Showing posts with label Live Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Live Review. Show all posts

Mar 7, 2018

San Antonio Hardcore + Some New Blood From Baltimore's Queensway

by Robert Dean

Last night, I cruised down to San Antonio to catch the Harm’s Way and Ringworm show at Jack’s Bar and was pleasantly surprised. Being only my second time seeing a show in San Antonio, I gotta give it up: San Antonio’s hardcore scene is world class. Those kids are passionate, fun and foster a sense of community I haven’t seen since my Chicago days.

I grew up in Hardcore, attending shows around 16 years old at Off The Alley, VFW’s, the Arlington Heights Knights of Columbus, the Darien Sportsplex, and the much-lauded Fireside Bowl just to name a few venues. Living in New Orleans and later Austin, the scenes are unique, and each offers something different, but in comparison to San Antonino, it’s not even close. I tip my cap to the excitement, interaction, and fever of those kids. Definitely made my heart happy to see the positivity and everyone hanging out talking vs. Austin’s scene where everyone immediately splits for the bar. Creeping 37 years old, I’ve been going to shows as long as some of those kids have been alive. I made me unbelievably happy to see that the scene still holds strong.

Harm’s Way never ceases to impress. For 30 minutes, they slammed through tracks off their various e.p.’s and their two latest records, Rust and Subhuman. Energy throbbed throughout the room and kept the spirit of the show moving. For my money, the highlight of the night was Baltimore’s Queensway. Initially, my friend and I were planning on ducking out for a bit to grab some food, considering we’d just driven an hour and a half to make the show. We were walking through the venue when we caught the first song of Queensway and immediately stopped, both recognizing these dudes were going OFF. 

Nothing is better than a tight hardcore band, 100% engaged with the crowd, giving their all to the crowd and doing more than just playing outward to the room. Queensway was engaged, poised and destroyed. Jack’s Bar’s reception and throbbed in support and it was clear they’d won the majority of the attendees over by the end of the first song. Having never heard of Queensway, I was taken aback by not only their tightness but their constant energy. 

They made a new fan last night and from here on out, I’ll do my best to champion their music to my friends looking for straight ahead hardcore. If San Antonio was any litmus of what these boys are capable of, watch the fuck out. And a word to San Antonio, I’ll be back to dance alongside y’all. 

Jul 8, 2015

Live Review: Jason Isbell w/Holly Williams, July 3, Livingston, MS

Jason Isbell w/Holly Williams
July 3, 2015, Livingston Live, Livingston, MS

Amid the spreading oaks and rolling farms of rural Madison County, Mississippi, sits the brick and steel adorned township (trendy farmers' market, sweet shop, restaurant, gift shop, venue, neighborhood? all of the above) of Livingston. It's a beautiful area with a hip, inclusive vibe - I recently saw Travis Meadows perform at the restaurant to an eclectic crowd of regular folks, politicians, some movie director, and local artsy elites.

Friday night, Jason Isbell and Holly Williams performed there in an open field just off the highway. It was an all ages show, so the crowd was mostly families, with plenty of college kids mixed in - probably half the audience there for the music, half for the fellowship. Happily, it was a respectful and attentive crowd - neither talking loudly during songs nor holding up cell phones the whole time - an oddity these days.

(L-R) Chris Coleman, Holly Williams, Becky White
Holly Williams opened the show and gave a strong performance in the humid Madison County afternoon. Her vocals were excellent and her between-song banter fun and inviting. The band was tight as well, sounding crisp and easy-going at once. Williams' set was a family affair, her husband Chris playing guitar for her band, her 9-month-old daughter getting an introduction and crowd-aided selfie, and even her mother, Becky, making an appearance to sing backing vocals on the song "Mama."

Among other songs Williams performed were "Happy," "Drinkin'," "The Highway," and an emotional take of "Waiting on June." She finished her set with a crowd singalong of her famous grandfather's "I Saw the Light." It was a fun show, certainly enough to please longtime fans and entertain the unaffiliated alike. I got to meet Holly at her merch booth afterwards, and she was engaging and very friendly.

With lightning bouncing through the northwestern clouds, Isbell and the 400 Unit took the stage a bit later. They led with "Palmetto Rose," a hooky throwback rocker from the forthcoming Something More Than Free album. Isbell said it was the first time they'd played it live, but they could've fooled me.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit w/Amanda Shires
Before I go on, let me say that the sound at Livingston Live (as the concert series is known) was by far the best outdoor concert audio I've ever heard and among the best I've experienced period. It was clear and loud, but not blaring, giving equal room for each player and instrument (including the very pregnant Amanda Shires, playing the hell out of the fiddle!). Isbell's vocals were so pure I could hear every word he sang, yet he was still right in the pocket with the band. It was truly impressive.

The stage and lighting were also quite complimentary. There was a set of 5 lights arcing across the back that looked like giant desk lamps pointed toward the crowd. They were a cool change of pace from the usual set. Those lights pulsed and faded depending on the song and mood. Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with the atmosphere and sound of the concert.

The next few songs included an emotional tour de force trio of Drive-by Truckers' favorite "Decoration Day" and the timely (it was July 4th weekend) "Tour of Duty" and "Dress Blues." Current single "24 Frames" ended with thunder creeping into the audio and spiderwebs of light filling the darkening sky. We'd have to take a short lightning break, according to Jason. That short break turned into an hour, and I was concerned that'd be the end of it.

Thankfully, Isbell and his Unit were up to the challenge and stuck around through the indeterminate delay. The crowd, thinned out and wet but still relatively large, returned from cars, underneath trees, and inside shops to fill the field again, the stage crew mopped and pulled tarps, and we were back up and running. The band settled into tunes from Southeastern and Here We Rest for the next few minutes.

Jason and the giant desk lamps
"Cover Me Up," a song I've always liked but maybe not loved, proved the most religious experience of the evening. It started off spare and acoustic, with Isbell's keening voice raising goosebumps and hands across the crowd. A constant murmur of applause and cheers started after the first chorus and never let up, getting only louder as the percussion and electric kicked in. The "desk lamps" were in perfect time with the powerful, slow beat and Jason never pulled back the reins on his full-throated delivery, and by the end of the tune, I was honestly a little teary-eyed. It was that damn strong of a performance. This wasn't a standing crowd (lawn chairs and blankets), but this was a standing ovation.

Next was the band's first live performance of the catchy and surprisingly commercial-sounding new tune "The Life You Chose." Again, they sounded as comfortable with this song as they did with their two-hundredth rendition of "Outfit." "Children of Children," another new tune, was a showcase for the guitars in the extended coda. It brought to mind Wilco's more experimental rock songs (…at least the better ones - that have a clear purpose and direction to all the guitar shredding and not just a noodle-fest).

There were a few more tunes after that, then almost as soon as Isbell had reintroduced the band and thanked the crowd after "Super 8," fireworks hit the sky and we were done. It felt a little abrupt, but still… I can't complain much about getting 15 songs despite an hour-long weather delay, especially as good as the show was.

I've seen Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit once before, a few months after Here We Rest came out. They were very good then, a ragged but passionate bunch… probably one of the best bar bands in the nation at the time. Friday night, I experienced a different crew altogether. This was a band coming into their full potential - a true rock n' roll powerhouse, with a sound big enough to fill arenas but intimate enough to not clear a listening room. In a less divided and distracted era, they'd be one of the biggest bands in the world.

I've now lost count of how many concerts I've seen, but… if I had to pare it down to a handful, this show would easily make the cut. If these guys swing through your area, get your ass out there! No excuses.

Isbell & the 400 Unit setlist:
Palmetto Rose
Decoration Day
Tour of Duty
Dress Blues
24 Frames
Different Days
Alabama Pines
Cover Me Up
The Life You Chose
Children of Children
Something More Than Free
Super 8

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.

May 19, 2014

Moonrunners Festival 2014: Jeremy's Recollections

Moonrunners II

By Jeremy Harris
(Note: This is largely unedited and unabridged, so all credit and/or blame goes to Jeremy)

MoonRunners Music Festival promised after year one that "You ain't seen nothing yet" (Was this a reference to the blacklights in the restrooms at Reggie's because I don't wanna see it if so.) so I thought I'd put them to the test by checking out version 2.0 this year. And disappointed I was not. Hell, I was even overwhelmed by the talent that was packed into Reggie's in downtown Chicago and the food packed into the $10 buffet over the two day period. They even managed to add a third day as a pre-party at Reggie's featuring Powder Mill, Dustbowl Revival, Rosie Flores and more. Being that I had never caught a Powder Mill show but had enjoyed their recorded music so much, I was ready to spend the extra day at the venue. Powder Mill definitely did not disappoint and played a short but powerful set for the Thursday night crowd. Up next was Dustbowl Revival and needless to say I was a little skeptical when they came to the stage with more members (including a trombone and clarinet player to accompany the normal string band configuration) than you'd find on the coaching staff of a college basketball team. I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet sound and the overall good time feel that the band brought with them. The final act of the evening was Rosie Flores and wow! What a talent and special kind of entertainer she was. Rosie had the entire crowd in the palm of her hand (namely the frontman of a band that performed earlier that night that shall remain nameless) with her superb telecaster skills and beautiful voice as she promised to "Americana your faces off" to everyone in attendance. I'm not sure what it's supposed to feel like to get your face removed by Americana but to me it felt like more of a demonstration of how to kick you ass with rock-n-roll with a country twist, but what do I know, other than that this was a good way to start the weekend and kickoff the festival which would begin the next day.

Joey Henry's Dirty Sunshine Club
So many words for a name of one guy and a banjo. Joey played a mostly slow paced set of mostly original, strongly written songs with a few uptempo songs mixed in and was a good way to kick the festival off at 2:00 on saturday. For his last song, Joey brought up Rachel Kate to do a duet and the two sounded perfect together and had the early crowd enchanted throughout the performance.

Lou Shields
A wise man once said "Give a man some soy sauce and he'll eat for a day but give a man a soy sauce bucket and he'll attach a foot pedal and a bungee strap to it and travel around the country playing music and hope he can afford a sandwich every once in a while" or something like that. Point is, Lou took the bucket, and some outdoor carpet, and a skateboard, some rocks, a cup, a box guitar and a few other things and turned them into a musical act that is quite entertaining all while having good material. Lou romped through his short set with his multiple instruments and quick quips between songs. Definitely an act I hope to catch doing a longer set in the near future.

Six Gun Britt
Every time I go to any festival I can place all the performers into a few groups: Never heard and will give them a chance, heard and wanna hear again and heard and could care less. Six Gun Britt was the first performer to be in the never heard group and it didn't take long for me to know she was a pure talent and could have a bright future ahead of her. Luckily for me she also had a set on Saturday and seemed to improve overnight. Her chatter between songs was sweet and funny and her original songs came off as being very personal and straight from the heart. This is one girl and her guitar that I hope will be booked for next year and continue on an upward trajectory that could very easily reach the top.

Nellie Wilson
After hearing Nellie perform last year with Last False Hope but failing to catch her solo performance earlier in the day, I knew I wouldn't make the same mistake this year. What I witnessed was a very classic country voice playing as a two piece band with her on acoustic guitar while being accompanied by either a steel or electric guitar. Nellie played a wonderful mix of songs and made me wish even more I had caught her set last year.

Coondog and the Stumpjumpers
The Stumpjumpers must have gotten stuck on a branch somewhere so Coondog was flying solo for this one. With or without a backing band this guy just has something good going on and needs more recognition. Seems like I only hear anything about Coondog when MoonRunners starts posting info for their festival each year or when he puts a post up himself.

Pearls Mahone
Nothing but good old time country swing is what you'll get from Pearls and her band. With Pearls providing the vocals and a superb six piece backing band (seven after a clarinet player made his way onto the stage) keeping the beat fast and smooth, Marty McFly would think the DeLorean had screwed up and sent him sixty years too far back. I've got a feeling Marty would've hung around before tracking Doc down to look into this one.

Lonewolf OMB
One man and his various instruments causing a dance outbreak on what was quickly becoming a crowded smaller stage area. With his upbeat playing and growly voice, Lonewolf sped his way through a furious set and everyone responded.

Adam Lee Band
Two songs in and Adam had busted a string and knocked pickup out of whack on his acoustic guitar. Luckily Adam had another guitar waiting behind him on stage and didn't have to miss a second. The crowd was really getting into the old school sounds reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash and so was Adam and his band. One thing that will stick with everyone lucky enough to be packed around the smaller stage area when Adam's hair was flopping around and became askew and a fan handed him a comb to straighten himself back up just so he could jump around and do it all over again.

The Hooten Hollers
These guys are the best three piece rock band you'll ever find that features a tuba in many of their songs. Actually, they may be the only people that fit into that category so lets just say they are a straight up kick ass rock band and the tuba is a pretty awesome addition to the group. If you'd told me I would enjoy a three piece band with a tuba, I would've called you crazy before seeing it myself. At this point the show has started off great but these guys really raised the bar and the energy level and packed the large stage area.

A gritty, three piece band with obvious roots in blues and rock. A few seconds into this one and I started to wonder if I had over consumed the Hamm's beer because I was pretty sure Hank from Breaking Bad was on stage singing and playing the harmonica. (I guess that explains why he won't be on Better Call Saul) The distraction of Hank being undercover didn't last too long though thanks to a killer sounding cigar box guitar with a perfect drum beat keeping it all together. 

The Calamity Cubes
Queue the mosh pit. The Calamity Cubes hit the stage with a furry, like a bunch of drunken pilots taking their aggressions out on their instruments. These guys are fast and furious and hit you like a speeding Porsche careening into a tree.(too soon?) One thing was for sure, the band was on fire and the crowd's energy wouldn't die.

Molly Gene One Whoaman Band
I'm still wondering if her name is paying homage to the poetry of Mike Myers' character in So I Married An Axe Murderer. By this point the cheap food and even cheaper beer and starting to make me think nap but one look onto the stage reveals the most energetic person in the building, hell maybe the most energetic person in downtown Chicago. With her shaking head, aggressive playing and a foot stomp that rivals Guliver she forced her energy into the crowd and busted her kick drum pedal all at once. Not to fear, just as cheap beer would bring me back down, a little wire would fuse the pedal back together good enough to finish this one out.

Cletus Got Shot
Coming into this weekend I hadn't heard a great amount of Cletus Got Shot music (after the set I purchased every album and anything else I could) but enjoyed all I had previously encountered. Based on my past listening and knowing that this was a onetime reunion show before the three guys slipped back into retirement, I had a feeling this was a must see show. Must see it definitely was. From the first chord strike all the way through the end it was obvious these guys were a tight group musically and the hiatus they had taken didn't interfere with their ability to bust out a kick ass show one bit. Other than an exploding suitcase bass guitar (luckily another musician came to the rescue with a loner) a few songs into the set they were flawless and had moved the already high bar up several notches.

Hellbound Glory
Even though Hellbound Glory was listed one the schedule, Leroy Virgil was solo on this trip but Leroy is the sound and attitude of Hellbound Glory and carried the scumbag torch loud and proud to a packed crowd as the last performer on the smaller stage. Strumming his way around the highlights of his own catalogue and kicking in a few wonderfully presented covers, Leroy packed a punch swift enough to knock the drunkest of patrons into the next room to finish the night out.

A masterful musician regardless the instrument and a high spirited individual that had the ability to bring everyone to the highest of highs but bring them down to the point of hearing a pin drop whether it was with his playing or his voice during or between songs. Completely going off the cuff and making it work so smooth you'd swear he had been planning this all out in his head for months. Nothing could stop the outpouring of talent and emotion, not even a busted banjo string (which he laid down and said that anyone who could string and tune a banjo was free to come up and get in and fix it during the show) could kill the moment for what was probably the largest crowd for any act on day one.

The Gallows are a band beyond a proper description (not that I'm not gonna try) but if I must, imagine if a large group of circus performers and sideshow acts spent their free time becoming master musicians. Shit, I think I did it! By this time, it's late and everyone has to be tired (I know I was nearly in a low grade hops, greasy cheeseburger coma) but you'd never had known it by the reaction the crowd had to the energy The Gallows were pouring out. The band played harder with each song and the crowd jumped and thrashed into each other nonstop during the entire set. Things were thrown in both directions, water was spit and spirits were high. Nearly everyone in the crowd looked as if they could go for several more hours and this was the perfect band to end night one.


I can't believe I'm awake and made it back to Reggie's before 11:00 am. I'm too old for this but I've got my buffet bracelet on for day two and decided bourbon would be the way to go today. Good idea? I don't remember…. Good thing I kept taking notes about each act.

Tony French
Nothing like a bratwurst, bourbon and the blues in the morning to get the body rolling. The bar provided the first two and Tony French more than accommodated my need for the third with his strong riffs and low bluesy voice presenting several covers and a few originals with that guy from Under The Dome coming up to lend his harmonica skills on a few tunes as well.

Jeff Shepherd and the Jailhouse Poets
Three words to describe this group: WOW, WOW, WOW! Awesome writing, playing and vocal all coming together to possibly be the best band at the festival so far and it's only 11:50 am. Not only was the band superb but Jeff performed solo at the end and pretty much blew everyone away with his song that I believe is title Daddy Loved You More Than Life Itself. If you're not familiar with this group, what are you waiting on? Me personally, I'm just waiting to find an album to play nonstop.

Super high energy group of guys with a knack for performing live. The entire crowd was really getting into the set which featured some hardcore, upbeat picking and well thought out lyrics. Everyone was moving and enjoying the show from start to finish.

I was really looking forward to seeing these guys based on the recorded music that I had already heard and the countless videos I has streamed online and I had a feeling they would be a fun band to watch but I had no idea what I was in for. Not only was The Imperial Rooster the funnest band to watch over the entire weekend but they may have also been the best showmen at the entire festival. They performed as if they were in front of thousands of people but unfortunately they had one of the smallest crowds at the larger stage. Regardless of the small crowd, the people that were there packed in near the stage and knew they had witnessed the do not miss show of the weekend. I've got a good feeling that not only will The Imperial Rooster be back next year but they will also enjoy a much larger crowd. How could you not bring back a band that uses a road cone as a musical instrument?

Matt Woods
I feel sorry for Matt Woods because since I had five different people come up to me and start conversations with me thinking I was him and I'm sure he gets tired of people saying "Hey, aren't you Jeremy from Farce The Music?" Poor guy, probably burns him up when that happens. Even his drummer almost came up to me thinking I was him… by the way, Matt has a drummer now. Matt came onto the large stage pretty early (around 2:30 pm) and brought in a pretty good crowd for his set. He managed to provide the set everyone would hope for as he swept his way through several songs from his (at the time) upcoming album and left the crowd speechless with his critically acclaimed (Trailer liked it, so it's critically acclaimed) single Deadman's Blues and left everyone wanting more.

Filthy Still
I'm beginning to think these guys are stingy. They made my list of top live shows from 2013 and I think they thought they could get another mention this year. Hell, I think they may. This was one badass set and somehow the guys seemed to have a tighter sound now than they did last time I caught them live. Must've been real tight for me to remember it after two days of greasy food, cheap beer and only the finest bourbon.
They also have made me waste countless hours trying to find Sasquatch bones. So while they may be an awesome band, they can be blamed for this writeup not getting finished closer to the festival conclusion.

Last False Hope
This band caught me so off guard last year and really blew me away. Could it happen again or would I be prepared? From the moment Robert Dean walked onto the stage to introduce the band there was a feeling that this could be something special. He announced that frontman Jahshie P would be dedicating this performance to his stepdad who had recently passed and that Jahshie's mom was in attendance. From the moment the band took the stage there was an obvious amount of emotion exuding from all of them and many in the crowd as well but they pulled it all together and delivered a great show. As the band played on and the boom of the bass drum shook the building emotion sat in once more as Jahshie told of his family's loss and the strength of his mother and pulled it together to perform another song. Part way through the song, Robert Dean (a head writer at and Chris Miller (host of Blue Ribbon Radio) stormed the stage from the back and began to jump and sing into the microphone with the band. After the song ended and as the next song was beginning Jahshie called for anyone in the crowd to jump onto the stage to join them but just don't mess up an equipment. I could hear people in the crowd talking and trying to figure out if this was legit and they could really get up there as he kept insisting during the song to rush the stage. Very few took him up on this and then next thing I know Robert Dean was reaching down to me and pulling me onto the stage. Honestly at first I was unsure about this but figured it was a good way to advertise the shirt I was wearing. (available at in case you were wondering) Actually I was just to drunk to fight him off but I'm glad it turned out the way it did in the end as my wife, several friends and even more strangers made this a show that at least we will always remember.

Whiskey Dick
It's not very often you can find two guys that can sit in chairs on a stage with acoustic guitars and blow you away with their playing and their overall energy but that is exactly what these two did. I'm still completely unsure how the sounds I was hearing were being produced by what looked to be a normal flattop guitar. Overall this may have been one of the biggest surprises of day two as they tore through their time on stage with great vocals, great lyrics and unbelievable instrumentation. If these two had more people with them they'd be unstoppable.

Guess what. Those two guys in Whiskey Dick are now unstoppable…. and standing up on the stage with several more members. This may have been the craziest show of day two and 100% the craziest and most packed show on the smaller stage. A ridiculously badass sound, a crowd that was asking for every beat to be delivered harder than the last and a lead singer who  was nuts. He would fall forward off of the stage during a song and allow the fans up front to push, beat and knock him back on! If you ever want to see what stage energy is all about, get to a Black Eyed Vermillion show.

Fifth on the Floor
From talking to several people that were returning to the festival from last year, this was the most anticipated show of the weekend this year. Many were blown away by last year's performance and were in for a great show once again. Fifth on the Floor has changed immensely since last year's MoonRunners not only by switching out two of the members but also by maturing musically. The sound has changed and the overall attitude and direction of the band has taken a more upward trajectory in twelve short months but could they raise the bar for people that had been waiting a year for this? Hell yes, and other than a couple that were "engaging in their own activities" above the stage to the side, I'd say they had everyone's attention. (a few may have been listening but catching a more extreme performance higher up) In case you didn't figure it out, some dude was giving it to a chick during a large portion of the set. Honestly though the real performance was on the stage (that's a lie but I had a horrible angle) and the crowd was treated to many FOTF songs that didn't exist this time last year and a few other surprises (bukaki? No, get your mind out of the gutter.) including when the band stepped off the stage and allowed Joshua Morningstar to come up with his guitar and do an original song. Josh is definitely a talented guy to keep an eye on and deserves to be performing in his own slot next year. Another great moment came at the end of the set when lead man Justin Wells brought Adam Lee and Matt Woods up to join the band and perform The Highwaymen classic "Highwayman" by trading off verses along with FOTF Jason Parsons. This was something that everyone will remember for some time to come except for the one drunk guy that came up to me afterwards and said I did a good job up there with "them fellas from Kentucky and that other guy doing that Traveling Wilburys song". And I thought I had drank a bunch.

I've been a Roger Alan Wade fan for years and couldn't wait to see him perform but was unsure how it would be. I've heard many of his recorded songs and knew he swayed back and forth from sad to funny and also listen to his SiriusXM show often. The first thing that impressed me with Roger was his guitar playing ability. I'm not sure if it's that his lyrics are so ear catching that I've overlooked this before or if he just doesn't showcase it enough on cd but he's way better in that field than I had ever expected. The rest of the show also exceeded every expectation from telling jokes to soundcheck his mike to performing flawless cover songs. The best part of the Roger Alan Wade show actually came a few days after the festival when it was announced that he had requested to return in 2015. My calendar is marked and my stomach is already aching from the thought of cheap food and even cheaper beer.

Scott H. Biram
Scott H(oobastank) Biram
And the award for drunkest coherent person in attendance goes to…… Mr Biram. Luckily Scott is a funny drunk and also one of the people that can flawlessly play and sing while being under the influence. The performance was top notch and exactly what you'd want to get from a Biram show as he played the old, the new and put his own twist on some great covers. When unforeseen circumstances caused Shooter Jennings to have to miss this year I'm sure Scott was near if not at the top of the replacement list and he made whoever made that decision look like a genius.

I would personally like to thank Jahshie P, Robert Dean, Jody Robbins and everyone else at along with the staff at Reggie's and all the bands that made this a special weekend for everyone in attendance. Most of all I would like to say that the hardest part of this entire thing was being there without my good friend Robert Earl Reed because I know how much being included in this meant to him. See you next year Chicago!

May 13, 2014

Live Review: Alabama Shakes with Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

Alabama Shakes w/Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
Apr. 25, 2014 - 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

By Matthew Martin

It's been a while since I've written up any shows I've been to, and in the time that has past I've been to quite a few.  However, I just didn't think they were worth writing about.  Not because they weren't good enough.  Maybe I just hit a lull in writing, or maybe I felt like things got just a little bit blurry near the end of the show.  So, I put off writing anything.  Until, now.  I come back to you guns blazing with a review of one of the best shows I've been a part of in the past 2-3 years.

There are few things in this world better than a show on a Friday night.  The release of all emotions that comes with a great show.  The suspension of anything that is happening in your life.  And, of course, the pure joy of being with 1200+ (in the case of a 9:30 Club show) of your newest friends.

This was absolutely the case on Friday April 25th, 2014 at 9:30 Club when Alabama Shakes made their triumphant return to 9:30 Club and D.C.  I believe the last time they were in D.C. was in 2012 with the Drive-By Truckers.  And shortly after that, they headlined the Rams Head stage in Baltimore with a band opening for them I had never heard of- Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires.  I happened to be at that show, and both bands shook me, albeit in different ways.  So, when I found out that this same line-up would be coming back to D.C., I (im)patiently waited for the tickets to go on sale on the 9:30 Club website and got secured my spot to a show that sold-out in 5 minutes.

First up, Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires came out and ripped through a set that seemed like a cocaine-fueled punk version of Southern rock & roll.  I do not know how else to put it.  They are a stunning band and watching them on stage is incredible.  Guitars are up to 11, drums are relentlessly pounded, and the bass is forcefully plucked.  Songs from their first album, There Is A Bomb In Gilead, are amped up to a 100 mph speed.  Songs like "Red Red Dirt of Home" have the tempo increased and the songs are transformed.  It works.  I actually prefer the faster versions.  It seems this is the speed Bains and crew are more comfortable in.  When you hear the new album, Dereconstructed, it's clear that this is the new Glory Fires sound: loud, fast, and pissed off.  The set closed with the new song "Dirt Track" of the new album.  It was during this time that the guitarist, to the cheers of 1200+ people, got on Bains' shoulders and both proceeded to give killer solos.  The set lasted about 50 minutes and seemed far too short.  It's fair to say, the boys gained a hell of a lot of new fans that night.

Now the wait for Alabama Shakes began and the crowd was beginning to become electrified.  There was a buzz in the air unlike any show I've been to in a really long time.  Folks seemed not quite sure what to expect.  After all, Alabama Shakes have released exactly one album (Boys and Girls), and that was in 2011- three years ago!  

Needless to say, Brittany Howard and crew still had it.  They had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand from the opening note of the opening song.  By the time they reached "Hold On," I thought the place was going to come down.  I have seen many shows at 9:30 Club and I can honestly say that I have never heard the crowd roar as loud as I heard when they ended that song.

They ripped through the majority of their debut album along with a few others that were new, and some that were B-sides and singles; i.e., "Always Alright" and "Heavy Chevy."  Throughout the show, it was clear that Brittany had gained a new confidence that I didn't quite recall from the show in Baltimore a few years back.  This confidence went a long way that night.  She owned the stage.  She proved that being a frontwoman can be a hard and easy task all in one.  She roamed the stage, looking at everyone, singing to them.  I witnessed first hand, I suppose, what it means to gain that confidence and what a difference that made.

By the time the show ended, everyone was wearing the biggest smiles.  Something pretty awesome had just been seen, and no one was quite ready for that.  To be impressed by a band is one thing, but to be blown away by the complete package is another.  We were lucky that night to be in the latter group.  If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am.  We all knew Alabama Shakes had talent.  We knew that they made catchy-as-hell songs.  I'm just not quite sure we expected to be blown away.  

As I always say, go see these bands - both of them! - when they come anywhere near you.  I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.  Until then, go buy their music.  Support them.  Let's keep these folks around for as long as we can.  It's a short lifespan sometimes in rock and roll, but these folks deserve to be old-timers.  As Lee Bains III sang, "keep on rollin, keep it on the dirt track."

Aug 7, 2013

Live Review: Sturgill Simpson and High Top Mountain, Jackson, MS

Sturgill Simpson and High Top Mountain
July 11, 2013, Hal and Mal's - Jackson, MS

Sturgill Simpson was missing a band member when his tour rolled around to the "City With Soul." The rigors of the road apparently took their toll on one of the High Top Mountain bandmates, so Simpson let us know that they'd be "doing a little something different" that night.

Something different was Sturgill on guitars, mostly acoustic, with a drummer and bassist… so I'm assuming it was a guitarist who quit/took a break. Anyway, it may have made for a difference in sound, but not in enjoyment. The trio was tight and powerful all night, though I suspect High Top Mountain may normally have a bit fuller sound.

The evening's music started off with a rowdy rendition of "Some Days." Simpson's trademark ramble of a Kentucky drawl immediately made it known that this would be a night of hard country and honky-tonk music, if anyone had any doubts going in. He followed that up with 4 more cuts in a row from the High Top Mountain album, seeming to grow a bit mentally worn in the midst of this run. Apparently he was sandbagging though, because Sturgill and his ensemble proceeded to tear through another twenty songs, seemingly gaining interest and energy as the set progressed, before shutting things down.

Simpson and the boys played nearly every song from High Top Mountain and several tunes from his previous band, Sunday Valley. This still left room for plenty of surprises in the way of one unrecorded track and several great covers. 

The new song was the only one I managed to get decent video of, and coincidentally was also the one Sturgill requested we not record because it was subject to change. Uh, sorry Sturge. It was a solid entry to the Simpson catalogue, titled "Living the Dream." 

It was never very easy to pick out the covers for a few lines, because the threesome knows their shit so well that they play every cover at whatever time signature they feel like when the mood strikes them. It's not even planned; they're just that in tune with one another - and that's impressive. Among the classics Sturgill and pals performed were Roy Orbison's "Cryin'," "Waymore's Blues," "Good Year for the Roses," "I Never Go Around Mirrors," and The Osborne Brothers' "Listening to the Rain." It was a glorious thing to behold. 

As the show finished out with a couple of song from the drummer (who's a solid singer in his own right) and a couple from solo Sturgill, it was apparent they'd caught a powerful second wind and weren't ready to quit. However, time constraints and the fact that they'd already laid down 23+ songs for the small but appreciative audience called the evening to a close.  Simpson let us know he was headed back to the hotel for some after-hours swimming and that was that. 

If you get a chance to catch Sturgill and High Top Mountain live, grab the opportunity. They put on a passionate show that puts their deep love of music and knowledge of country's history on full display. It's well worth whatever pittance in the 5-20 dollar range you have to put forth. Great show (and cool, laid back guys too… wow, they're chill)!

Jul 18, 2013

Live Review: Phillip Fox Band

By Jeremy Harris

The Phillip Fox Band is probably not a name many will recognize at the moment, but in my opinion, they are a band on the rise. Recently I was lucky enough to be able to see this four-piece group whose music ranges from straight-up country to rock with a blues influenced southern flare. The show was in Ashville, Ohio at the local community park as part of the yearly Independence Day celebration. Due to this being a free show in a small community, I'm sure there were plenty of people getting their first taste of the band on this night but most seemed to really enjoy the show and even stuck around during a rainstorm. One thing that did hurt the show (other than the rain) was the layout of the stage in relation to the seating. The bleachers were too far from the stage and divided the crowd from the stage by being behind the walkway heading to the restrooms and caused somewhat of a separation effect between the crowd and the stage. I thought for a moment about walking up to the front of the stage and standing to get a better feeling of the show but didn't want to be "that guy" up there by myself twenty foot in front of everyone else so I sat in the front row of the bleachers and made the most of it.

The show started off with "Goin' Out With You" (one of the five songs on the bands 2012 EP Motor City Blood) and they were able to make their way through all the songs from their EP and mix in several strong covers of songs both old and new. I could've done without one of the cover songs (which will remain nameless... cough cough Wagon Wheel) although the guys did do a good job of putting a fresh sound to the song. They really do have a special way of making every song they perform one of their own which could have a lot to do with lead singer Phillip Fox's unique and raspy voice. One cover that really stands out (for a positive reason) is the Allman Brothers bluesy classic "Whipping Post" which suits Phillip's vocal style very well and also fits the band as a whole. One thing you won't hear covered at a PFB show is any crappy, pop country song that all the fourteen year old girls are singing this summer and I don't remember a single truck reference all night. (Please don't call me out on "Wagon Wheel." It was a request from someone in the stands and Phillip stated several times before playing it that it was not a Darius Rucker song.)

The highlight of the night for me was when they played a few songs that will be on their first full-length release, which should be out late this year or early next. One of these new songs was co-written with members of Whitey Morgan and the 78's and while I can't remember the name of the song I do remember it was awesome. Another song that is scheduled to be on the album is a song about Phillip's wife and her battle with cancer. The song is very well written and should become very personal to anyone who has ever had a loved one battle cancer. Luckily the song does end on a positive note and I can't wait for everyone to be able to hear it. I have been hoping for a new release from the band, and hearing these new songs is only making it worse but hopefully Trailer or I will get a chance to review the album before it comes out. (hint, hint).

Currently the tour schedule at roams throughout the Ohio area, so if you're in the area be sure to catch them. A new album could bring higher demand and will hopefully allow more people, in more areas of the country to enjoy one of Ohio's best kept secrets.

Jul 11, 2013

Live Review: Dawes and Shovels & Rope

Dawes and Shovels & Rope at 9:30 Club 6/19/2013

by Matthew Martin

Around the time I heard Dawes was coming to D.C. again, a pretty big and gut-wrenching change occurred in my life. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details, but it was enough to throw me off track for quite some time. So, I forgot about the Dawes show and rode a couple months of less than great luck. Before I knew it, the Dawes show sold out. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed.  

But then, on a whim, I decided to enter the contest Dawes had listed on their website/twitter which was simple- enter your name and email address and you could win a meet & greet, a signed set list, and 2 tickets to the show of your choice. And, I won. My luck is changing!

As seems to be the case with a lot of shows I have written about here, Shovels & Rope opened the night with their increasingly popular and well-oiled brand of Americana. There isn't a whole lot more I can say about Shovels & Rope that I haven’t said before. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent traded instruments, per usual. Hearst was her charismatic self and the crowd was eating out of the palm of their hands by the time they ended with the biographical “Birmingham.” Really, their live show is something to behold. As great as their albums are, they just can’t do Shovels & Rope justice.  

Dawes has recently released a stellar third album- Stories Don’t End- and I was very excited to hear many of the songs from the album that had already become among my favorite Dawes recordings.

The show started with the first single off of the new album, “From a Window Seat.” One of the first things you notice at a Dawes show is that the reserved nature of the band on their albums really gives way to intense performances by Taylor Goldsmith. It’s one of my favorite things about seeing Dawes. If someone says Dawes is a bit softer for their taste, I always encourage them to see Dawes live.  

The band ripped through songs from all 3 of the albums with songs like “Peace In the Valley,” “Million Dollar Bill,” “From the Right Angle,” and more. Where pure elation really occurs at a Dawes show is when they play, what is likely, their most famous song- “When My Time Comes.” There is truly something cathartic about screaming/singing along with 1200+ other concertgoers to the chorus.  

Taylor Goldsmith owns the crowd as a singing, guitar slinging frontman. He saunters from each side of the stage to the next.  He demands attention from everyone in the crowd. And on this sold out night at the 9:30 Club, attention was all his. That’s not to take away anything from the rest of the band.  It is extremely apparent that this is a band that has spent years on the road, fine-tuning every nook and cranny of every song. It’s simply that Taylor Goldsmith is the frontman, and he wears that badge proudly and confidently.  

The show ended, apparently, on “A Little Bit of Everything” which is a truly great song to end a show on. The song may have some of the best lines Goldsmith has written. I could have ended the night right then. But, as we all know now, the end is never really the end.  So Dawes came out for two more songs, inviting Shovels & Rope up to end the evening with Traveling Wilburys song “End of the Line.” It was a great night ending with two bands I really enjoy singing a song by a band everyone loves, or at least should love.

As I always say, what I say pales in comparison to seeing the band for yourself. If you aren’t a fan of the albums, that’s fine. Go see them. Discover what they are all about. I think you will be very impressed by the show you see.  


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