On previous visits to Charlottesville, The Lumineers have played in one of the city’s smallest venues, the ultra-intimate Garage space, and its largest, the sizable John Paul Jones Arena. On the band’s first trip to JPJ, it opened a 2012 show for the Dave Matthews Band.
“It was hyper-surreal,” Lumineers lead vocalist and guitarist Wesley Schultz said of opening for DMB.
On Sunday evening, The Lumineers are coming back to the arena — this time, as the headliner. The JPJ show is part of the band’s North American tour in support of “III,” its Dualtone release.
“I have these wide-eyed memories of playing here,” Schultz said of Charlottesville. “To be the one that’s playing it and not being the opener is really unreal.”
“III” follows “The Lumineers,” the 2012 debut album that contained the band’s first big single, “Ho Hey,” and 2016’s “Cleopatra,” which yielded “Ophelia,” “Angela” and the title track.
On the current tour, which began Feb. 1 in Asheville, North Carolina, “we also play the whole new album,” said Schultz, who founded the folk-rock group with drummer, percussionist and pianist Jeremiah Fraites. “On the previous tour, I don’t think we played ‘Cleopatra’ in its entirety.”
Schultz is grateful for the new tour — and the musical and professional growth it represents.
“I think it’s the best tour we’ve ever done,” Schultz said.
“For your third album, you have a lot more to pull from. It feels more fluid, and it’s like you’re more on your toes in a way.”
When Schultz looks back at the band’s journey, he counts his blessings; he said he’s “feeling relief, or indebtedness, to the audience for sticking with us.” And he can’t help counting progress song by song.
“On our first album, we were trying to fill an hour and a half with half an hour’s worth of material,” he said. “There were literally shows where we played ‘Ho Hey’ twice because we didn’t have enough songs.”
The Lumineers’ lean early years in New York were frustrating. “I felt like I’d made it when I could order a cheeseburger” without feeling guilty about paying extra for the cheese, he said.
“I was so down and stressed out about money,” said Schultz, who juggled multiple jobs just to get by. “New York was so expensive. It would be like a ‘Portlandia’ skit now, but you could rent a loft space that didn’t even have a door.”
So, in 2009, the band packed up and moved to Denver, diving into a collegial open-mic scene.
“There’s a really good community here,” Schultz said. “We’re just a tight-knit group. For me, a big appeal about Denver is the community and real-deal camaraderie and support.”
The Lumineers enjoy coming to Charlottesville; Schultz’s brother attended the University of Virginia School of Law. And as for the Garage, don’t rule out a return engagement someday. The band loved the experience — and the audience — in the small space.
“We keep getting invited back, and it would be such a fun pop-up show,” Schultz said. “Part of what’s nice about getting known is 20 minutes before we do it, we could announce it.”
Mt. Joy will open Sunday’s show.