It was amplified multiple times by several musicians Friday evening in Wilkesboro, echoing throughout the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons: “Live music is back!”
After an absence of 19 months, live music returned to the downtown on Friday, with a lineup of four bands that was organized by Jonah Horton, hometown mandolinist and a member of one of the outfits, the Trailblazers.
The evening was kicked off at 5 p.m. by the Adam Booker Trio, comprised of faculty in the music department at Appalachian State University, where Horton is a senior.
“All right, live music is back!” exclaimed Booker, who plays upright bass in the band. “Well, it’s a delight to finally be out of a practice room and playing in front of real human beings.”
Booker has performed with master jazz artists Al Grey, Frank Foster, Russell Malone, Butch Miles and Diana Krall and even pop legend Elvis Costello. He was joined on stage by drummer Nick Cline.
The jazz fusion trio played two songs, “Sanctus” and “Kyrie,” off his 2020 album “Seven Last Words.” They then performed an original song called “Orange Peanut” off Booker’s third and most recent album, “Lucca Live.”
For the final song, Horton joined the trio on stage to do a Led Zeppelin cover, "Caravan."
The lead singer and guitarist of the next band to take the stage, the Trailblazers’ Daniel Thrailkill, told the crowd, “We’re happy to see lots of faces out there. Thank you, guys, for coming out.”
The band played several songs off their latest album, “Space and Time,” which dropped in November, including a cover of the George Benson song “Please Don’t Walk Away.”
After blazing through the Flatt and Scruggs tune “Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee,” the band gave life to another cover, “True Grit,” penned by Glen Campbell.
The title cut off their latest, “Space and Time,” was followed by the Larry Keel song “Pioneers.” Then bassist Will Thrailkill took over lead vocals for a crowd-pleasing cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.”
After playing “Flyin’ ” and “This Road,” Horton told the crowd, “This is so much bigger and better than I ever thought it would be. Thank you, guys, for coming out. Live music is back!”
The band’s closing number, the original song “Déjà Vu,” featured guest trumpet player Ariel Mejia from the next group, the Eli Yacinthe Band.
Yacinthe, a native of Statesville, brought a soulful and R&B sound to the Wilkes Communications Pavilion stage. He implored the crowd, “Let’s put our hands together for Jonah Horton for putting all this together!”
Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love” kicked off the Eli Yacinthe set.
The band, which features Craig Malz on electric bass, did a stirring cover of Bill Withers’ ”Ain’t No Sunshine,” followed by the D’Angelo song “Brown Sugar.”
Yacinthe then introduced an original song, “Fill Your Heart with Love,” that will be featured on the band’s upcoming original album.
The Amy Winehouse tune “(Why Don’t You Come on Over) Valerie” was followed up with “Just the Two of Us,” a Grammy Award-winning song from 1980 made popular by Grover Washington Jr. featuring George Benson.
The band then played the title track to its original album, “All in Good Time.”
Headliners Songs from the Road Band, a newgrass outfit from Asheville, took the stage around 8:50 p.m. and played until 10 p.m., enticing many in the crowd to take the dance floor.
They kicked things off with a Talking Heads cover, “Road to Nowhere” and followed that up with “Around Like Vinyl,” a song off their self-titled 2018 album.
Covers were in no short order, as the band did renditions of “Ride Captain Ride,” made popular by the rock band Blues Image, and the iconic “Wish You Were Here” from the Pink Floyd album of the same name.
Horton joined the band on stage for a “double mandolin” battle with Mark Schimick on "Big Mon."
“Thank you so much for being such a great crowd. We love this!” said band vocalist/guitarist Sam Wharton.
The band concluded set with a spirited cover of R.E.M.’s “Superman.”
The long wait for live music in the Wilkesboros was indeed over on Friday, as the four bands delighted the modest, socially-distanced crowd with four-plus hours of music that spanned multiple genres.