A veritable super-collective of some of the best instrumentalists in the folk-bluegrass world, the Works Progress Administration is bringing back the community and independent spirit of their New Deal namesake.
With Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) at the helm, they rocked the Soiled Dove stage.
Opening with Always Have My Love, they filled their set mostly with songs from their new self-title album and a few tunes from their respective careers.
Mixing their folk, bluegrass and other various Americana traditions, they kept the show moving with searing solos, toe-tapping fiddle numbers, love ballads and the occasional tongue-in-cheek lyric.
They joked about being on the old Lowry Air Force A base and pretending to be playing where all the generals used to play war games and the lack of good Balloon Boy jokes.
Before Solar Flare Glen quipped that it was the “worlds first upbeat childrens’ song about dying of radiation poisoning.”
Glen and Sean traded banter about their previous incarnations (which came up when Glen introduced Whatever I Fear) “I was a shepherd in Mongolia,” Glen said.
“I was a pharaoh,” Sean countered.
“Were you!? I’ve never, ever been royalty.”
“I haven’t lived enough lives yet, eventually I guess I’ll get there but I’m pretty agrarian.”
As many of the group had grown up listening to and playing bluegrass, a few well-picked covers (I Feel The Blues Moving In, Sweet Heart Of Mine (Can’t You Hear Me Calling)) fit in perfectly.
Before the more contemporary cover of Weezer’s Pink Triangle Sean pointed out that as a kid singing bluegrass music “you’re forced to sing about things less than age appropriate like murder and infidelity, usually combined. You’re eight-years-old and don’t know what you’re singing but it sounds really, freaking cool. Anyway, there’s a lot of murder ballads and songs of general woe and dismay and just tragic, tragic things. They’re great but I wanted to find something that was more up-to-date so I looked around and I feel like I found something… I feel like this could be the modern equivalent of the murder ballads of old, though it doesn’t incorporate any form of violence.”
As their record is an entirely indie effort, without a label or any major funding they thanked the audience for somehow finding them and deciding that the show was worthwhile. They added that they make good Christmas tree decorations and scarecrows.
Leaving the stage for an encore break (as well as giving Sean time to fix a broken string) Luke and Glen came out to tell jokes about Microsoft engineers and then muffins. They played the instrumental fiddle tune Temperance Reel.
As the show drew to a close Glen said, “If coming out to the concert and driving back to the main part of town is too much for you to get to work on time tomorrow, just remember the Swine Flu,” before ending with Bob Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.
Always Have My Love
End this Now
Cry For You
I Feel The Blues Moving In (Del McCoury)
Whatever I Fear
Pink Triangle (Weezer)
Sweet Heard Of Mine Can’t You Hear Me Calling (Bill Monroe)
Somebody More Like You
Good As Ever
Wedding or Wake
Temperance Reel (Traditional)
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (Bob Dylan)