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Arts and Entertainment

Watkins Family Hour @ Largo, 9/13/07

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Thursday night's Watkins Family Hour performance at Largo was a humdinger. At one point, they must have broken some kind of a Largo record, because they fit NINE people on that tiny platform. Throughout the three-hour set, eight additional performers joined Sean and Sara Watkins on the stage. The lineup included Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench, Glen Phillips, Greg Leisz, Mike Elizondo, Willie Watson, Jay Bellerose and Dave Rawlings.

They performed more than 20 songs ranging from Nickel Creek to Bob Dylan to Patsy Cline material—in addition to “Happy Birthday” as sung by the audience in celebration of Fiona Apple’s 30th. Not bad for a $15 cover charge and the cost of dinner!

More after the jump...

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The night started off with a spirited set by "Tractor Beam," which is perhaps one of the best names for a country/bluegrass band ever, then Sean and Sara (of Nickel Creek) took the stage. Had the night been comprised of just the two of them, it still would have been a fantastic show. But they had much in store for this unsuspecting audience.

The siblings were joined by all of the aforementioned musicians at various points. Some of the musical standouts were the fiddle tunes, Nickel Creek's "Somebody More Like You" (Sean's sweet-then-sarcastic vocals were spot-on), Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" (Sara's angelic voice absolutely soared), and Jon Brion's "Same Mistakes."

Throughout most of the evening, Sean wrestled with some tuning and sound-related technical difficulties. But he handled it well by saying something along the lines of, "With all the extra tuning tonight, it's like you're getting what would be the deluxe edition of a DVD. Rather than paying $30, this would be the set that'd cost $45."

The show was already hopping when Sean invited "Fiona" to the stage. As in Fiona Apple. She bounded up to the front, bursting with glee. She couldn't help but tell everyone, "Today's my 30th birthday!" It's always fun to see Apple's playful side. Though she's known for being intense and sometimes angry in her music (which she demonstrated during a riveting performance of "Limp") it's fun to see her laughing and toying with lighter fare. She and the team on-stage started with Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight," which was followed by Apple's own "Paper Bag," "Extraordinary Machine" and others.

But the show didn't end there. Apple left the stage for a while, then Benmont Tench moved from the piano to center stage and sang Bo Diddley's "Mona." After a couple more songs, Glen Philips joined the group for a few songs, including Paul Simon's "American Tune."

The show ended with a bang, and at one point nine of the 10 musicians took the stage and jammed for the final 4-5 songs. The highlight for me was when, at the request of an audience member, they performed an encore of last Saturday's performance (during Jon Brion's show) of the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back," with Sara on lead vocals.

Upcoming Watkins Family Hours are scheduled for Sept. 20, 27 and Oct. 4. To learn more, visit the Largo website. You'd be hard-pressed to find better entertainment on a Thursday evening. Or any other night for that matter.

Photo (of a previous performance) used with the permission of the Watkins Family Hour.