Words and Photos by Agatha Donkar
Glenn Boothe, who owns the Local 506, told me this great story a few years ago, one night when I was sitting at the bar and there were, at best, maybe 20 people there for the show -- I couldn't even tell you who was playing, that's how empty and unmemorable the night was.
But, Glenn told me that, shortly after he bought the place, he booked The National. They came, and they played a show to 18 people, 4 of whom worked there and 6 of whom were in the opening band. By the next year, just after Alligator came out, he tried to book them again -- and they were already too big for him. They came close to selling out the Cat's Cradle on that tour. They sold the Cradle out on the Boxer tour, and played a 1,000-person venue the tour after that.
When Glenn told me this story, The National were getting ready to play a 2,500 seat theatre in Raleigh in support of High Violet.
Last year, when The Lumineers played at the 506, they played to exactly 12 people, a fact they proudly announced to the beyond sold-out crowd last night, and then they proceeded to play one of those sets that, if you are smart, you understand when you are watching it that it will be memorable not just for the music but because you were one of those 250 people seeing The Lumineers absolutely shine in a small venue.
A small venue the likes of which they won't be in for much longer, because they were that magical last night. They moved a notoriously stoic Chapel Hill crowd to full-voiced sing-along and enthusiastic foot-stomping, and every member of the band looked like there was nowhere they would rather be than playing those songs on that stage.
Everything from the album sounds as transcendent and golden live as it does on the record; they burned through a stomping mid-set cover of "Subterranean Homesick Blues"; and they closed their encore with a sunny and utterly sincere cover of "The Weight," which was so gorgeous and sad that I just stood there and cried helplessly.
I can't give a band a bigger rave than that, really, and to say that it was a genuine pleasure to watch them own the room last night, and to know that I was watching something special. Sometimes you know that about a band, but you don't really know it until you see it.
See more of Agatha Donkar's photos at her website.