What began as one of the most relaxing and hushed evenings Cargo had ever seen ended with an emergency alarm and a call for immediate evacuation halfway through Shovels & Rope’s second encore, “Lay Low.” While the confused crowd shuffled out of the venue, it was almost comical how even the siren couldn’t undo the sense of calm that Shovels & Rope had instilled during their nearly 90-minute performance. The cause for evacuation turned out to be a smoking microwave on the second floor due to an overcooked bag of popcorn — a cause appropriately innocuous considering the performances that evening.
The married, Charleston-based couple has been performing together for nearly a decade and the obvious comfortability they have with one another blankets every corner of their oeuvre. Their affable alt-indie stylings and penchant for honey-sweet harmonies have afforded them the opportunities to tour extensively and yet Tuesday night was their inaugural visit to the Biggest Little City.
“It’s our first time here in Reno” husband Michael Trent mentioned halfway through their set, “you’re all as beautiful as they say you are.” It speaks to Reno’s sense of humor that a sizable chunk of the crowd laughed at this apparently earnest comment.
The set was replete with sentimental moments and tasteful musicality as the duo switched from instrument to instrument between nearly every song. Any perceived kitschiness that could have been culled from their stage show was immediately buried by the strength of their songs and the quiet confidence with which they performed. Multi-instrumentalist Carry Ann Hearst’s voice in particular was subtly show-stealing, even in backing roles like on Trent’s song “When I…”.
Other highlights of the set included the opening song, a newer ballad called “Carry Me Home,” the mic-sharing, house rocking final chorus of “Hail Hail” — their tribute to Chuck Berry — and of course the hip-swinging anti-ode to California “San Andreas Fault Line Blues.” Even as the instrumentation and dynamics of the songs changed, the demeanor of Trent and Hearst as light-hearted 21st century troubadours never did, leaving the audience in a mood as steadfastly cheery at the buzzer-beating end of the night as it was at the beginning.
T. Hardy Morris
As Athens, Georgia, native T. Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate, Diamond Rugs) took the stage, he let out a muffled “good morning” to the crowd and lurched into his set. Whether he was hungover or just road worn is anyone’s guess, but the singer’s melancholy presence, along with melismatic pedal steel playing and dragging tempos, started the night off slowly. “I Blame Me On You” and “The Night Everything Changed” were the short set’s highlights.
— Spencer Kilpatrick