The Crane Wives energetically unleashed new folk-rock material from “The Fool in Her Wedding Gown” for a capacity crowd at The Intersection on Saturday.
At one point on Saturday night, Matt Forbush of Grand Rapids electro-pop duo Alexis materialized out of the throng, sauntered up to me and declared, “Have you ever seen anything like this for a local CD-release show?”
No, I must admit, I have not.
The Crane Wives’ much-talked-about CD-release concert at The Intersection lived up to the hype and was everything the public debut of a sophomore album should be: a wall-to-wall crowd of several hundred enthused fans rabidly cheering animated live renditions of tunes from the band’s “The Fool in Her Wedding Gown,” along with older favorites.
“Oh, Grand Rapids, you’re so damn good to us,” drummer Dan Rickabus gushed at the start of The Crane Wives’ second set.
Absolutely true: The Crane Wives’ success in West Michigan has been nothing short of extraordinary, with the rootsy, folk-rock band earning deserved, widespread plaudits for its live shows and honors for its debut album, ranging from Jammie awards from community radio station WYCE-FM to my own Local Spin of the Year for “Safe Ship, Harbored.”
The band even had iconic singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles, the godfather of Grand Rapids’ acoustic music scene, introduce them on Saturday night, an appropriate passing of the torch as it were.
But judging by the long lines of avid fans that appear at practically every gig, this is a group that’s quite obviously on the doorstep of potentially something much bigger, following perhaps in the footsteps of such folk phenoms as the Avett Brothers, The Head and The Heart and the Lumineers.
Dressed to the nines for their landmark show on Saturday, guitarist-singers Emilee Petersmark and Kate Pillsbury, Rickabus, banjo player Tom Gunnels and bassist Ben Zito were irrepressibly jubilant even before they took the stage, buoyed perhaps by the boundless energy of opening acts the Fauxgrass Quartet and Lucas Wilson & Band, with Wilson making his own convincing case for regional and national recognition due to his roots-rock prowess and impressive new self-titled solo album.
With five cameras documenting their every move on stage for a future video of the concert, The Crane Wives exhibited as much zeal for older fan favorites that they’ve probably played hundreds of times as they did for new “Fool in Her Wedding Gown” tracks, ranging from “Strangler Fig” to “Easier,” showing off their trademark female harmonies and banjo-infused organic rock.
(The show generated brisk CD sales for all three bands, with The Crane Wives also selling “I Got Folked by The Crane Wives” T-shirts.)
And as the gracious musicians that they’ve remained the past two years while ascending the ranks to become one of the Grand Rapids area’s most sought-after acts, they gleefully thanked their fans, they thanked their recording studio (Sound Post) and, most important, they thanked their supportive parents, who were in the house and who obviously have imbued their talented kids with a down-to-earth congeniality that will serve them well on their upwardly mobile musical journey.
Call it a CD-release show for the ages, one that set the bar at a height to which many West Michigan bands will aspire.