Concert Heartstrings Review

Everyone’s Americana: Shovels & Rope at Celebrate Brooklyn!

By: Lauren Jahoda


Celebrate Brooklyn rises above your average free music event. You can release any daunting expectations of stifling crowds or finding only terrible spots to situate yourself. I can assure that you will be satisfied with the atmosphere and your experience, regardless of arrival time.

The Prospect Park Bandshell stage overlooks an ample seating area followed by a lofty grass area where attendees can place their blankets, tapestries and lounge chairs for an ideal view of the stage, without the obstruction of the many chairs in front. Unlike many (but of course not all) festivals or outdoor and unassigned performance events, the seating at this event had a compassionate turnaround. No fuss, no pressure, just easy. During the intermissions among the three acts, an adequate number of already-seated concert-goers moved from their seats and explored other areas of the park, providing others a chance at seated vantage points. The attractions included some very affordable and spectacular eats from The Farm on Adderly, an indigenous Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant, and your not-so-affordable standard domestic beers with the addition of one or two craft brews.

I attended the concert with several friends who were unfamiliar with the three Americana acts present last night, but each left Prospect Park with three new musicians to listen, follow and spread the word about. Shakey Graves and Valerie June certainly pleased the audience but the highlight, of course, was the headliner, Shovels & Rope. I’ve been a devoted Shovels & Rope fan for almost two years now and I’ve seen them perform once before inside Fort Adams at Newport Folk Festival, and I promise when I say that I felt goose-bumps when they began to play “Gasoline.” The sound that spread throughout the bandshell was as potent as the smell of real gasoline.

The even more unmistakable presence during the performance was Trent and Hearst’s partnership. The husband and wife demonstrate a powerful and spirited counterbalance, which was most visibly evident by their interchanging of positions and instruments. Hearst began with acoustic guitar on the left, while Trent played drums and shakers on the right. Two songs in, Hearst took over the drums on the right and Trent grabbed his electric guitar and occupied the left. The switch took place at least one more time before they finished.

The Charleston duo’s innate performance strategy is all about having fun with each other and then amplifying it to their audience. In between songs, the pair experienced a delay as Trent tried to tune his guitar and also prep his harmonica. Hearst took advantage of the delay, leaned into her microphone and remarked on the unfriendly sound coming from the harmonica. She shouted, “There’s a lot of loogies in it. From blowin’ it!!” And the unfailing innuendo predictably aroused the audience, as it always does.

If you’re looking to show your friends the Americana way, this is it. Shovels & Rope is everyone’s Americana. Remember to watch out for Swimmin’ Time this August.

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