Few concerts are worth going to if they are on a Monday night during a week with essays due and exams looming. The NEEDTOBREATHE performance at the Filmore on September 22nd was a rare exception. After taking the bus and metro out to Maryland, I arrived at 8:00 pm as the opening band, The Oh Hello’s, was walking on stage. The mixture of guitars, banjo, violin, accordion, drums and harmonizing voices caught my attention as I tried to find the best spot away from all the tall people in the standing-room-only audience of about 400 fans.
The playful, upbeat musical style and performance of The Oh Hello’s set the tone for NEEDTOBREATHE. The song “Trees” truly exemplifies their style – the lead male voice and the airy female voices spun surprising harmonies, a fast drum beat kept the song skipping forward and the guitars, banjos, and violin filled the background. After getting the crowd dancing and warmed up for the main act, The Oh Hello’s left, and NEEDTOBREATHE took the stage to begin a concert I’ll never forget.
NEEDTOBREATHE is a rock band from Seneca, South Carolina made up of a multi-talented group of performers. William Stanley “Bear” Rinehart is the lead vocalist and plays guitar and piano while his brother, Nathaniel Bryant “Bo” Rinehart, sings the backing vocal pieces and also plays guitar. Seth Bolt joins Bo in singing backup, and he also plays the bass and mandolin. Needtobreathe has created five albums. They released the most recent album, Rivers in the Wasteland, in April of 2014 and their tour is aptly named Rivers in the Wasteland. NEEDTOBREATHE’s rock style with twangs of folk and bluegrass winding through each song creates their unique, vibrant sound.
The overhead lights in the Filmore dimmed and the blue, purple, orange and red stage lights swept beams of color across the audience. The lights swiveled around the room and came to focus on the stage, illuminating three twenty-foot tall tepees: one on the left, center, and right of the stage. I stood on my tiptoes and craned my neck to see the entire stage. A row of background lights shaped like arrows flashed on. Green and red lights danced over the stage and across the audience as the band members came on stage playing the signature guitar and drum beginning of “State I’m In.” iPhones shot up in the air to capture the moment as the lead singer’s rich voice belted over the guitar and drums.
The concert focused on new songs from Rivers in the Wasteland and featured an acoustic performance of one of the staple songs, “Brother”. Before Bear and Bo unplugged from their guitar and microphones to sing, Bear explained the meaning of the song. While recording the latest album, the band had almost broken up due to competition and tensions between Bear and Bo, the founding brothers. After reconciling, Bo wrote “Brother” to capture his strengthened bond with Bear. The sincere, thoughtful lyrics combined with the full mixture of guitar and drums, accented by piano riffs, exemplify the style of the entire album. The acoustic performance highlighted the naturally full, twanging voices of Bear and Bo. In addition to new songs, NEEDTOBREATHE played some of their old favorites including the upbeat “Something Beautiful” and “Keep Your Eyes Open.”
After two encores, NEEDTOBREATHE closed with “More Heart, Less Attack,” a slow, soulful tune. Bear, Bo, and the bass player, Seth Bolt played in a semicircle around a single standing microphone. All lights on stage were dark except for one illuminating their faces from below. I felt like I was listening to friends jamming around a campfire. The strumming and harmonies of the last song completed the effect of the entire concert, which succeeded in transforming my Monday night into a carefree, summer evening.
Photo: Tori Morgan/The Georgetown Voice