The rain fell hard from the gunmetal sky, scattering the weekend crowds to hide out in bars and restaurants. The night’s hope for music vanished early in the afternoon. But as the summer rains waned, the clouds broke, pushing across the sky as the sunlight angled through the city. One by one, the crowd began to form. Lawn chairs opened and filled the sidewalks and streets. And by the time the night’s opener Andy Squint took the stage, the allotted city block was filled with hundreds of fans for the Summer on Liberty music series. As Squint slid his bottleneck slide across the metal stings, his guitar wailed from the covered stage, and a different kind of storm broke across the waiting fans.
Originally from Baton Rouge, La., Squint began his career as guitarist for acclaimed blues band Swamp Cats, leading him to eventually play alongside such Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame members as Oscar Davis and Slim Harpo’s guitarist, James Johnson. In 2010, Squint relocated to High Point, bringing his blues talents to the local stage.
As the evening sun lowered in the west on July 1 on Liberty Street in downtown Winston-Salem, Squint warmed up the crowd with a mix of original songs, featuring his use of slide guitar and harmonica. Although he got his start in Louisiana, Squint’s music echoes back to such greats as Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. Laying down a wailing set of Louisiana blues and zydeco, the crowd sat listening with appreciation, yet with a fervor for the night’s headliners.
With a lengthy and somewhat jarring pause in the show as amps were set up and guitars tuned, Luxuriant Sedans finally made it to the stage. And what momentum might have been lost in the change was immediately forgotten and the Sedans slid into their set.
The five-member band made up of veteran musicians showed their expertise of live performance, bringing forth a burst of applauding hands and tapping feet with only the first few chords. And after just the first two songs, lead singer and harmonica player Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski broke the crowd free from their lawn chairs, calling the audience forth to the dance floor. As the band laid into a Bruce Springsteen cover, couples walked hand in hand to the front. All throughout the vast sea of bodies, people rose from their seats like blooming flowers, and there began an eruption of dancing.
Luxuriant Sedans features members who have played in prominent local and national bands such as Sneakers, Peter May & the Rough Band, the Allisons and Kingfish. But while their individual résumés earn them respect, this collective has a dedicated following all their own. Throughout the crowd, hundreds of audience members were adorned in Luxuriant Sedan merchandise — such popularity seemingly reserved only for world-renowned acts. But it’s a testament to these musicians’ decades of impact on the Triad, both individually and collectively since their start in 2015.
Though people most often tend to come and go during an outdoor festival, only stopping to listen for a moment before moving on to the next thing, this audience was only augmented throughout the night.
The outdoor concert was the fourth event in the 20th anniversary of Music on Liberty, part of the Downtown Winston-Salem’s Partnership’s Summer Music Series. Featuring an array of acclaimed local acts, the series in held each Saturday during the summer, running until its finale on Aug. 26. The response and attendance to the show last weekend proved a common love and need for music in Winston-Salem. It brought together a wide variety of fans and age groups, from teenagers and families with kids to older music lovers.
Luxuriant Sedans’ music rests on a level of easily accessible original songs with a sound that calls to mind ZZ Top and Rival Sons, having something in the melodies for nearly everyone in attendance. The heavy, in-the-pocket drumming of Bob Tarleton and the technical precision of lead guitarist Rob Slater laid the foundation for Mike Wesolowski’s bluesy vocals and wailing harmonica. Altogether, the band was impressively tight, flowing from one song to the next with professional skill. Any rancor or boredom was nonexistent during the show, and smiles were present on the faces of the band and audience alike.
As the sun settled behind the city skyline, the crowd danced and the music didn’t let up. Happiness flourished, conjured into the summer air by the night’s music. The only moments of feeling blue came as the music ended and chairs were folded up and the streets grew slowly vacant of dancing feet. And while a craving for great music might appear insatiable, it’s antidote lies only a week away for the next concert of Summer on Liberty.