Midnight North at the Mystic Theater, by Carolyn McCoy

Midnight North (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

Bay Area band Midnight North, who blend Americana, rock, and a hint of soulful blues have a harmony base that is both beautiful and comforting, a wall of vocals that can envelop you in ways that just feels right. Their recent 4/20 show at Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre was an exceptional showcase of why they are fast becoming one of the hottest, up-and-coming bands in the Bay Area and the US.

Midnight North has worked very hard to get to the level they are at now, and you can see and hear it in their solid performances. Fronting the band is the duo-team of Elliott Peck and Grahame Lesh, who share responsibilities as songwriters, vocalists, and guitarists (rhythm for Peck, lead for Lesh). Keys player Alex Jordan jumps back and forth between his electronic keyboard and his Hammond B3, adding a passionate energy to the depth and beauty of the songs, all while lending his voice to the superb harmonies. Sean Nelson, who’s elegant but powerful drumming blends beautifully with dexterous bass player Connor O’Sullivan, and together they hold down tight rhythms.

The band’s set included a version of the Rolling Stone’s “Tumblin’,” the troubadour vibe of “Long View,” the rollicking “Little Black Dog,” and Peck’s gorgeous and heartbreaking  “Green Country,” an incredible soul-tinged cover of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic,” and an encore of “All Remains The Same.” Special guests Ben Morrison (The Brothers Comatose) & Erika Tietjen (T Sisters), who opened the night with their own duo, sang “Tennessee Whiskey” with bravado and amazing force. Guest sax player Michael Bello punctuated the songs with great feeling and guest guitarist Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All Stars) jammed and shredded in conjunction to Lesh’s guitar.  A special moment of the night was when Phil Lesh himself hopped on stage to share “Wind & Roses” with his amazing son.

Says Grahame Lesh of the night’s shows, “We tried to put ourselves out there a bit for this show. Some new songs (originals and covers), new arrangements, and a unique sound with Michael on sax for the whole show. With the Mystic being such an awesome new (for us) stage to play on — not to mention it being 4/20 and a hometown party — it seemed like we should try to make it as special as we could.”

Midnight North is more than just “another jam band,” as people may pigeonhole them to be because of Grahame Lesh’s family legacy. They are so much more then that — their intelligent lyrics, heartfelt musicianship, and “we are all in this together” stage presence speaks of an awareness that they are different. They know they are a cohesive unit that is making waves within the current music scene with a sound that is all theirs.