The Wood Brothers perform at WinterWonderGrass on Saturday
If you go ...
Who: The Wood Brothers.
Where: WinterWonderGrass Festival, Nottingham Park, Avon.
When: 5 to 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
Cost: A three day pass is $159 at the gate. Single day tickets are $79 ($69 for Sunday).
More information: Visit www.winterwondergrass.com.
After pursuing separate musical careers for some 15 years, brothers Chris and Oliver Wood had a chance to perform together at a show in North Carolina. Oliver’s band King Johnson opened for Medeski, Martin and Wood, of which Chris is a founding member. Oliver sat in with Medeski, Martin and Wood following the opening set and the siblings realized they ought to play together more often.
“On that night … we felt an immediate musical ‘blood’ connection,” Chris said. “That was the seed. After that we started talking about doing something. We didn’t know what it would be till we spent some time playing together on a family vacation. That’s when we came up with some of the material for our first record, ‘Ways Not To Lose.’”
And thus The Wood Brothers was born. The Americana and blues band has been together for nearly a decade now. Chris plays upright bass and sings mostly harmony, Oliver is on acoustic and electric guitars and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix adds that final element that makes the sound shine. The trio performs at WinterWonderGrass in Avon this evening, on the main stage. The audience will have a chance to hear Rix’s patented percussion instrument, the “shuitar,” which is “a percussion instrument made out of a crappy guitar that’s covered with metal things and doodads that make it sound good,” Chris said. “It sounds like a junky beat box. Jano plays drums, keyboards and sings, but we always feature the shuitar on part of the show.”
Also at tonight’s show, the audience might get a chance to hear some new, unreleased material. The band hopes to finish recording a new record this spring, Chris said.
“We’re very excited about this one,” he said. “Hopefully it will be released by late summer/early fall.”
The Wood Brothers are now officially a Nashville-based band; Oliver relocated in 2012, and Chris followed not long after. It’s the first time the brothers have lived in the same city since they left their parents’ nest, which has helped the group collaborate a bit easier.
“We write songs together, now more than ever since we finally live in the same city,” Chris said.
Unlike in Medeski, Martin and Wood, which is an instrumental band, The Wood Brothers gives Chris the opportunity to sing a bit, though Oliver tends to sing more often.
“Oliver is such a strong singer so he sings most of the leads,” Chris said. “I love singing harmonies and take a shot at a lead once in a while.”
From early in their childhood in Boulder, Chris and Oliver were steeped in American roots music, thanks to their parents.
“We grew up hearing our father play guitar and sing at family gatherings and parties,” Chris said. “In the late 1950s, while attending Harvard, he was part of the Cambridge folk scene. He had a radio show and played gigs with Joan Baez before her career took off. He could have pursued music professionally but lucky for us he became a molecular biologist. Chances are his career would have been overshadowed by the likes of Bob Dylan. He was the first live music we experienced and he had a great record collection.”
It was their mother, a poet, who instilled a passion for storytelling and turn of phrase. She passed away eight years ago.
“We lost our mother in 2007,” Chris said. “It influenced many of the songs on our ‘Loaded’ album. Our father is still alive and is very supportive.”
Along with WinterWonderGrass, the band has two other sold-out Colorado shows on this tour, including a performance at the Boulder Theater on Friday night.
“It still feels like a hometown gig in a way,” Chris said. “It’s a little surreal, like going to your 30-year high school reunion.”
Folk-Americana band Fruition, a string quartet that got its start in Portland, performed at WinterWonderGrass on Friday. Mimi Naja, the singer and mandolin player for the group, pegged The Wood Brothers as a must-see band at the festival.
“That’s our new favorite band,” said Naja, who especially likes the beautiful melodies The Wood Brothers craft. They are “very soulful singers just having fun up there. You can tell they enjoy what they’re doing, and that goes a long way,” she said.