Kacey Musgraves, Conor Oberst Bring Collabs, Camaraderie to NYC Fest
“It’s like country and emo mixing perfectly, and I love it,” Kacey Musgraves announced midway through her set, before calling co-headliner Conor Oberst onstage Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival in Williamsburg. Oberst then joined Musgraves for a spontaneous duet on Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’,” capping off an evening of compelling collaborations that may have seemed incongruous on paper.
Instead, Musgraves and Oberst came across as easy-fitting, long-standing musical companions, with each professing their mutual admiration throughout the evening. “I’ve been a really big fan of Kacey’s since I first listened to her record. She’s such a great writer and singer,” gushed Oberst before bringing the Texas native onstage for an off-the-cuff take on her “Back on the Map.” “Too much sangria,” Musgraves joked after botching the third chorus of the rarely played Same Trailer Different Park album cut.
For her part, Musgraves focused primarily on material from her 2015 record Pageant Material during her hour-plus performance. She joked that she and her band were rusty, playing their first gig after a six-week break, but both singer and musicians were in their finest form as they kicked off the summer leg of the Country & Western Rhinestone Revue. The band provided an elegant precision to Musgraves’ blend of small-town country, offering sparse, delicate arrangements of Pageant material like “Late to the Party,” “Fine” (introduced as her “grandma’s favorite”) and “Good Ol’ Boys Club.”
Just a year after performing a record-release show at nearby Rough Trade, Musgraves capped off her set with a moving solo acoustic take on “Merry Go Round” and a rousing sing-along of “Follow Your Arrow,” before closing with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” complete with her own light-up boots.
Backed by his longtime friends the Felice Brothers, Oberst was at his most crowd-pleasing self during his 50-minute set, performing a mix of country-leaning Bright Eyes favorites like “Four Winds” and highlights from his 2005 breakthrough album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Relying heavily on Felice Brothers’ violinist Greg Farley and accordionist James Felice for his reworked arrangements, Oberst performed most of his set with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, emphasizing his music’s roots influences in favor of his punk and emo tendencies.
The Felice Brothers themselves began the evening with a tightly-packed 11-song set heavy on new material from their forthcoming record Life in the Dark and 2014′s Favorite Waitress. The trend of repeated guest appearances began early with the Felice Brothers, with Oberst adding a verse to the group’s “Wonderful Life” and former bandmate Simone Felice joining the group on backup vocals and percussion for the second half of their set.
As Musgraves put it herself when introducing Oberst later that evening: “It’s pretty badass we can all come together and do a show in Brooklyn.”