Local Asheville, North Carolina legends, MJ Lenderman and the Wind opened for Katie Crutchfield and Jesse Williamson’s new project, Plains, on their month-long tour in support of their new album.
On Monday November 7, Plains and MJ Lenderman stopped in Saxapahaw, North Carolina at the Haw River Ballroom on their tour. This was the perfect night for me because the Haw River Ballroom is one of my favorite venues in the area, and MJ Lenderman and Waxahatchee are two of my favorite artists. I wrote about my love for MJ Lenderman’s latest album “Boat Songs” in a blog post over the summer, and I continue to gush over the album everyday.
MJ Lenderman is the solo project of singer songwriter Jake Lenderman, he is also known for his lead guitar work in the band Wednesday. The band played as a six-piece, made up of frontman Jake Lenderman, drummer Colin Miller, who has a solo project I really love, Xandy Chelmis on pedal steel and tambourine, who also plays pedal steel in Wednesday, Jon Samuels on guitar, who also plays in 2nd grade and Friendship, a bass player I did not catch the name of when he was introduced on stage, and guest guitarist Brad Cook, who is an acclaimed producer and musician based in Durham, NC. He’s worked on records like “Valentine” from Snail Mail, “Any Shape You Take” by Indigo De Souza, Plains’ “I Walked With You A Ways,” and so many others.
The “Hometown” Heroes played a 45 minute set and opened with the electric tune “You Have Bought Yourself A Boat.” The crashing symbols and bombastic bassline made for a great opening tune. From there the band played “TLC Cagematch” and then “Hangover Game.” It was really interesting to hear the band slow it down so quickly and bring it back up by wedging one of their saddest songs in between their most driving tunes.
Karly Hartzman, the lead singer and guitarist of Wednesday came on stage for “Toontown” to sing backing vocals. Her voice shined through against such a somber tune adding to the atmosphere of the performance. A lot of people in the audience were fans of MJ Lenderman, and I think a lot of his family was at the show, which added to the atmosphere and excitement for the band as well.
The band’s energy on stage was electric. They set up in a u shape so they could all look at each other and communicate about the stops, changes, and jams throughout the set. Everyone on stage looked like they were having a great time and it felt as if they were allowing the audience to look in on one of their practices. Their sound filled the intimidatingly large size of the Haw River Ballroom. It was a lot of fun to watch Xandy get really into the songs and not be able to stop moving while playing the pedal steel or tambourine. The performance also felt really personal, Lenderman is a really honest song writer and his vulnerability translates well on stage through his vocal delivery.
Later in the set the band played older songs like “Knockin’” and “Someone Get the Grill Out of the Rain” which the crowd loved. They closed out with their tune “Tastes Just Like it Costs” which had kind of been a track I had overlooked on his new record, since the record is filled with so many amazing tracks that I gravitated towards more. However, hearing this song live has now made it one of my favorites. The band played with so much passion, it radiated off the stage. Set to cast in overblown fuzzy guitars, the track has a sense of warmth that comforts in the face of disappointment. I was enthralled by the way Lenderman sang out “Mmmm honey, it tastes just like it cost” with so much emotion. By the end of the song the whole crowd and band were singing that line along with him.
Plains followed up MJ Lenderman, and of course they sounded wonderful. Crutchfield and Williamson had the most perfect harmonies, their voices blended so well together. The group played some of their new songs like “Problem With It” and “Abilene” and they also played songs from their solo projects together, like “Can’t Do Much” from Waxahatchee’s catalog and “Hunter” from Jesse Williamson’s catalog.
MJ Lenderman will be back in the area on February 2, 2023 at the Cat’s cradle back room with Florry.