Folks of all ages, ranging from well-seasoned millennials to baby boomers, filled the steps surrounding the Charleston Music Hall on a crisp Tuesday evening. Snuffing the final remains of their cigarette butts, attendees bustled inside with eager anticipation to take in the night’s performances from ChessBoxer, Justin Townes Earle, and Warren Haynes.
ChessBoxer took the stage as Matt Menefee tickled the banjo, Ross Holmes allowed his bow to frolic over the violin, and Royal Masat laid the foundation with his upright bass. Within moments, they found each other in seamless harmony during tracks like “Play the Bacon, now”, a piece banjo hums and energetic violin. The song creates a feeling of anticipation and subtle excitement, not too far off from the feeling of waiting for the bacon to come off the skillet, while the closer — a cover of Flatt and Scruggs’ “Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee” — made jaws drop watching the bow of the violin race across the instrument.
All he could say was “Hello” as Justin Townes Earle took center stage with his narrow frame and thick, black spectacles. His quirky and meek appearance gave an awkward charm to his somber lyrics, evoking a sense of empathy from the audience. With satirical resentment, JTE dedicated “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving” to “modern country music…your bullsh**t.” As he crooned over his acoustic guitar, the steel pedal guitar wailed through lyrics like “So what’s a girl like you, want a man like me?” Earle then paired uplifting music and eerily dark lyrics in “Harlem River Blues” and referred to piece as the “happiest song about ending one’s life.”
As soon as those famous strawberry blonde locks appeared on stage, the crowd erupted with cheers and flailing arms. Warren Haynes took the stage with his band, which included all three members of ChessBoxer, to showcase his third solo studio album, Ashes and Dust. The excitement mounted as the instruments found their way to “Patchwork Quilt.” Its heart-wrenching lyrics about “tears of sadness, tears of rage” filled the room along with the whistle of a violin.
Haynes covered Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee,” and the cymbals on the drum set rattled. The band jammed, while the crowd went berserk, dancing like demented spaghetti noodles before the music moved on to “Gold Dust Woman” and the renowned, “Blue Sky.” By the night’s end, the singer-songwriter proved he’s still got it and fans had witnessed the fullness of Haynes’ incredible talent.