The Fairfield Four is a gospel acapella group that has been established for over 90 years. Seeing their set live feels much like digging through a time capsule for more simple times and front porch sitting.
This show was the first real live performance I’ve seen from an acapella group. Acapella singing is something of a novelty, and maybe taken for granted when you really consider it. These days, acapella singing is something more closely associated to reality TV shows and popular YouTube videos than touring success and mass audiences.
No matter if the crowd was ready to embrace this lost art, The Fairfield Four would be greeted with great enthusiasm Friday night at ROMP Fest. Some horrible weather had delayed the music through large portions of the day, and when the stage was set for the Four around 8:30, people were happy to see anything. Luckily, they were met with a very pleasant sounding set that eased the crowd back into the mood for the night.
Opening the stage back up after all that time could have been a real disservice for the group (with the only fault being attributed to weather.) Coming out to a ‘cold’ crowd could have been challenging for most, but Reverend Sam McCrary brought the needed enthusiasm to the stage to make things work. Clearly a religiously fueled man, McCrary woke the crowd up with his bright banter with the audience while requesting several “Hallelujahs!” and “Amens!” People would shout back to McCrary’s delight, and it created a nice interaction for the atmosphere.
I think the group’s personality has a lot to do with their success on stage. People can sound great doing acapella, and The Fairfield Four certainly did, but they were truly memorable for the good will established early on and throughout the show.
The McCrary Sisters followed for the second half of what was about an hour long set. It was an interesting set-up for this show. The Fairfield Four rocked their own pipes for the first 30 minutes, singing gospel hymns and sing-a-longs, only to be followed by the booming soul and funk of the sisters. The McCrary Sisters also conveyed their love for gospel, just in a more danceable, infectious way. The two groups even seemed to separate themselves with their clothing choices as groups. The Fairfield Four were in all white, conveying their purified presentation, only to be contrasted by the lively musical production of The McCrary sisters in purple, yellow, red and blue. I liked to think they were showing how gospel can be presented in all different ways.
This was a pretty fun show overall. I learned to find a new appreciation for gospel music and the groups took on the challenge of livening up the crowd with no questions asked. It was a tall order, but when ROMP Festival called in the veteran performers, they were sure to deliver.