Despite a rain which was so heavy at times that the stagehands at Thursday's concert in Lafayette Square had to squeegee the stage before any of the performers could play and the folks under the sound tent were poking the fabric when it sagged so that water streamed off it, the program came off (mostly) with surprising ease.
It should be noted however, that local singer/songwriter Rob Falgiano was an early casualty of the elements and his portion of the concert was canceled due to rain.
The audience -- speckled with umbrellas, wet weather gear and, in some cases, a devil-may-care attitude exhibited by an almost total lack of protection from the rain -- was fairly even-tempered and willing to wait the weather out. They were rewarded with solid performances by Glen Phillips, a former mainstay of Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Nickel Creek.
Phillips is a clever raconteur, albeit one with appropriately short story lines anchoring his between-song patter. The way he was able to manage the flow between his well-crafted songs ("Everything But You" and "Waiting" from his latest album "Mr. Lemons" were prime examples) showcased a performer at ease with his material and his audience.
Toward the end of Phillips' set, the various members of Nickel Creek joined him on stage for a few tunes, including "True," which featured violinist Sara Watkins and "Easier." This blending of Phillips and Nickel Creek wasn't exactly a new thing since they had worked together in the studio to create an ad hoc group called (appropriately enough) Mutual Admiration Society.
After a brief intermission, Nickel Creek returned to the stage with their bassist Mark Schatz. Their set list focused mainly on tunes from their latest release "Why Should the Fire Die?" and included a rollicking instrumental ("Stumptown") and some sensitive balladeering ("Jealous Of the Moon").
In many ways, the band has gone beyond its early roots as a bluegrass music phenomenon to inhabit that catchall category known as Americana. Chris Thiele, the mandolinist and main instrumental focal point, is an elemental force on his instrument, at times playing with the ferocity of a rock 'n' roll rhythm guitarist and then picking out delicate lines that hail back to British folk music. Ditto for the Watkins siblings, Sara and guitarist Sean, who also are practiced musicians with impressive skills and whose vocal harmonizing is almost too good to be true.
WHO: Nickel Creek with Glen Phillips
WHEN: Thursday night
WHERE: Lafayette Square