The Lumineers play to 120 lucky folks at The Chapel

Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

Warren Hellman’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival just closed out it’s 12th year w/ impeccable weather, and it featured over 250,000 attendants and three days of amazing performances from a wide variety of globally recognized artists. Focusing on the latest and greatest in contemporary and traditional country, rockabillly, soul, brass and/or any slight derivative of the genre, crowds spanned throughout the entire Hellman Hollows portion of Golden Gate Park, for a full weekend of bluegrass bliss. One of the stand out acts of the weekend, bringing a fully packed Rooster Stage to their feet, was Denver Colorado’s five piece folk outfit, the Lumineers.

Production-wise, the band is known for their stripped down, vocally saturated, exceptional acoustic performances. While this can be hard to do on a large scale, they accomplished it with ease and they won the enthusiastic attention of a fully packed Saturday afternoon crowd. Hailed by many as a favorite act of the weekend, the Lumineers proved their sound and talent could transcend the difficulties present within the setting of a large scale festival. Beyond allowing them to reach a whole different level of notoriety, it left many fans in anticipation for their next return to the Bay Area. Luckily for me, I was able to catch it front an center during the soft opening of what is properly being referred to as “The Preservation Hall West,” or The Chapel.

The brand new (still under construction) venue, located in the heart of the Mission District in San Francsico, is one with a particularly interesting back story. Beyond being named after & the official west coast home of the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the building itself is a converted mortuary built in 1914. The stage, which played host to a slew of Hardly Strictly talent for the remainder of the weekend, including Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and Allison Moore, is sans alter, directly in the middle of what used to be the resident chapel. Elevated about eight feet above floor level, underneath 40 ft. wooden beamed ceiling’s, surrounded by the barren walls of an incomplete venue. Because of all this, the room has a beautifully organic stereo quality. This scope of sound perfectly complemented the intimate nature of the private Lumineers show to close out the venue’s first full week of operation.

Right when I found out about this show, I jumped upon the opportunity to see them in such a gorgeous space. With a crowd maxing out at about a 120 person guest list, audience members were treated to a show most would only be lucky enough to catch in the context of a wedding or band’s debut performance. Although a newer face in commercial radio, The Lumineers played a far from amateur show, highlighting material off of their 2012 self titled debut along with encore accapella numbers and a teaser of a yet to be released track. Wesley Shultz’s humble front man presence charmingly absorbed the crowd while Jeremiah Fraite’s drums and Neyla Pekarek’s cello bled beautifully into perfect cohesion with their visceral back up vocals. Stelth Ulvang and Ben Wahamaki remained in the offstage areas, ducked behind the velvet curtains until their aid was needed on tracks featuring the piano, mandolin, accordion and bass.

The Lumineers’ sound, although self described as folk rock in the vein of traditional roots revival, is one that transcends a typecast amongst listeners. The crowd that evening, completely diverse in background and reason for attendance, hung upon every lingering note, extended bridge and crowd participatory moment the band brought to the stage. Whether languidly entranced, swaying back and forth to Shultz’s accapella crooning of “Dead Sea,” or bursting with energy, jumping at the invitation to scream along the chorus of “Hey Ho,” the band decidedly made the evening an especially participatory experience for everyone in attendance. Shultz even went as far as to candidly suggest that everyone limit their recording to a minimum, to keep the evening as it was intended to be: a private moment to be shared between them and the audience.

The band ended their set thanking everyone for their support through radio play and downloads. They cheekily added the casual reminder that said hits were part of a larger collection of music they were proud to share, through purchase of their entire album. Constant discourse, hugs and sentimental moments shared through the band member’s playful nature and glances at each other resonated a relatable quality that the Lumineers have, but in another setting could get lost in the moment. Their sound, personas and overall ambiance they brought to the deconstructed venue was perfect for the Preservation Hall West’s first week performance schedule. This intimate gathering worked as a seamless transition but the scene was completely different than their incredibly impressive appearance at HSB 2012.


  1. Great Review. Theres two venues in the bay that I need to get to asap. Terrapin Crossroads and Preservation Hall West.

  2. That would have been a special one to be at

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