Concerts: The Last Bison at U Street Music Hall

Originally published on April 14, 2015 at georgetownradio.com

The U Street Music Hall is an intimate venue to begin with, but I couldn’t help but be surprised that the crowd gathered on Saturday night was so small as to only fill half of the floor.  It’s totally fine though, because with drinks in hand and a passion for folk rock, we became a family (as Ben Hardesty, lead singer of The Last Bison, informed us).

The sun was still shining brightly outside when the opening act took the stage at 7:15.  Neulore just debuted Animal Evolve, their first album on a major label.  The earnest duo of Adam Agin and William T. Cook brought a light-hearted energy to the stage, sharing some particularly funny banter with a woman drinking close to the stage.

“Everybody raise a glass to Julie for me!”

She, in turn, offered him a sip of her drink, and Agin made a face at the taste.

“Ugh, Julie that’s strong.”

The best part of the set was invariably when the two descended from the stage to play their last song acoustically from the side of the crowd.  Ben Hardesty’s face comically appeared through the door through which Neulore had exited, watching the shenanigans with the look of a six-year-old at Disney World.

“This is a song called Apples. It’s about second chances.”

Half way through, Agin  asked us to sing a part for him, and normally I find that gimmicky, but for some reason the small crowd/family responded enthusiastically, even harmonizing.  The pair has certainly earned the favor of their fans.

The Last Bison came on stage shortly after, and if you aren’t familiar with them, their sound is basically the equivalent of one giant foot-stomping square dancing party.  The band is a six-piece ensemble of family and friends: Ben Hardesty on lead vocals and guitar, father Dan Hardesty on banjo and guitar, sister Annah Housworth on bells and backup vocals, husband Amos Housworth on cello and bass, Andrew Benfante on organ and keyboard, and Teresa Totheroh on violin.

They banged out all of their most popular songs, including Sleep, This Changes Everything, Quill, Bad Country, Every Time, Dorado, and a remixed version of their most popular song, Switzerland.  At one point, the crowd was failing to meet Ben’s expectations for liveliness, and so he jumped off the stage and ran around clapping until everyone was responding with the correct level of enthusiasm.  Fan favorite of the night was cute little Teresa, who held an authentic smile on her face for the entirety of the set, and whose clear and beautiful violin melodies elicited the most cheers upon recognition.  DC was The Last Bison’s last stop on their tour before heading back to their hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia.  The closed out the set with a cover of “Not in Nottingham” from Disney’s Robin Hood, which was a perfectly nostalgic end to the night, the show, and their tour.

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