Peace, Love, and Kettle Corn: The Wood Brothers at Arrowood Farms

Matt Hoffman on June 28, 2024
Peace, Love, and Kettle Corn: The Wood Brothers at Arrowood Farms

photo: Anthony Mulcahy ©Mulography, 2024 (@mulographynyc)


“This is the best smelling gig we’ve ever had,” said Oliver Wood, the effortlessly charismatic lead singer and guitarist of The Wood Brothers, to a crowd of grateful and adoring fans in Accord, New York. He was referring to the kettle corn vendor at Arrowood Farms, where he, his brother, bassist and singer Chris Wood, and multi-instrumentalist and singer, Jano Rix, treated the all-ages crowd to a career-spanning night of dynamic acoustic and electric folk/jazz/blues/rock music that was uniquely “them.” (“All-ages” means just that: there were as many retirees in the crowd as there were small children sitting on their young parents’ shoulders.) 

The brothers have been making music together since childhood, releasing albums under the family moniker for nearly twenty years, with Rix rounding out the trio for more than half that time. Prior to founding the group as a duo, Oliver had been performing with King Johnson, an Atlanta-based blues rock outfit, and since has released two solo albums, including the June 2024 Fat Cat Silhouette. Since the early 1990s, Chris has been well-known and widely respected as bassist for the innovative avant-garde jazz trio, Medeski Martin & Wood; and since forming the Brothers, he’s become equally well-known, if not more so, for his folk rock acumen, spot-on backing vocals, and killer dance moves. And Rix brings with him a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks, including a drum kit, keyboard, melodica, and “shuitar,” all of which he plays tastefully and to great effect as he lends backing vocals to the group. (It’s not clear whether he has a third arm, though that would explain how he manages to play more than one of these instruments at a time.)

Folk duo The Bygones, opened the show, presenting beautiful vocal harmonies, both a cappella and over a variety of stringed instruments, and lovingly covering Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” The Lone Bellow followed, bringing their hootenanny of a show to the crowd, who sang along to “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold,” “Honey,” and “Cost of Living,” which singer Kanene Pipkin dedicated to the local real estate market. They also shared their three-party harmony take on Dolly Parton, choosing her famous duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands In the Stream.” “This part of the country is like home to us,” guitarist and singer Zach Williams shared after the show, noting that they’ve recorded at Long Pond Studios, owned by Aaron Dessner, of The National.

The audience was ready when The Wood Brothers took the stage just past 7:30. Decked out in a suit jacket and red kicks, Chris began the night on upright bass, alternating between that and his Höfner bass throughout the night, with Rix beginning on drums as Oliver led the trio through “River Takes the Town,” from their 2018 studio album, One Drop of Truth. “What a beautiful night. Aren’t we all lucky?” Oliver asked the crowd as he continued through a series of tunes dating back to their 2006 debut studio album, Ways Not to Lose, including the rollicking “Tried and Tempted,” and the bouncy, rocking “Happiness Jones.” Chris began the next song, “Heartbreak Lullaby,” playing his upright bass with a bow, while Rix, who occupies the musical equivalent of basketball’s “triple threat position,” offered a melodica lead before switching back to percussion, driving the emotional contours of the performance. A child in the crowd enhanced the experience with a battery-powered bubble maker, as the band performed “Atlas,” which some may recognize as a song that Goose covers.

The highlight of the night came next when, for the first time ever (shockingly!), Oliver invited the Lone Bellow to join the group around a single microphone to deliver six-part harmonies in performing “Up Above My Head.” Having played Arrowood Farms before, Oliver encouraged the crowd to listen for the frogs, reflective of the mindfulness he’s honed over years of meditation practice. After closing the set with “Honey Jar,” from their 2013 studio album, The Muse, the band returned for an encore, performing “Luckiest Man” and ending the show with a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia,” a regular cover that they put on wax on 2017’s Live at the Barn, recorded at the Helm family’s nearby recording studio and performance space.

The night was magical, in no small part due to the friendly staff, the type of people who lend iPhone charging cables to strangers – thank you, Omar! – and loop them into an impromptu birthday celebration – happy 25th, Molly! Both the band and the venue provide the perfect avenues to enjoy a kinetic musical performance, the kind that no AI will ever be able to replicate.