Buck Meek's 'Haunted Mountain' gets a Philly release show with his co-writer Jolie Holland - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Beginning his Spring 2024 tour, Buck Meek and his band performed at Ardmore Music Hall last Thursday. Meek’s latest collection of songs, Haunted Mountain, was released last August, and this Philly show was his first since opening for Big Thief back in February of last year, when these songs were still unreleased. Students of the popular online music education forum School of Song however had heard Meek’s song “Undae Dunes” before in a class assignment to write their own lead guitar parts. This song, and the rest of Haunted Mountain‘s ten songs, were ripe for their live Philly post-album debut, and captivated an eager audience.

Opening the night with a meditative set was Jolie Holland, Meek’s fellow Texan and close collaborator. Her latest album is also titled Haunted Mountain, featuring the title track that her and Meek co-wrote. Holland’s version is slower and steady, with her deep, textured vocals front and center. Just listening to the recordings, it’s not surprising the two artists share bandmates as well. Adam Brisbin’s indisputable guitar fuzz language rips through both Holland and Meek’s Haunted Mountain. Though Holland’s music was too sleepy for the uninitiated party member I came to the show with, the rest of the crowd was transfixed. At its brightest moments, Holland’s music had me levitating, and gave me a good excuse to close my eyes for a second in a trusting crowd.

Jolie Holland | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

After peeking out to witness Holland’s set, Buck Meek ducked backstage to prepare for his own set. He later arrived with many of the same musicians who had just performed with Holland, including Adam Brisbin on guitar and Ken Woodward on bass. Woodward’s mom was in the audience, and received a loving shout-out from Meek.

Of the new, self-proclaimed album of love songs, Meek’s band performed touching live versions of the cloud-parting “Paradise,” jamming “Where You’re Coming From,” and resolving “Secret Side,” among others. Of course, the crew performed their own version of “Haunted Mountain,” infusing upbeat energy back into the set. “Candle” from 2021’s Two Saviors had a similar effect, as the band performed the single live with a noticeably faster tempo. Representation from Meek’s debut, self-titled solo record, a comparatively confessional and loose version of his songwriting, was missing from the setlist. Though the band did perform a Big Thief song: the staggering and humbling love song “Certainly” from 2022’s Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. A fan caught a video of Meek’s solo version of this one from an earlier leg of his tour.

Buck Meek - Certainty (Big Thief song) LIVE - Albuquerque, New Mexico (January 2, 2024)

Listening to Haunted Mountain performed live brought me back to last August when it was released. I was traveling internationally, and had used precious hotel Wi-Fi to download the record the morning it came out. As I listened to the album for the first time, I was in the back of a van traversing narrow mountain roads, high enough in elevation that my ears popped, trying not to get car sick. The “Haunted Mountain” to me therefore, that Meek never wants to come down from, was one in Taiwan where I visited a misty mountain-top tea farm. It looked like this.

Taiwan misty mountaintops | photo by Paige Walter

At the end of the night, I had the pleasure of chatting with Buck Meek at the merch table. This type of access seems impossible at the level Big Thief is at now, which made the opportunity feel special. Meek was kind and warm, and I thanked him for fostering the considerate crowd I had just stood among. The band made the conscious decision to come to Ardmore on tour this time, I learned, as the last three times in Philly they played Johnny Brenda’s, where I expected to see them. Leaving the venue, my friends and I agreed that these down-to-earth shows, quietly exhibiting the music industry’s avant-garde, are the friendly shows worth seeking out.

Buck Meek
  • Second Sight
  • Haunted Mountain
  • Cannonball! Pt. 2
  • Pareidolia
  • Candle
  • Paradise
  • Secret Side
  • Didn't Know You Then
  • Certainty (Big Thief cover)
  • Undae Dunes
  • Lagrimas
  • Cyclades
  • Where You're Coming From
  • Halo Light
  • Outta Body (new song)
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