One of the great joys of festivals – remember them? – is finding new bands and artists who’d never crossed your radar, but become fast favourites. And so it was with The Lone Bellow at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2015. Having got to the front of the smaller stage for the previous act, my mate and I faced the recurring dilemma, shall we stay for the next act, unknown to us, but sacrificing our pole position for a distant view of the next main stage act, or stay to see The Lone Bellow? Voicing this question to my mate, the couple beside said “don’t miss them, the only reason we’ve travelled down from Manchester is to see them”. Good call. They played a blinding set, became firm favourites, and I’ve since had the pleasure of seeing them at the Long Road and Pilgrimage (Franklin, outside Nashville) festivals, and a great set at St Pancras Old Church London.
But the first time you see a favourite band is always special, and this truly was a great set. Lead singer Zach Williams is truly a force of nature, singing as if every song is seared into his soul, and with a massive stage presence. But equal top billing goes to fellow band members Kanene Donehey Pipkin who plays mandolin, bass and keyboard, and Brian Elmquist on guitar, whose vocals contribute magical harmonies, and to the trio’s powerful songwriting. Hard to pick a highlight from their setlist that day, but ‘You Never Need Nobody’ wins out for the great harmonies, which on the day raised a collective gasp from the audience of ‘wow! did we really just hear that’ and spontaneous applause for that one special moment.
I haven’t found a video of that Cambridge show, but the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert from 2013 captures the song perfectly.