Fans played hooky on a Monday afternoon to catch a rare performance by The Lumineers on the Red Bull Sound Space Stage at KROQ on April 4, 2016. With the much anticipated release of their second album (Cleopatra) and an upcoming world tour, The Lumineers graciously played in front of a crowd that had embraced them since the folk rock band’s birth.
Known by a couple names including Free Beer to trick people into seeing them live at local venues throughout the east coast – very clever – The Lumineers opened the show with their first track, “Flowers in Your Hair,” off their debut self-titled album released in 2012. Four years ago, almost to date, The Lumineers introduced themselves to the world and today had fans in attendance singing along every word. The three-piece core group accompanied by their other two musicians transitioned into the hit single, “Ho Hey,” that eventually led to a platinum album in the US and Ireland. From that moment, the crowd loosened up and felt at ease with The Lumineers’ timeless sound.
They continued with three tracks off their new album which features “Ophelia,” “Cleopatra,” and “Angela” – all of which they were excited to share to the vibing audience. Scanning the venue, you could see the excitement in the eyes of their fans rather than the movements of their bodies. From what I can tell, the enjoyment was more internal for Lumineerites, which seemed to be special in of itself. The Lumineers closed out the set with a karaoke-like performance of “Stubborn Love,” an ending piece that allowed everyone to engage with one of their favorite folk rock bands of this generation.
Founding member and lead vocalist Wesley Schultz thanked fans, but not before host of KROQ Nicole Alvarez (plus her baby-to-be) led a camp-fire storytelling Q&A with the group. With mics in hand, other founding member and drummer Jeremiah Fraites and cellist Neyla Pekarek joined Wesley in describing their experience thus far as The Lumineers. Neyla mentioned her early years aspiring to become a music teacher which coincided with a response to a Craigslist ad by Wesley and Jeremiah. Unknowingly, that ad changed her life and soon formed the group we see today. Jeremiah also reflected on the evolution of the band, speaking on its transformation of angst from their first album to a sense of clarity in the upcoming one.
Wesley revealed the decisions behind the title and cover art for Cleopatra while sharing the story of the title track. He found inspiration for the song from a story he read regarding an elderly woman in the Republic of Georgia, a country that neighbors Russia. This lady made headlines as the country’s first female cab driver and from there Wesley became fascinated, leading to his meeting with a “hardened woman with a beer between her legs and a cigarette in her mouth” who later revealed a somber life of tragedy and heartache. In his conversation with her, Wesley repeated these words to the opened-eared crowd: “She had told the two best days of her life was when I had my divorce and had my kid.” If that wasn’t heavy, I don’t know what is. These words were then given homage in the song with the lyrics, “And the only gifts from my Lord / were a birth and a divorce.”
The Q&A wrapped up with a funny story about someone belching out a song by Creed during their visit to the Hollywood Bowl, where they will be playing for the first time later this year. To listen to the humor and genuineness of The Lumineers, check out the entire set and interview looping for 24 hours via Red Bull TV here.
As fans headed back to their cars, they were welcomed to street parking tickets on their windshield. Sad as it may be, one person I caught up with said “it was so worth it”