Maybe it was the drinks, the crowd, or the weather, maybe it was simply the music, but everything seemed to fall into place at Edgefield for Big Thief and Lucinda Williams on August 4. Words and photos by Bren Swogger.

The atmosphere at McMenamins Edgefield differs completely from show to show. Some days, people line up hours early, the line to get in wrapping miles long. Some nights the crowd stays seated the whole show, while others feel like a fight to the death in the pit, everyone pushing for a spot near the front.

But whatever the spectrum that Edgefield has to offer, everything seemed pitch perfect on Friday night when Big Thief and Lucinda Williams made their appearance for their sold out co-headline sets.

An hour before the gates opened, the line was at a perfect goldilocks length—just the right amount of fans wanting to make it up to the barricade, and just the right amount ready with their beach towels and Tommy Bahama chairs to fill out the lawn and enjoy a relaxed evening.

The weather, too—slightly overcast but still comfortably warm—provided the perfect atmosphere, the trees already giving ample shade for those on the lawn.

It had been a little while since I’d been to Edgefield, but already it seemed they had improved their operations drastically. Security felt tighter but not too rigid, allowing an easy flow of people onto the grounds. There was never a wait for food, as every bar and food booth was amply staffed, meaning it was no problem for me to grab a couple beverages before the show began.

Throughout the night, the crowd was chill, everyone there to hang out, have a drink, lay in the grass, and just enjoy the scene and the music. The vibe was one of peace and love and togetherness, the perfect Woodstockian vibe for an evening of folk rock and Americana.

The Woodstock comparison didn’t seem out of place either, for as soon as Lucinda Williams graced the stage, the smell of marijuana wafted into the air. Along with the aroma came a rise of applause, as Williams was greeted with much love as she took the stage. A good half of the crowd was here just for her, many having waited years to see her perform live. And the fact they now had the opportunity was a miracle in and of itself.

Back in 2020, Lucinda Williams suffered a stroke, the effects of which caused her to require a cane and meant she could no longer play guitar. But she didn’t let this stop her from continuing to rock. Through her hour-long set, Williams was kicking as hard as ever, delivering a powerful country rock vocal performance that left her fans fulfilled and happy to have witnessed such a great in the genre.

As I layed in the grass, taking in the scene around me, listening as Williams filled the venue with her still oh-so-powerful voice, I realized… it could have been the drinks I had before, it could have been the music… but everything seemed to fall into place that evening. Already, it was one of the most immaculate vibes I’ve ever experienced at Edgefield. And the night was just getting started.

Following Williams’ set and a short intermission, Big Thief took to the stage just as the sun was beginning to set. On the first song, lead singer Adrianne Lenker invited her little brother Noah up on stage for a rousing jaw harp solo that sent the crowd into an uproar.

Any group of people that gets that excited over a jaw harp is alright with me. The immaculate vibes continued.

With a band like Big Thief, who are so focused on their songwriting and lyricism, you never know what the vibe will be like. Will most of the crowd be sitting, soaking it all in in silence? Or will they be joining in, screaming along to every word and feeding the emotion within?

For Big Thief, it was very much the latter, as the mass of fans in the audience were on their feet, singing along, some with tears in their eyes. It was amazing to witness the dedication and love that so many have for the band. Earlier in the evening, I met a pair who had traveled all the way from Los Angeles just to be there that night. They said they’d seen them at least 10 times live already, and every show has the same magical aroma.

As the sun went down and the stars came out, Big Thief just kept rocking harder, filling their hour and fifteen minute set with classic cuts like “Cattails” and “Not” (featuring a guitar solo that provided one of the biggest crowd reactions of the night) and cuts from their latest magnum opus Grammy nominated record Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, such as “Certainty” and “Change” (which always tugs at my heartstrings).

Through the entire night, through the hours on the grass with the good people around me, the drinks in hand, and the beautiful music of both Williams and Lenker, Meek, and Co., the scene remained wholly beautiful, and the vibes: always immaculate.

Editor / Founder

Bren Swogger (they/them) is the creator and editor of Indie/Alt Magazine. Bren started Indie/Alt as a music blog during their sophomore year of high school, and after a long hiatus, relaunched it as an online entertainment magazine in 2021 for their capstone project at Pacific University. After 10 years in the music journalism industry, Bren has a long-standing passion for live music, but also loves to explore their passion for other artistic outlets. You can find Bren writing voraciously, adding to their never-ending stack of TBRs, and marathoning classic horror films.