The Wood Brothers – Heart is the Hero Tour – with Maya de Vitry
Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA – October 26, 2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
I am admittedly a relative newcomer to The Wood Brothers, having happened upon the band during summer 2022, when they were opening for Greensky Bluegrass in Bridgeport, CT. When I initially learned a band named The Wood Brothers would be performing that evening I thought they possibly were a small local CT band. However, those thoughts began to dissipate as a large enthusiastic crowd made their way into the venue, eagerly awaiting the opening band’s arrival onstage. From the moment The Wood Brothers began to perform I was taken with their unique sound and musical artistry. Yes, with only three musicians the band is small, but their sound is anything but small. Oliver Wood’s rich, textured vocals (so unique you can instantly identify his voice), the folksy twang of his guitar, the bluesy, jazz tones of Chris Wood’s double bass, and the rhythmic beats of Jano Rix’s drums, has created a melodic sound and energy that’s undeniably their own.
Having initially caught the attention of fans with the release of their 2006 debut album Ways Not to Lose, the band has continued to increase their now broad fanbase, drawing passionate crowds to their performances throughout the US. Since my accidental discovery of the band, I’ve felt compelled to again photograph and experience their unique sound whenever their tour has brought them within my vicinity. I’ve now attended four shows, each in a different state….Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, each venue with a different look and feel…a covered, outdoor amphitheater in CT, a traditional theater in NJ, an expansive, rooftop in NYC, and a historic luggage transfer station in Philadelphia, Pa. While the environments were not the same nor the people who populated each venue, what was the same was the enthusiasm, energetic spirit and devotion of each crowd to The Wood Brothers.
On October 26th the crowd at Union Transfer filtered in as Maya de Vitry, the evening’s opening act, began to perform with her touring band member Joel Timmons. “I’m so happy to be here to warm you up for The Wood Brothers,” Maya happily shared. Noticing fans singing along to de Vitry’s music, I quickly became aware that de Vitry has a fanbase all her own. This was not surprising upon hearing de Vitry’s wispy, mysterious, and soulful vocals, as she played her touching folk tunes on both guitar and violin. De Vitry was supported by the passionate guitar playing and backing vocals of Timmons, who added a layer of acoustic richness and depth to the music. During her 30-minute performance de Vitry included multiple songs from her new EP Infinite. Her positive energy and folk spirit were surely the perfect warm up for the upcoming performance by The Wood Brothers.
By the time The Wood Brothers arrived onstage the general admission space was packed with eager, enthusiastic fans, who not surprisingly were treated to a spectacular two-hour performance. Oliver Wood never disappoints with his unique vocal tone, emotive facial expressions and spirited jams on his guitar. Chris Wood is a wonder on the upright bass, not only with the incredibly rhythmic, yet melodic sound he creates but with his fancy footwork, as he danced alongside his beloved bass. And, Jano Rix cannot be overlooked, as he dynamically performed drums, played a range of percussion instruments, and joined the brothers center stage to sing beautiful harmonies, while drumming a beat on the face of a guitar.
The band performed several numbers from their new album released in April 2023, Heart is the Hero, including “Pilgrim,” “Line Those Pockets,” “Kitchen Floor,” and the LP’s title number. While the album has only been out for a half-year, it was clear it’s already a hit with fans, many of whom energetically and enthusiastically sang along. Additional songs in the set included, “Chocolate On My Tongue,” from the band’s debut album, as well as “Made It Up the Mountain,” from 2011’s Smoke Ring Halo. It’s not surprising the biggest crowd reactions came from The Wood Brothers’ most beloved songs, including “Postcards From Hell,” from 2008’s Loaded, “The Muse,” the title number from their 2015 album (performed with de Vitry) and “The Luckiest Man,” also from the band’s debut (performed with de Vitry and Timmons.) Not only was “The Luckiest Man” passionately performed with de Vitry and Timmons but with the hundreds of fans filling Union Transfer. It was quite evident that all in attendance felt “The Luckiest” to be sharing in this moment with The Wood Brothers and their blend of folk, jazz, and blues that’s undeniably their own.