If you haven’t added Dan and the Wildfire to your summertime playlist, get on it. I’m telling you guys, I could see this group becoming the next Lumineers. The five-person band is headlined Dan HL on vocal and guitar and includes drums, keyboard, and a trumpet, which, surprisingly, was my favorite instrument in the ensemble.
I saw them live on humid, July night, tucked into the back corner of crepe restaurant that also serves as a concert venue. I sat there, sipping a diet coke so I wouldn’t be booted from my table, and taking in the band. The music was far too loud for the tiny space it occupied and many restaurant-goers opted to sit outside on the patio rather than in front of the stage inside. But seeing these musicians on stage, witnessing their performance was crucial in experiencing the songs they were singing. The small venue made for an incredibly intimate musical experience – I felt like Dan was singing right to me at times. It was weird. And I loved every second of it.
What I heard was surprisingly enjoyable. I don’t mean that I was expecting the show to be a flop, but at first glance I honestly thought these guys were the typical Boston hipster folk band that I’d heard time and time again. I mean, first, they were all wearing the same shirt, which I thought was an unnecessary branding tactic. Some had lumberjack beards and others were wearing stylish glasses, which I questioned the authenticity of. Honestly, I expected to hear a couple of banjo-heavy songs about fighting the man.
However, I was happily surprised by the diversity in the music they played. The band began with some classic jazz and rock covers, which served as comforting introduction to the original songs they performed later on in the evening. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what their genre was. They played with driving intensity reminiscent of the folk rock bands we grew up with, like Mumford and Sons and Alabama Shakes. But then all of a sudden they broke for an electric guitar solo, totally shifting the atmosphere. It became clear to me that this group of men, who I at first thought were complete posers, were actually extremely talented musicians.
One of the songs I really enjoyed was “Austin, Tx,” which Dan introduced as his attempt at a country song. I am not a huge country person – I say I like country in the summer, and only in the summer – but this felt like a new genre of country that I could see myself, and a lot of others who aren’t major country people, really enjoying. The group skillfully mixes the typical crooning ballad we expect from country artists with rock influences, making it palatable to a wide range of audiences.
While “Austin, Tx,” embraced the slow-moving, hot summers of the South, “When the Well Dries Up,” embraced a much more upbeat, rhythmic sound. While the voices still remained reminiscent of a sad folk song, the instruments added a variety I was not expecting. At one point all the instruments cut out expect for the drums and the vocals, almost urging the audience to clap along with the rhythm. The song became a feel-good number, the music surrounding you and send good vibes through your body.
Dan and the Wildfire’s music at times takes a socio-critical edge. In fact, every cent the band makes from the download of their song “Nothin’ But Love,” is donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Again, this was another song meant to uplift. With a strong introduction, lead by the electric guitar, Dan laments on the struggle he’s faced as a musician “singing songs through all the noise,” of the current political climate. Still, he says he’s got, “nothin’ but love.” That’s a sentiment reflected in a lot of their music – times may be tough, but we’re all in it together.
I left the concert feeling positive. With a 90 minute set behind me, I felt empowered. One of the main messages they sent was that music is a platform that has the power to cut through the monotonous, sometimes down right nasty, world we live in. Listening to Dan and the Wildfire is an experience I think can do a lot of people a great deal of good.