Photos and Review by: Daniel Merlino
Author’s Instagram: merlinofotografia
Lineup: The Arcadian Wild, Good Morning Bedlam
Date: February 7, 2023
Location: Ponyboy, Oklahoma City, OK
A POWERFUL CALM settled over the crowd rousing a harmony between curiosity and the tension of excitement. Minneapolis-based folk band Good Morning Bedlam ignited the stage with presence and power rivaling groups with thirty years of performance experience. They radiated confidence and purpose, easing the audience into their world of folk instruments and adventure.
They opened the evening with high energy and storytelling. Playing an array of songs from their available catalog and new material slated for future releases, Good Morning Bedlam displayed an adept versatility of song choice and styling. Set list design is an overlooked skill as a band or artist. Their set led the audience on a hike through ice and snow, head first through multi-part harmonies, violin and trumpet solos, soaring melodies between vocals and ukulele, and driving double bass lines.
The Arcadian Wild started their set with strong audience interaction and lighthearted humor, setting an enjoyable tone for the rest of the evening. They reminisced about their first show as a group, opening for a headliner at Ponyboy OKC long ago; making this evening quite special for them to come back and headline the same stage. Their style stretched along a spectrum of folk and bluegrass, with elements of blues and a unique expansion upon the singer/songwriter genre. The set list showcased the vocal and instrumental abilities of each musician, eliciting deep emotion and cheer.
There are countless metrics for critique of musical performance. One of the most overlooked is a group’s internal communication. The Arcadian Wild emanates love and grace toward each other. You could see the strength of their bonds, similar to a high-performing soccer or football team. It’s rare to see that level of communication expressing a genuine connection and a sense that there is nowhere they’d rather be at that moment. It seemed that there was nowhere else the crowd wanted to be either.
Another metric is surprise. Surprise of professionalism demonstrating well-honed skill, surprise of chord changes and intricate syncopation building complex—yet subtle—rhythmic variations; all while wearing humble and heartwarming smiles. The level of musicianship throughout the evening was nothing short of masterful. Between sultry and raspy vocals, searing falsetto and multi-part harmonies mixed with flowing melody, The Arcadian Wild captivated the crowd.
At one point in the show, I forgot I was there to take photographs. I found myself drifting off through distant memories of backpacking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, embracing the colors of Fall and the most peaceful breeze of fresh mountain air. Massive backing vocals snapped me back to the present, but it wasn’t just backing vocals. The whole of Ponyboy were singing every word with those upon the stage, responding with expressions of joy and awe. Surprise.
Magic still exists through the art of live performance, please support your local venues and musicians/artists. I look forward to following Good Morning Bedlam and The Arcadian Wild along their journeys with high hopes of the music yet to come.
I want to give a shout-out to Ponyboy. All of the staff were efficient, pleasant, and friendly. The sound and lighting crew were fantastic, I photographed all over the entire venue and the sound was incredible regardless of where you were in the space. Job well done!