Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys employed old-fashioned stage antics to entertain the evening crowd at the Northern Lights Canvas Cabaret Stage on Friday (July 7). No pyrotechnics or props required; Byrd, and especially his compadre, multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken, were just plain funny. At one point Waken emerged from behind Byrd, who was standing in front of a condenser mic, essentially using the songwriter as a curtain.
Old-fashioned show business and hamminess aside, Byrd and Waken, joined by bassist Darcy Yates, captivated the crowd through storytelling, folk-blues ("Chicken Wire") and country: "Wild Ponies," off of 2010's Cackalack, drew imagery from the wild horses found on North Carolina's Outer Banks (Byrd lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina); "Poor Johnny" was an a cappella the audience could jump in on, and "Temporary Tattoo" was a clever anti-love song punctuated by saw, care of Waken.
But it was "On the Edge" that was most moving: "She's evicted and naked in the airport again," Byrd sang. "God's harder on girls at the edge of the world." For music that was mostly written from a masculine perspective, this was an interesting twist on things.