THE DEVIL MAKES THREE at the Tivoli, Utrecht

The energy of the crowd that gathered at Utrecht’s Tivoli exceeded any and all expectations I had. Devil Makes Three, a bluegrass ragtime band, created a frenzy of pogo hopping, beer throwing, and crowd surfing amongst fans spanning all ages.

The passion of the Californian based band’s Dutch following is truly incredible, their joy palpable, with the Netherlands making up the band’s largest audience outside of the U.S. They have been releasing music together since 2002, and have been evolving constantly ever since. Now with six full length albums and their own record label, the band started as two childhood friends – Pete Bernhard and Cooper McBean – who have been playing acoustically together for years, joining punk rock groups in their 20s before coming together to form Devil Makes Three. Their evolution from an acoustic two piece to full ensemble they now have hasn’t always pleased some fans, but when I asked lead singer and guitarist Pete Bernhard about this before the gig, he stated that he believes that unless your sound evolves, there’s not any point in continuing. Clearly, this musical evolution did nothing to deter the excitement of the fans at Tivoli on Monday night, attracting everyone from groups of shirtless 20-something year old boys in the mosh pit at the front, to cowboy-hat-wearing, swing dancing 60 year olds.

Their insane reception is a reflection of the band’s power to transform country beyond corny. Influenced by everything from Johnny Cash to The Clash, Bernhard told me that he sees a connection between folk and punk rock because they’re both about story-telling, a connection he feels all too often gets lost. The rest of the band is made up of Lucia Turino on double bass and vocals, and Cooper McBean on banjo, electric guitar and vocals. Turino’s vocals are a gorgeous addition, and her double bass playing exceptional.

The star of the show, though, was McBean’s insane banjo playing, eliciting something close to Beatle-mania. Over the past 15 years of releasing music they’ve cultivated an amazing sound and an awe-inspiring fan base, and have just recorded a live album at the iconic Red Rocks venue in Colorado, which will be released on their record label Kahn Records. If you get a chance to see Devil Makes Three, the energy, excitement, and banjo playing is not something you want to miss.    Martha Bird    30th April 2019