Review / Photos / Video / Stream / Download: Hard Working Americans @ Park West 2/22/14

Words: @WeirScrewed
Photos: Tom Harmon

Todd Snider and the Hard Working Americans wrapped up their first ever tour Saturday night at the Park West. From the opening notes of "Blackland Farmer", the band extended most of the tunes from their self-titled debut into lush jammy landscapes. After exploring "Farmer" a bit, the band settled into a "New Speedway Boogie" jam that had the crowd singing “one way or another” before they found their way back. Another jam sandwich followed, with "Another Train" segueing into the Todd Snider original "Is this Thing Working?" which contained another unexpected improvisational passage before landing back into "Another Train".  Starting the show like this sent a message to the crowd -- the band was indeed here to work as hard as advertised, a sentiment that held true until the last notes of the encore.

Throughout the evening, the pocket created by Dave Schools and Duane Trucks was the foundation for guitarists Neal Casal and Jesse Aycock to trade solos and keep the grooves coming one after another. Look no further than "The Mountain Song" for the pinnacle of this style -- with the band evoking early 1970’s Allman Brothers.

Neal Casal proved himself worthy of a featured role in a jamband, as his solos emoted more than expected in addition to showing versatility and technical prowess. Keyboardist Chad Staehly added depth with the Hammond B3 throughout the night, especially during "Mission Accomplished".

Frontman Todd Snider, as usual, held nothing back -- delivering a great performance while hanging back when the jamming took over. Aside from a few turns on the harmonica, he typically bowed out of the spotlight during the jams, letting the players show off. Although it was no surprise that the band would chose to extend some of these songs, the comfort and ease with which they locked in together sounded more like a band who has been together ten years than a band who has been on the road for just a few weeks. This was the case on nearly every song, with Snider directing them back into the song structure when needed.

After a three song encore of "Play a Train Song", "Comes From the Heart", and "Stomp and Holler", fans left hoping that this was not the last time the Hard Working Americans visit Chicago. The band may indeed grow attachment to the city as well.  They will record original material this week at IV Labs studio in Chicago.

That bodes well for the future, that may see a lot more HWA on the road.  Snider hosted a Q&A session after a screening of the film "East Nashville Tonight" at City Winery on Sunday and hinted that Panic and Chris Robinson may see lighter-than-usual touring schedules, allowing for a lot more HWA dates in the future.

But as the tour capper, this show felt special.  Here's hoping the Hard Working Americans return before long with some original material.  This gig proved that they are more than capable of handling it.

Check out the rest of Tom's incredible photos, a full audio stream or iPod ready download (tagged mp3 .zip) of this show below.  There is also some full show (!) video of this gig and a pro-shot mini set recorded the following day at WXRT's Performance Stage.


Blackland Farmer, Another Train > Is This Thing Working? > Another Train, Welfare Music, Stuck On The Corner, Down To The Well, Run A Mile, Don't Have A Gun, Mountain Song, Mission Accomplished, Straight To Hell, Guaranteed, Wrecking Ball

Encore: Play A Train Song, Comes From The Heart, Stomp and Holler

The Stream

[box type="download"]Download Entire Set[/box]

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