Strand of Oaks | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN |

Ladies and gentleman, the bearded man is back. Strand of Oaks stopped by World Cafe Live for an energized performance celebrating Timothy Showalter’s newest effort Hard Love. It proved nothing less than that these guys know how to make some dang fine rock n’ roll.

With the room filled with both old and young (and I mean Tinker Bell t-shirt wearing young), the 7-track set flew by in a rapid fashion as Showalter and friends geared up to do what they do best. After kicking things off with the new record’s anxiety-laden title track, the band burst into the spacey 8-minute jam “Taking Acid and Talking to My Brother” before returning to his 2014 break-through HEAL with “Shut In.”

It’s at this point the band realized how many frets their six-strings have (to the unequivocal enjoyment of the 3-year old and his dad rocking out in the front corner) and took advantage of the space to melt my freaking face off, fading into the pop-hooking star of Hard Love “Radio Kids.”

In between a couple thank yous and some elongated tuning (much to the cheers from that one guy in the back), Showalter quiets things down a little bit for the keyboarding tear-jerker “Cry,” hitting us with that one-two punch that only some truly personal tracks can do. Before you knew it, we’re back to some polarizing HEAL jams, as the extended cut “JM” sank us into more fuzzed-out six strings in front of a relaxed backing crew before a final goodbye comes in the form of the fantastic “Goshen ’97.”

As a fool who’s never checked out this project previously, today’s Free at Noon opened my eyes to something special. As long as people like Showalter stick with their ax and say exactly what they want to say, rock n’ roll will never die.