Fast-rising Brooklyn act the Lone Bellow played to an astonishingly packed Bowery Ballroom last week -- astonishing because even though it was a hometown show, their self-titled album had barely been out for three weeks.
The group’s exposure has gotten a significant boost thanks to an appearance on “Conan,” a nice feature in the New York Times and, not least, some strong support from NPR, where the group’s folky, organic sound -- which they sometimes describe as “country soul,” in line with Mumford, Lumineers etc -- finds a natural home.
L-R: Descendant/Sony's Jay Harren, Lone Bellow manager Beth Narducci, The Lone Bellow's Zach Williams, Billboard.biz editor Jem Aswad, Lone Bellow's Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin, band attorney Mike McKoy of Serling Rooks Ferrara McKoy and Worob LLP. (Photo: Christopher Pereira)
The group’s team gathered at the Bowery on Wednesday night, including Jay Harren, VP of A&R/Artist Development of Sony’s Descendant imprint; manager Beth Narducci; publicists Tracy Zamot and ‘Stache Media’s Ava Ryerson. Also in the house were VH1 president Tom Calderone and EVP Rick Krimm, NPR’s Bob Boilen, Michael Paoletta (ex-Billboard staffer, now A&R/Music Supervisor.for Comma music), Music Supervisor Michael Hill and literally hundreds of the band’s friends, family and fans.
The band had a specially expanded lineup for the show, and when we paid a quick visit backstage, they were rehearsing with a four-piece horn section (the trumpeter, we quickly noted, was using part of a toilet plunger for a mute). Georgia-born singer/main songwriter Zach Williams said how excited he was for the evening’s show and, in a story he also shared onstage, how much they enjoyed their appearance on “Conan” the night before but were slightly unnerved by the fact that he watched the band perform from the wings, shrouded in shadow.
The Lone Bellow's Kanene Pipkin and Zach Williams rehearse backstage. (Photo: Christopher Pereira)
The band played an expansive set on Tuesday night, with the larger lineup giving heft and fullness to their sound, but it’s not like they needed it: the core six-piece lineup is surprisingly powerful given the band’s acoustic-based sound, and their stunning three-part harmonies are, as Harren noted to us, “almost like siblings’.” Indeed, the group walked onstage to the strains of an Everly Brothers hit.
The Lone Bellow are touring heavily over the coming months -- playing Irving Plaza tonight and the Paradise in Boston tomorrow, and all over the country with Ivan & Alyosha; Brandi Carlile; and Marcus Foster over March and April -- and until the last week or so, all of them held down day jobs: Williams as a church music director, singer/mandolinist Kaneane Pipkin is the pastry chef at Farmacy in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood and guitarist Brian Elmquist as a waiter at Dizzy’s in Park Slope.
The Lone Bellow's Zach Williams warms up backstage. (Photo: Christopher Pereira)
And while the shows in the coming weeks can’t be expected to have the same family vibe that Tuesday’s show did -- they even broke into a couple of mid-‘90s R&B hits by Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight mid-show -- the band’s sound will warm audiences even on the coldest late-winter nights.