If there’s one thing we know about Marcus King, it’s that he doesn’t half-ass anything.
Born to well-known Blues guitarist, Marvin King, Marcus dove into music at a young age. He started gigging at eight, before joining his father on a record by age 11.
At a modest 27, Marcus has already been playing gigs for almost two decades and such expertise shows. You could probably put forth a good argument that Marcus was born with a guitar in his hands and a snarl on his face.
On the heels of his recent nuptials and playing his first Merlefest, you can only imagine how far Marcus’ trajectory will keep heading towards the top.
King played to a damp crowd in North Carolina on Friday night (April 28), one that weathered an hour-long storm delay with more rain behind it. With soggy socks, ponchos and wet clothes, the crowd seemed to shake the bad weather away upon King's arrival.
Opening with 'It’s Too Late', fans swarmed the front of the stage, bumping elbows with photographers trying to get their own shots to commemorate the evening.
Marcus brought a bit of rowdy to an otherwise demure festival. Known for his fuelled blues and constant licks, King did not hold back on either Friday night. With an infusion of blues, Americana roots, country and a whole lot of Southern Rock, the boys had a little something for everyone in the crowd, even the most traditional of bluegrass fans.
Playing a mix of songs from 2020’s El Dorado and 2022’s Young Blood, alongside some of his work released under The Marcus King Band, the set embodied a perfect blend of King’s catalogue. Though shortened due to the weather delay, his set felt full and strong and didn’t leave any room for wanting.
Saving 'Goodbye Carolina' for the end of his set, King captivated the crowd with his gritty, rasp-laden vocals. They are the sort that only seem to get warmer and more impressive as the night goes on.
During the song, King invited his father, Marvin, to jam during the close. Fans were thrilled to see the veteran on the stage, while Marvin seemed even more thrilled to be there, collaborating with his son.
We don’t know how he manages it, but Marcus King seems to get better each time. Maybe it’s his history of studying jazz theory and performance, or perhaps it’s his gained experience over the last twenty years, performing both with his father and his own band as a teen.
Maybe it's just Marcus; he takes all of those elements; his study, his experience and his life, and bleeds them into the music he creates, leaving a piece of himself on each stage he leaves.
Walking back to the photo pit at the end of King's set, we bumped into a couple we'd made friends with throughout the course of the day. As we passed by, exchanging high fives, they energetically shouted; “Holy shit, wasn’t that great?!”
There probably isn't a better way you could sum up Marcus’ set better than that. Holy shit, it was great.
For more from Merlefest 2023, see below: