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Andy Hull + Dustin Kensrue Memphis 2017

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Andy Hull + Dustin Kensrue Memphis 2017

Nathan Armstrong

MEMPHIS, TN – It’s rare that we get intimate anymore. Life is too fast-paced for us to slow down and appreciate things. And you know what? Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes we need to put our noses to the grindstone and work; it’s how we make progress. But last night was not one of those times to turn away from intimacy. No, last night was for slowing everything down and diving deep into life rather than water ski over it. And courtesy of Andy Hull and Dustin Kensrue, we got to do that.

Hull and Kensrue are best recognized as the lead vocalists for Manchester Orchestra and Thrice, respectively. But remember when I said we got intimate? Last night was a stripped-down, acoustic concert. Just Hull, Kensrue, their guitars and a bunch of people who were crazy about their music. They really were crazy, too.

The two switch each night on who would take the stage first and last night was Hull’s turn. As he took the stage, the crowd became a family. Hi-Tone is standing room majority, with some chairs along the wall, so we were all actually on the same level minus the stage. But even more, we were all on the same level in awe of what was in front of us. Hull was like poetry in music; spilling his life into each song. His voice carried to the back of the room and subsequently echoed right back; and as I looked around, I noticed something. Some people knew every lyric, some knew only a couple of words, but everyone in the building had the same look on their face. It was a mixture of concentration and appreciation. I had never seen anything like it! Truly, in all the shows I’ve been to, I have never seen people so focused on the product in front of them. The entirety of the show maintained that feeling, then Hull performed a silly song about 50 Cent and how he blew all his money on a boat. It was a good thing, too, because I’m afraid that if Hull hadn’t lightened the mood, the crowd could not have handled Kensrue, who came up next. 

After an incredible performance by Hull, Kensrue took the stage to cap off the night. Kensrue, once known as the worship pastor for Mars Hill Church in Bellevue, Washington, comes off as the most level-headed, well-spoken individual you’ve ever met. The way he speaks is so articulate and you feel like he’s a quiet, sweet, guy when you talk to him. However, all those things are what you think before you hear his music.

Not to say Kensrue isn’t sweet or articulate, because he exudes those characteristics, but this guy’s music is quite the opposite. Its loud, rough, and most of all, it’s truth. No matter what song it is, Kensrue’s words carry weight. Even when singing someone else’s song, he somehow makes the words mean more: which Kensrue does entirely on his new album, “Thoughts That Float on A Different Blood.”

Kensrue, just like Hull, was a poet in musician’s clothes. Strange enough, he seemed to get better as the show went on. The rasp in his voice, the chords he played, the songs he sang: they all got better. As he donned his neck harmonica, Kensrueplayed originals like, “Blood & Wine,” “Of Crows and Crowns,” as well as covers by Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Brand New, Miley Cyrus, and Counting Crows. In fact, his cover of “Round Here,” by Counting Crows was perhaps the most memorable. Somehow, the way he sang someone else’s song made it feel like he had written for everyone in the crowd.

An incredible night with two impeccable musicians, what better way to start the week? If you have the chance, they have three more dates on the tour: 3/28 Baton Rouge, 3/29 Dallas, and 3/30 Houston. If reading this recap wasn’t enough for you either, we have an interview with Dustin coming up shortly! So, look for that link and go listen to these guys on the ole’ internet machine.

- Stone Pannell : @StonePannell