Written By| Wes Lytz
The Ballroom Thieves breached Nashville’s High Watt on a Friday night pilfering ears, snatching eyes and looting souls. They are touring on their 2018 EP Paper Crown.
A mournful violin emanates from the middle of the crowd. That’s opening act Odetta Hartman starting the show. Raised in New York’s East Village, her sound combines elements of folk, country and experimental. Acknowledging the incongruity of a Manhattanite performing country music Hartman admits “it’s like country but really fucked up!”
Maybe so. Definitely entertaining. Odetta demanded the crowd’s attention shuffling between virtuosic violin melodies, guitars, banjo and vocal filters while percussionist Alex Freedom mounted a child-sized drum kit and grooved electronic drums, programmed backing tracks and even a set of those plastic hand clappers you see at sporting events.
Up next, Boston’s neo-folk superstars The Ballroom Thieves fuse folk, rock, bluegrass and good ol’ southern hymnal into a captivating performance. Throughout most of the show, they sing in three-part harmonies so tight you can imagine they answer interview questions synchronized and in stacked thirds.
Calin Peters impresses as she tag-teams the cello and electric bass guitar. Martin Earley asks permission to bust out a “truly” acoustic version of their song. Unplugging his guitar and stepping away from the microphone, he performs un-amplified to an adoring audience all standing silently with mouths agape and pupils dilated. Peters joins him for another ditty sans amplification and the crowd goes nuts.