On July 29th, I failed Kevin Devine. That evening, Uptoeleven Productions had him set up with a stop in Lawrence, KS, a mere 35 miles from my home in Kansas City, where I would be hosting Driver F in the first “Popwreckoning Music Showcase.” Needless to say I was pretty conflicted. While my rational side reminded me that I should obviously attend the show that I had labored to create, my emotional side kept implying that after five years and seven shows later, I had never missed a Kevin Devine tour in my area. Truthfully, I was not ready to start now. So, two days later, without hesitation, I drove to the middle of Iowa.
Understandably, to the common listener, this situation would pose the potential questions that anyone in their right mind would ask when embarking on such an epic quest for a somewhat moderately known artist; in a time when gas is a minimum of four dollars a gallon, is it a safe bet to travel three hundred and eighteen miles to watch this man play?
With Kevin Devine, however, the answer is always a resounding “yes!” A wonderful show is not only a safe bet, but a given.
This night was no exception. Playing to the sold out crowd which had gathered in the venue mostly to see an acoustic set by the saddest of sad bastards, Jesse Lacey, the room was flooded by a sense of energy and excitement. Yet, unlike most shows with a set headliner, this tour differed in the sense that all three groups contributed to each set, in a Hotel Café tour kind of way. The crowd was also blessed with the chance to see a side of Kevin that I has never experienced before; comfort.
Generally speaking, Devine’s stage personality comes off as shy, sometimes going as far as slightly insecure. While this never affected his stage energy and emotional output within his music during his performances, his stage banter was always less than his real life personality, which is both charming and pleasurable. However, on this night, with friends and band mates surrounding him, I got to see a new side of Devine’s act.
The set played out more like a group of friends writing music in their living room than a national tour intended on selling records and merch. Throughout his songs, consisting of a combination of old favorites and new singles, Devine laughed, smiled and talked to his partners on stage, as relaxed as I have ever seen him. Testing out new material, Devine seemed pleased with the reaction of the crowd, short of a few in the back who talked throughout the entirety of the show, to whom he often shot confused glares. However, instead of growing discouraged and cutting his set short, Kevin simply pulled out old favorites like “Ballgame” and “Cotton Crush” to reward those who were paying attention. In addition to his set, Kevin appeared and fronting an alt-country version of Brand New‘s “Jesus Christ,” leaving the crowd both speechless and beside itself. Had he not already won the crowd over, they were his now. It honestly was very refreshing.
And well worth the drive.