Shovels and Rope plays off into the sunset for a gritty XPNFest finale - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

“We’ve been at home for a couple years like everybody else,” Cary Ann Hearst told the River Stage crowd at XPNFest. “And we wrote a couple records.”

We got a taste of those COVID compositions, like the chugging rocker “C’mon Utah,” the latest in Shovels and Rope’s lineage of songs about cities and states from coast to coast. “The Show,” which has become a favorite on their summer 2021 tour, seems to scream directly from the depths of lockdown:  “I wanna hear some rock and roll tonight, I wanna hear the speakers rip, I wanna be strong.”

The new cuts were quite promising, and it’s impressive that thirteen years and eight albums into their career, Hearst and her songwriting partner (and husband) Michael Trent still keep things simple: guitar, harmonica, a pair of voices, a handful of drums. The addition of a sparingly-used sampler was probably the biggest upgrade since their 2014 NON-COMM set.

Minimal didn’t necessarily mean without range, though; as much as the set stayed in that southern rock / gravely punk zone, a la “O Be Joyful” and the soaringly harmonized “The Devil Is All Around,” they dipped into tender territories on the new “Gasoline” (“the psychedelic origin story of our band, and our marriage I guess,” says Hearst) and the emotional slowdown of “Bleed Me Gentle,” which cut the drums entirely in favor of yearning vocal interplay. 

But they brought it back up big time, as Shovels and Rope are adept at doing, sending the crowd out on the massive high of “Hail Hail.” Take a listen to the performance in full and check out a photo gallery from the show below.

Shovels. & Rope – XPoNential Music Fest

C’mon Utah
The Show
O Be Joyful
By Blood
The Devil Is All Around
The Wine
Pretty Polly
Bleed Me
Mississippi Nuthin
Hail Hail
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