Apr 28, 2015

Old 280 Boogie Review (American Aquarium, Caleb Caudle, etc.)

American Aquarium
by Matthew Martin
When my friends called me a few months ago to persuade me to go to the Old 280 Boogie in Waverly, AL, I had no idea I'd be so easily swayed.  However, I ended up down in Alabama last weekend in what was one of the best times I've had in a very long while. 

For those of you that don't know, the Old 280 Boogie is a shin-dig put on in Waverly, AL and has a few bands and a few hundred folks.  If you've never been to Waverly, AL (don't worry, I hadn't been there and I went to school less than an hour away), it is just like every other small, Southern town you know- which I say lovingly, not degradingly.  It is everything I miss about the South after living here in the nation's capitol for many years.

We got to the Boogie around 1 that day and the first band was already going- I believe it was Serious Sam Barrett at that time.  I knew by the time we set up that this was going to be a good day.  The crowd was perfect, friendly, and revved up.

Next up was Caleb Caudle, who was damn near perfect.  My only complaint is that Caleb didn't play
Caleb Caudle
a bit later in the day.  Caleb's songs are great and a great complement to the beautiful weather we had for the day.  If you haven't listen to Caleb's recent album, you should do so now.

Alanna Royale and her band came on next and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands.  Alanna was a great performer.  It's easy to start making comparisons, because everything's been done, right?  But, Alanna was reminiscent of Brittany Howard in her complete control of the stage.  I'm guessing if you like Alabama Shakes, there is a great chance you'll like Alanna Royale.

Now the local crowd was getting a bit more lively and the Pine Hill Haints from Auburn, AL came on and worked the crowd into a frenzy.  With the frenetic energy of a rockabilly band and their undeniable bluegrass style, the Pine Hill Haints proved to be one of many highlights of the day.  Local products were the theme of the day and the Pine Hill Haints proved that local music is alive and well everywhere.  Go to your local music hall.  Listen to your local band.  They have something to say.  And, they are likely damn good musicians.

Alvin Youngblood Hart's Muscle Theory was next and, I will admit, I did not listen to them as much as I should have.  The day was beginning to take it's toll and I needed a break from the festivities.  I'll say that missing most of this set was one of the only regrets I had of the day.  But, all was soon to be forgiven.

Johnny Sansone
Johnny Sansone.  Know him?  Yeah, neither did I.  Jesus am I glad I didn't!  This dude was unbelievable and I think going in not knowing helped the experience tenfold!  Coming onto stage dressed in full Dia de la Muertos garb was schticky at first... so I thought.  But, when Johnny began playing the harmonica and singing in a rasp that rivaled Dr. John, I knew this was going to be something unforgettable.  And, it was.  I haven't had the heart to listen to Johnny's studio albums after the show but only because I was so blown away by the live show.  I don't mean any knock towards Mr. Sansone.  He was incredible!  But, I'm not ready to let go of that performance.  Of the unbridled showmanship and musicianship that emanated from the stage.  Johnny Sansone.  Go to his website.  See if he's coming near you.  Drive an hour or more.  Do whatever you have to.  Go see this man.

Now, as the day was beginning to get a bit, shall we say, loose, the final act was about to come on.  I love American Aquarium.  For many reasons, I love these dudes.  They are good people, and they are a great band.  If you've made it this far through my ramblings, you probably already love American Aquarium.  But, if you don't know them, do yourself a favor- listen in this order Dances for the Lonely, Burn. Flicker. Die., and Wolves.  To me, this is the best way to enjoy this band- to see where they have been and where they are going.  Stories can be hard to tell- they can be heartbreaking, they can be joyous, and they can be hard to convey.  But, American Aquarium does so deftly, and with an ability to cut to the quick.  The boys were firing on all cylinders this evening and were having a great time themselves.  BJ made more than a few comments about the venue and the crowd being somewhat of a high-water mark of being on tour.  The guys of American Aquarium have been playing together for a helluva long time and you can tell.  This is a band that has been through a lot on the road- good and bad- and they wear that badge with honor.  They have honed that knowledge of each other into a finely tuned musical machine.  One of my favorite things I have seen over my years of watching American Aquarium is seeing the closing song turn from "I Hope He Breaks Your Heart" to "Burn. Flicker. Die."  This is a transition that is amazing.  And, I think it shows the growth of this band.  These are two incredible songs, but if I'm honest with myself, "Burn. Flicker. Die." is the better song.  It is the show-stopper.  And, recently, that has been the literal case.  I hope these guys stick together and stick around for a much longer time.  I don't think we've heard enough from these guys.

I've written so much.  I can be long-winded, but I feel the story has to be told.  The Old 280 Boogie.  Waverly, AL.  Johnny Sansone.  American Aquarium.  The story is only half-told.  The best way to be a part of this story if to go to this incredible place.  Go see these bands.  Go support the bands around you.  Music is what keeps us all going.  Most of us.  Some people can write the songs of our lives.  Some can write about those songs.  But, we can all go and enjoy and support the music.  I want to leave this by saying thank you to the folks of Waverly, AL.  The folks of Standard Deluxe.  The folks of This Is American Music (Corey, I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to formally meet).  Everyone involved in putting the Old 280 Boogie on.  You've got a lot to be proud of and I can't wait to be back in the years to come.

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