Bonnie “Prince” Billy / Old Calf
Fry Springs Beach Club; Charlottesville, VA

[05-24-2009]

“You’re a good man, Charlie Brown,” quipped the bartender as I left a tip on my tab and headed out of the nearly empty Fry Springs Beach Club. The venue, with its art deco glow and pleasant ’50s musk, had a time capsule vibe, so a vintage Peanuts reference didn’t seem like a very strange way to cap off the night. Will Oldham and his crew were some of the few faces still lingering, as they packed up their gear and loaded it into the van out front.

Earlier, though, Fry Springs had been far from empty. A sold-out crowd filed past the front lounge’s outdated couches and into the venue’s spacious ballroom. Will’s brother Ned, of Anomoanon and Palace Brothers, teamed up with accordionist Matty Metcalfe to kick off the night under the clever moniker Old Calf. The duo boasted expertly crafted tunes as well as sidesplitting t-shirts depicting an elderly bovine walking with a cane.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s ensemble soon took the stage and chugged through a lengthy set, adding momentum with each riff and refrain. Tunes from Oldham’s latest album, Beware (TMT Review), were interspersed throughout, but the evening felt more like a continually blossoming musical moment. As things heated up, Oldham wished aloud for the room’s old disco ball to be turned on and, just as the switch was flipped, the night really hit its peak. The energy was palpable, from those sweating at stage front to those peering from the wings.

For the encore, Ned returned to the stage and joined his brother’s band for a couple more songs. The brothers belted together into the microphone, channeling the unbridled spark and spirit of their familial bond. It was a special moment and a perfect conclusion to the night’s sonic progression. The crowd spilled out into the Virginia night and Oldham and company prepared to descend deeper into the South.

Photo: [Charlie Cravero]