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Vintage Trouble, Mill Point Park, Hampton, VA- 9/19

I consider myself blessed to have been among the 250 people to see Vintage Trouble on a cloudy but comfortable Friday night on the Hampton River, just a few miles from the historic Coliseum known forevermore as the Mothership. And I do not use the word “blessed” loosely. Because not only did Vintage Trouble take it to church, they strapped rockets onto church, installed a hyperdrive, and blasted off on a tour of the galaxy with Ty Taylor, the group’s frontman, as our charming guide, shaman, mother, father, Jesus, and Buddha. Although the venue that once hosted Melvin Seals, Derek Trucks, Steve Earle, and Lucinda Williams was only a tenth full, it had the energy of a soldout crowd bursting at the seams.

While Taylor may rightfully grab a lot of the headlines, Vintage Trouble is a well-oiled machine on stage. Guitarist Nalle Colt, drummer Richard Danielson, and bassist Rick Barrio Dill react to Taylor’s theatrical moves like they are a creature of one mind. It is clear they enjoy being Vintage Trouble. They have a rabid fanbase known as Troublemakers, but the four biggest fans are on the stage. Despite their sharp dress the vibe they give off is more like a group of geeky teenagers who have practiced for months to play their first gig in the basement of a community center. They are the very model of sincerity and earnestness. They aren’t geeky, but they have the quintessential geek energy I don’t usually associate with LA bands.

Taylor’s history in musical theater allows him to give the appearance of being out of control while always being in control. He has a trick bag of dance moves so large the band travels with three extra buses just to house them all. The group’s stripped down sound lends literal space on the stage for Taylor to spin and jump and twist and leap like Fred Astaire from a different temporality in which all religions are psilocybin based. Over the course of two hours there was maybe twenty non-consecutive seconds in which Taylor had not incited the crowd to sing or dance or clap or shout. Not to belabor the point, but Vintage Trouble literally took it to church for two fucking hours. When Taylor grabbed a wireless mic and went out into the crowd, strutting and striding and hitting every single note, the looks of ecstatic joy were on everyone from the ticket-takers to the security guards to the smartphone junkies foolishly trying to keep Taylor in frame.

When the band took a seat and delved into their latest material from The Swing House Acoustic Sessions it became apparent that Michael Kiwanuka isn’t the only man who can write like the child of Neil Young and Marvin Gaye. The highlight of the night, however, came in the form of “Nancy Lee” off of The Bomb Shelter Sessions. Taylor took the time to explain that he had family from the area, and that this song was about his mother, noting “What makes this next song really special is I know how many people out here knew Nancy Lee. And anything you know about Nancy Lee is that she lit up a field, a room, a church, a bar, a store, a street—wherever she happened to be going. Which is why I’m sure when my father saw her in some bar dancing in the 1950s, he said, ‘that’s the one.’ Now, she was not only valedictorian and captain of the basketball team and the prettiest woman in town but also my dad was the opposite of all those things. He was a construction worker and a farmer. No romance, no love songs, no nothing, but I believe in my hearts of hearts if he could write a love song for this lilly of a mother of mine it would go something like this one here.” Tightening his suit, he noted “You gotta fix yourself up before you sing songs about your mother.” He then unveiled definitive proof he is the most exciting frontman in music today.

Up next for the inaugural Mill Point Park Friday Night Live series is the the Jeff Austin Band on October 10 and Cracker with the No BS Brass Band the following Friday. Yarn opens for Austin, who recently parted ways with Yonder Mountain String Band. The addition of Danny Barnes to Austin’s band is reason enough to visit the acoustically perfect outdoor venue in downtown Hampton. The history of concerts in the park also includes Susan Tedeschi, Fishbone, Dave Matthews, Toots and the Maytals, Bruce Hornsby, and Sonia Dada. This latest series is an attempt by Richmond’s Flat 5 Productions to reignite the once vibrant music venue that sits empty on beautiful day after beautiful day.

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