Last Friday evening, The Oh Hellos’ Dear Wormwood tour made its stop in Charlotte at the Visulite Theatre. Sold out around a week prior, the show was highly anticipated and excitement met patrons at the door as they filed into the theatre, ready for a night of folk and rock.
With Cereus Bright at the head of the line up, the night took off as the vibrations grew thick and permeated the smoky recesses of the theatre. Whether it was paying homage to Elvis with quirky hip thrusts or emulating musings reminiscent of The Head and the Heart, Cereus Bright definitely got the ball rolling with a refreshingly organic sound that seemed almost entirely created with gut feeling and off-the-cuff instrumental remarks. Add in a few gnarly guitar solos, a handful of mandolin riffs and that good ol’ southern drawl of a voice held by Tyler Anthony, Visulite Theatre was pumped and ready for a night of huge talent.
Family and Friends were next on stage, and without skipping a beat, they fed off of the afterglow left behind by their musical comrades. Displaying a cohesiveness rivaled by few, the group had an unnatural oneness that consistently left mouths agape at the close of each song. With sweat flying and long locks thrashing, Ryan Houchens and Alejandro Rios, like Thing 1 and 2 in a wild drum duel, stole the spotlight with their gigantic percussive presence that made the very foundations of the theatre shake. However, the band is far from being a one trick pony, showing off a little extra flare through box guitars and violas that meshed perfectly with that classic folky feel that never fails to impress. What was even more impressive was the hunger for more that lingered over the crowd, as they finished off the set with a closing song that let everyone know that Family and Friends “love you, mean it”.
The theatre went dark. Cheering ensued, and immediately the crowd was greeted with a chorus of soulful crooning that simultaneously silenced and electrified the air until fans joined with their own joyful noise. Showing off the opening sound of their newest album with “Prelude” and “Bitter Water”, The Oh Hellos took the stage with a force to be reckoned with. Though the brother-sister duo front the group, it’s undoubtedly a huge collective that fills the air and leaves no room for querulousness. While there were a good number of cameos from their previous albums (“Trees”, “Hello My Old Heart”, “Eat You Alive”) that everyone in the room knew by heart, this night was dominated by the showcasing of their newest addition to their album repertoire, Dear Wormwood.
Moving many admirers to tears with songs like “There Beneath” and “Like the Dawn”, the raw feeling and meaning that was within every single word uttered weighed heavy in the ambience. It truly was an otherworldly presence that took hold of the night as time passed. In almost an instant, however, there was a drum kit in the middle of the audience, a banjo was traveling the length of the bar (on top of the counter, naturally), and the tiny theatre’s tiny stage was filled with all three bands dancing and singing “The Valley” with a passion and power that is very rarely witnessed. An overwhelming euphoria was seen on the faces of everyone present, whether performing or simply just experiencing. As the night came to a close, Tyler and Maggie Heath bid the house farewell, closing with their duet of “I Have Made Mistakes”. All left satisfied and fulfilled with the intimacy shared by those who’d observed spellbinding talent.
Three bands united through awkward silence, coy jokes, appreciation of mothers and melodic gift, The Oh Hellos’ Dear Wormwood tour is an extraordinary event that will leave both devoted fans and newcomers alike in awe of what a genuinely unique and memorable concert feels like.