from 2012’s Lung of Love, saw Ray showing off her incredible vocals and rocking out with a mandolin. The latter is a rare sight in today’s world, but it is as epic as you would imagine. The eight-song set mostly featured tracks from last year’s Holler, though “Rock” was not the only thing from Ray’s vast back catalogue that made an appearance. To everyone’s delight, “Duane Allman” and the touching “Oyster and Pearl” off Goodnight Tender made the cut. On stage Ray’s ability to tell detailed stories and gracefully describe her experience with life in the South really shines. She sings each word with a contagious passion, pulling every audience member into Ray’s world.
Joining Ray on stage was her six person band and their army of instruments. With a mandolin, fiddle, octave guitar, banjo, guitars, bass, keyboard, drums, steal pedal, and more, the band created an expansive musical atmosphere. The Americana sound Ray dove into on Holler was on full display. “Tonight I’m Paying the Rent,” “the countriest” song performed, was transformed into a full blown Americana jam. Meanwhile, “Holler” induced widespread swaying. Before playing “Dadgum Down,” Ray explained that she initially tried writing it on the banjo, only to discover she can’t play the banjo. Despite her miscalculation, the track ended up a rich and moving piece of music with swirling strings and beautiful harmonies.
Throughout the show, the crowd showed their adoration for Ray and her music. Everyone watched her dutifully as she walked around the stage and they hung onto each word she sang and spoke. They danced and cheered, prompting Ray to call them “punk rock and country,” which she declared are her two favorite things. The mutual respect and admiration was palpable, and enhanced an already amazing set.
The set closed with “Sure Feels Good,” a boot-stompy song about recent racist incidents in Ray’s hometown. The contemplative and vibrant song was the perfect thing to leave the crowd with. It served as a call to arms against all the troubling things we find difficult to beat, but must beat nonetheless.
Amy Ray and her band will play World Cafe Live tonight. Tickets and information can be found on the XPN concert calendar. They will also play at XPoNential Music Festival in July. More information can be found on xpnfest.org. Check out a photo gallery of Amy Ray Band’s Free at Noon set below.