Mark Olson & Gary Louris
The ArtsCenter, Carrboro
Wednesday, Feb. 11
The Jayhawks once again competed against Carolina tonight. Luckily for Tar Heel fans, it wasn’t a repeat of last year’s Final Four drubbing. Though most Carolina fans were suiting up for the big Duke-Carolina basketball game, an early set at Carrboro’s The ArtsCenter by Mark Olson and Gary Louris—founders of alt.country father figures The Jayhawks—drew a solid crowd. Louris and Olson mixed old and new material, setting their jangly folk rock with acoustic guitars and Ingrid Ringvold’s djembe.
Playing acoustic instruments, Olson and Louris obviously sounded more folk-oriented as a duo than with The Jayhawks, but not in an eerie Old Weird America sort of way. While the music of Dock Boggs, for instance, takes you back to mountains and fields and ballads that seem to have no beginning, Olson and Louris’ sound brings us back to the late ’80s or early ’90s. It’s sincere, but not nostalgic; fun, but not campy; and the pop-rock influence sometimes dates it.
Whatever it was, it was appreciated. Rapt silence, head nodding and cheers for familiar songs filled the evening. During the encore, folks yelled out, “Blue,” requesting the old band’s famous song. “They’re booing us already,” replied Louris. “Sorry. That’s a bad, cheap joke.” And, yes, it was, and probably one the band’s used a million times. But the song was so good, and the pair played it so well, all was forgiven.
Olson and Louris’ voices blended like the notes on a harmonica. Louris’ tenor sounded clear if tired from years of strain, while Olson’s nasal tone provided the texture and yearning of tight harmonies. Descending vocals trickled like water from a tiered fountain, and the songs wrapped around the audience like a warm, comfortable blanket.
The trio closed its set soon after 9 p.m. to talk and sign CDs in the hallway. Meanwhile, Carolina fans headed off to catch the big game at nearby bars. The Jayhawks, the Tar Heels and fans of both won on the same night. What’s the weather like in Hell these days?
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