Carbon Leaf @ Rams Heads On Stage, Annapolis, MD

Featured, Live Reviews | Dec 11th, 2022

Carbon Leaf @ Rams Heads On Stage, Annapolis, MD
Photo by Bryan Kremkau

Date: December 10th, 2022 (matinee)

2018. That was the last time I saw Carbon Leaf. It’s been 5 years since I last saw one of my favorite bands but I was going to change that! I would try to see them every year or twice a year when I lived in NY and NJ. Now that I live in Delaware, I have to drive some distance to see them and other bands. This was my first indoor concert since before the pandemic (Jan. 2020) so I was really looking forward to this one.

It’s been a rough year so seeing Carbon Leaf was exactly what the doctor ordered! I got these tickets when they went on sale and got tickets at one of the front tables. I was planning on taking pictures but figured since my wife and my young son were with me for this matinee show, I would just try to enjoy the show for a change. This was my son’s first indoor concert, although he probably doesn’t remember seeing Rude Boy George in an outdoor show when he was 2 years old.

Like with all shows that I have to drive to, there was some drama. The trip started out with a mile long traffic jam just outside my development. Then having to pee so bad the entire ride and I didn’t stop at a McDonalds until 10 minutes to go. Driving over the Bay Bridge was nerve wracking, and I’m not usually one to be freaked out by bridges but it felt like driving over a tall roller coaster with dingy railings. Having to pee and going over that made things worse. But enough of my bad bladder.

I’ve never been to Annapolis but I’ve seen photos over the years that I knew I would love the capital of Maryland. Holiday lights all over the historic city, right on the bay and it was just so pretty. We wandered around for 20 minutes before the doors opened. We stopped inside the comic book shop there and then headed back to the venue. I definitely need to come back for a longer visit, if we can brave the Bay Bridge.

Carbon Leaf’s shows at Rams Head seem legendary, I’ve been reading and hearing about them over the years. I was happy to finally experience one. The band plays annually, 4 shows in 3 days. I picked the matinee because I’d rather get home early than 1:30 in the morning. It seemed like the small venue was filled with mostly family and friends, with a lot of kids too. The band came out to the “Bare Necessities” like they have been doing since their unofficial (official) mascot is a stuffed bear named Chase.

Carbon Leaf opened up the show with their title track from their Christmas EP, “Christmas Child.” It’s been some time since the last time I heard those tracks played live, especially the last few times I saw them in November and not December. At least with the first 5 songs or so, the band was playing a lot faster than I thought they might be. Even songs like “Gifts from a Crow” and “Red Punch Green Punch” were played faster. At one point Barry said “hell” and apologized for cussing. I said out loud, don’t worry they hear a lot worse at home. Barry also thanked the kids for bringing along their parents to see them as well. The audience definitely found that amusing.

I haven’t seen them play anything from The Hunting Ground EP so it was nice to hear “Smokey Joe of the Poconos” and “Everything’s Alright Mama.” Still would have been great to hear the title track and “Her Father’s Pride” too but guess it’s the season for some holiday songs. Speaking of which, besides the two I mentioned earlier, they also played “Christmas At Sea” and the annual silly song “Carter’s Christmas Beard” that Jon sings. I’ve never seen them perform that live before so it was certainly the funniest song on the setlist. The funniest moment was right before when Terry mentioned that they donate Carter’s beard to a good cause, “The Hipsters Who Can’t Grow A Beard.” Barry followed up about Keanu Reeves which was equally funny.

The band continued on with some crowd pleaser like “She’s Gone,” which the audience certainly enthusiastically participated in. “The Boxer” put Carbon Leaf on the map, in a way, and there isn’t a show that they haven’t played it so that was played next. The raucous, fun to sing “Donnybrook Affair” was played after and it brought back memories of filming them perform that and 2 songs at City Winery in NYC for my old video series Before The Concert. By this point, my son was fully invested, clapping away, trying to figure out how the fingers work when Terry and Carry were playing their guitars. The fact that he sat still for almost 2 hours was a miracle.

“Mary Mac” finished up the matinee set and the crowd quickly cheered for them to come back to play some more. I was hoping to hear them cover REM’s “Radio Free Europe,” which they were playing recently. It’s such a perfect song for them since their earlier stuff sounds like REM to me. But alas, they came back and played “Let Your Troubles Roll By.” I suppose it’s a fitting theme for me this year. Barry couldn’t help throwing in one more Christmas joke in there when he started to sing to the kids The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Carbon Leaf’s Saturday matinee show was over and it was exactly what I needed. Even if you don’t know any Carbon Leaf songs, it’s a guaranteed good time. Every time I see the band, it just puts a giant smile on my face. I’m hoping they can make their way over to Rehoboth Beach (or Ocean City) and in my neck of the woods..err beach in 2023 when they will (hopefully) have their new album complete. Thank you Carbon Leaf for putting on a rockin’ good time, it was good to be back inside a club again!


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