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Grace Potter & the Nocturnals Weave Rock and Blues Magic With Special Guests Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at Wolf Trap

Jordan Wright
August 16, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times

I could say what a long strange trip it’s been, when reflecting on last night’s Grace Potter concert at Wolf Trap.  With her band the Nocturnals the indie group performed a reimagined form of vintage psychedelia and hard-driving rock that hasn’t been heard since the heady days of the Fillmore West in the late 60’s.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

You have to wonder what’s taken Potter so long to emerge as one of the most promising hard rock, blues and country stars we’ve seen since Grace Slick and Stevie Nicks stole our hearts with the same raw emotional style.  Maybe it’s because Potter is too beautiful with her swirling, head tossing, mane of honey blonde hair and legs way out to the next county.  Or maybe it’s because we can only imagine men tearing the guts out of their guitars to find notes that only the Eric Claptons of the world could unleash.  Is the male-dominated rock world ready to accept a woman who can write her own music, dance like Isadora Duncan on LSD, play both keyboards and guitar, and sing with as pure and powerful a voice as has ever been heard on a rock stage?  Oh yes, it is.  And a packed house at Wolf Trap proved it last night.

Playing songs from their latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat as well as earlier material, Potter showed off powerful wailing leads on her signature Gibson Flying V guitar and haunting notes from a Hammond B3 organ, all the while creating a bold new sound built on the old yet without ever sounding retro.

Clad in a sizzling hot platinum lamé bat-wing sleeve gown that revealed her long legs with a slit up to there, Potter and the Nocturnals opened with “I’ve Got The Medicine That Everybody Wants”.  Later she gave a grateful shout-out to a guy named Sandy she knew would be at the concert and who’d introduced her parents, Sparky Potter and Peggy Sparks, to each other back in 1969 by explaining, “That’s why I’m here!”  She later introduced locally born tenor saxophonist, Ron Holloway, who came on stage for a duet on “Treat Me Right” with the sentiment, “We go back to the days of hard drinking and hard touring.”

The Nocturnals consisting of Matt Burr (drums/vocals), Scott Tournet (guitar/bass/keyboard/vocals) and Benny Yurcot (guitar/bass/vocals) are as tight as they come and it shows.  During one number the entire band dropped their instruments and held a group drumming session on Burr’s drums.  In others Potter traded fiery licks with her fellow guitarists and gave tribute to the Jefferson Airplane with the number, “White Rabbit”.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

Famed musician Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, opened the show.  Born Troy Andrews in the Treme section of New Orleans, he’s performed with U2 and Green Day and recently played at the White House in celebration of Black History Month.  His 2011 album For True features Jeff Beck and Warren Haynes.  Andrews, who calls his sound “Supafunkrock”, opened with “American Woman” amping up the crowd with his fierce horn and a rumbling bass.  Amazing lead guitarist, “Freaky” Pete Murano, and a back up horn section gave it the stuff soul was made of.  There were George Clinton-style funkadelic 60’s riffs using a wah-wah pedal from Murano coupled with Shorty’s signature staccato repetitions in which he appeared to split notes into fractals ending in long breath-averse wails on the trombone.  Though Andrews’ style gallivants around the musical map, there’s a bottom line Chicago horn sound going down, especially on power numbers like Ray Charles “I Got a Woman Way Over Town”.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

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