Boathouse Live | Newport News, VA
June 9, 2018
Questions could be heard in the crowd about who the opening act was for Lukas Nelson, the son of Folk and Country legend, Willie Nelson. The tour bus was parked just outside of Boathouse Live, a brand new venue for the Hampton Roads area. The event staff wasn’t sure about what time the show was going to start. There was word of the owner out playing golf with Lukas earlier in the day and them making their way back for the show when they felt like it.
Eventually the lights dimmed and some psychedelic folk act started playing. The opening song was titled, “Everything is Bullshit” and set the stage for this psychedelic-folk singer who had an astronaut for his guitar tech – a long-haired, space helmet-laden character who became at least a small part of the entire act.
As it turned out, this was Micah Nelson, brother of Lukas Nelson, who has his own touring band, Particle Kid. After a few minutes, Lukas walked out and joined Micah on a couple of songs. The crowd that had been somewhat lukewarm suddenly woke up and paid attention to the rest of the show. The set was short but every song was different from the next. Imagine Pink Floyd meets the Teletubbies but way better.
Since Micah was playing with his brother’s band, there was only a short break in between shows. None of the usual rearranging of gear and no mic checks. Lukas came out in short order and took command. The moderate crowd really responded to the sly yet inviting grin that Lukas kept for most of the show.
His songs were part folk and part jam with extended solos that the crowd really liked. Although his music was quite upbeat and rocky, his ballads were captivating. At times you could hear Willie up on the stage. Close your eyes while listening to Running Shine or Just Outside of Austin and you’d swear you were listening to a young version of him.
His band was not your typical Country band with violin or pedal steel. It had a drummer along with a separate percussionist. The keyboard player doubled up on the electric guitar. And the bass player rolled folk, jazz, and funk all together for a lively sound.
At mid-show, Lukas traded in the road-worn, 1956 Les Paul Junior for a beautiful Gibson acoustic guitar. He got closer to the audience and gave them a more intimate performance. The whole room sang along to his cover of Tom Petty’s, Breakdown before he brought out the electric again.
Boathouse Live is an attempt at resurrecting an older venue in Norfolk called The Boathouse. It closed its doors in 2003 after a hurricane damaged it beyond reasonable repair. If this show was any indication of the enthusiasm that the crowds are capable of here, the new Boathouse Live just might take hold as a good destination for regional and national acts.
Words and Photos by Glenn Woodell (GlennWoodell.com)
*Click on images to enlarge...*