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

Mar 26, 2019

Live Review / Charles Wesley Godwin / The Vinyl Lounge / 3/14/19



By Matthew Martin

West Virginia ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. There's poverty.  There's wide-reported drug abuse.  And there's a sense of this almost pride that you're NOT from West Virginia.  But, on the other side of that coin are the people from West Virginia.  If you actually meet folks from West Virginia, they're nothing like those silly caricatures you read/hear/joke about.  They're proud.  They're proud of what the state stood for during the Civil War. They're proud of what the state provided to the country with the mining industry.  They're proud of the unions that began in that same mining industry.  And over the years some of the best Appalachian music has come out of those hills and hollers.

Charles Wesley Godwin is someone I believe will become a household name very soon.  There's nothing but authenticity dripping from every word and chord that pours out of him.  And he has the voice to carry these sincere, heartfelt songs of growing up in West Virginia.  Songs that are so specific to the Appalachian region that you almost feel you're there as you listen to him sing.  This all comes through on his fantastic debut album Seneca.  I was pleased to find out that in a stripped-down, solo live show, nothing was lost.

We went to see Charles at The Vinyl Lounge which is part of the Gypsy Sally's venue in D.C.  We had once seen Sturgill Simpson play solo at this place to about 50 people.  So, this felt similar- like I needed to see Charles Wesley Godwin before he started making it to venues where the crowds were growing.  He began the show around 10PM.  

The first couple of songs were new songs as far as I was concerned ("Jesse" and "Bones").  I don't believe they were from his previous band, either.  These songs were incredibly well-written and true to CWG's young, but quite impressive career.  CWG would then go on to play a great mix of songs from his debut album ("Coal Country", "Strawberry Queen", and "Shrinks and Pills") as well as songs from his previous band's (Union Sound Treaty) output ("Peaked" and "Hazelton").  He threw in a couple of covers as well from folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Martin.

CWG played for those of us there for around an hour and a half.  It was an intimate affair and one that I am incredibly glad I got to witness.  The songs of CWG are smart and emotional.  West Virginia pride is rich in the tradition of the songs.  He wants you to know that WV is still here.  With songs like "Here In Eden" he calls his WV brothers to arms.  You get the idea that CWG would never apologize for where he's from.  And, that's what makes his songs so relatable and so damn irresistible.  We all want that sense of pride of our home.  CWG has it damn spades.

To drive this point home, CWG pulled a barstool out from the bar for his last song.  He stepped away from his mic.  He unplugged his guitar.  And he sang with all of his heart and soul the WV standard: "Country Roads".  We all sang along.  We felt connected.  And, we walked away from the show feeling like we'd just watched something pretty special.

If you are anywhere near CWG, go see him.  It is special.  He's building something.  He will be someone we all will say we remember when he was still building that something.  Until he comes to your place, go buy his music; his solo album and his previous band's album.  You won't be disappointed. 




Mar 20, 2019

Austin Lucas Sheds Blood in Austin



By Robert Dean

When Austin Lucas made his way through Austin for his annual South by Southwest show, he was not fucking around. Playing to a capacity crowd at Austin’s legendary Continental Club, Lucas ripped through favorites spanning the totality of his records, but playing fan favorites like, “Alone in Memphis,” “Run Around,” “Go West,” and new banger “My Mother and The Devil.” 

Lucas and his band smoked through the set, turning new festival-going faces into interested parties. More than once, I overheard people asking who he was, and at one point, as Lucas stood at the edge of the stage, singing to the crowd without a mic, slowly strumming his guitar, some drunk bro’s were talking too loudly, but a woman told them to can it. 

There’s an interesting line between Austin Lucas and what he’s perceived to be. While most people think of him as a country singer, there’s a lot of The Clash going on in that mix. Lucas’ punk roots are shining through more than ever, which I felt was self-evident as took in the show: when the songs go off, they really go hard, and I’d have loved to see him crank that telecaster and fuzz pedal way up so when the dynamic parts hit, they dropped like atomic bombs. If there’s one thing you can say about Lucas’ it’s that he knows how to craft a punchy, yet powerful hook that again, screams punk rock rather than Waylon or Willie. 

I hope in the sea of drunk festival goers, he landed a few new fans. That performance was too good to be just a “highlight,” instead it was easily one of the better shows I’d taken in all SXSW. With a tight backing band that could rip the hinges off a work truck, no reason should keep you from hitting and Austin Lucas show. He deserves to play sold out bangers every stop of the tour. His work ethic deserves payback. 



Mar 4, 2019

Praise The Lord: Cult Leader Destroys Austin


by Robert Dean

If there’s anything you can say about the band Cult Leader, it’s that they’re absolutely unrelenting. Without a doubt, Cult Leader is one of the best bands on the rise – the sadistic mixture is there: they’re the perfect mix of hardcore, death metal and black with a few timely gut punches of shoegaze. The songs go from pummeling Destruct-o-Matic violence to brooding marathons that span many sound types. What Cult Leader pulls off is special. 

I’d been waiting to see Cult Leader, I’ve been high on them for a while now and their most recent record, A Patient Man is worth the critical praise many have given it. (I counted in my year’s best for 2018.) So, finally getting the opportunity to see them was something I was excited about and they did not disappoint. Barreling through probably one of the toughest songs I’ve heard in many moons, “I am Healed” the band worked its dark magic giving a tepid audience everything they had. 

In general, Austin shows up for bands when they come to town, we appreciate good music, and the turn out was clearly positive, considering it was a sellout. Given that Cult Leader was main support for Daughters, the crowd wasn’t as invested as I’d liked. I understand it’s a move to get the band in front of a lot of newer faces who probably wouldn’t know them or their type of music, but the reaction wasn’t anywhere what the headliner got. Ideally, I’d love to see Cult Leader do a co-headliner with Nails or Gatecreeper, or hell, opening for Cannibal Corpse, but by all means, get that exposure from some new fans. 

I don’t mean to say there weren’t people there just to see them, but the majority of that room was there for Daughters and Jesus Christ on a bike wouldn’t have gotten them as fired up as seeing a band they’ve missed for over a decade, so no harm, no foul. But, have no doubt that Cult Leader gave everything they had. 

For forty-five minutes, we were given a lesson in what it means to see a tight band crush. No talking, no funny business, just murder. That’s precisely what you want out of a band called “Cult Leader” nothing but well-practiced savagery and boy did they give us the goods; what’s so impressive about the band is how talented they are, there’s no weak link, some dude hiding being everyone else. Every member of Cult Leader is adept at their instruments; there weren’t any points where it didn’t sound as crisp as it did on record, but every piece fit like a glove. 

If you’re curious about a new metal band, something new to sink your teeth into, Cult Leader delivers. If you’re into stuff like Code Orange or Vein, you need to give Cult Leader their due. Their records are fantastic, and the live show is incredible. After a strong performance, there’s no doubt they’re one of the best bands in the genre and it’s only a matter of time before more and more people catch up. 


(from a previous show)

Jan 16, 2019

Live Review / Ryan Culwell / Hill Country DC

by Matthew Martin

Something that really grabbed me about Ryan Culwell's latest album, The Last American, was his voice.  His voice and phrasing are unique and the range is pretty impressive.  So, when I saw Culwell was going to be at Hill Country here in Washington, D.C. for a solo show, on January 10th, I knew I had to round up the troops and go.  The best thing about these solo shows is it allows the words and the voice of the artist to really stand out.  That's exactly what happened.

Culwell sang most of the songs off of his new album, but also sang quite a few from his last album Flatlands.  I had listened to the Flatlands album prior to seeing this show, but there was something about seeing those stark songs in that setting that made them hit much harder.  When he sang songs such as "Never Gonna Cry" and "Red River," the crowd was hushed and listening with the same intensity as Culwell was singing. 

Of course, every show has 1 or 2 of those people that won't quite read the room around them.  And, this show was no different...  Two women sat two rows from Culwell and talked, laughed, and generally disrupted the show for those around them.  Most of it was overlooked.  Until in the middle of a washed-out, quiet song Culwell stopped playing until the two women got the point and decided to take their talents elsewhere.  This was met with cheers and applause from the whole room.  My wife was about to lose her cool, so I was glad Culwell dealt with it so graciously.

With that out of the way, the crowd could once again focus on the songs.  The remaining night, Culwell had everyone under his spell going from sweet songs ("Moon Hangs Down") and heartbreakers ("Dog's Ass") to blues numbers ("Dig A Hole").  Ryan easily commands attention while on stage.  Even when he's singing the saddest, quietest songs, you strain to make sure you catch every single word sung.  It was very clear that Ryan is comfortable in that space and knows how to work his voice with ease.  Adding some reverb to wash out his vocals was a great way to fill out the songs, as well.  

(different show, obviously)

With all that said, there were a few moments in the show that hit me incredibly hard; one of which was the song "Won't Come Home". The song is about traveling/leaving home and the fact that sometimes it's hard to come home again because your experiences have broadened.  What you think you knew is no longer what you know.  Not that you know any more or any less.  It's just that you have a very different perception of what life, and home, is.  That one got me down in my soul.  I remember thinking that my mom would sob uncontrollably the moment she ever hears that song.  What a song.  What a night.  The night ended on the standout track "Can You Hear Me" from his latest album.  With that, Culwell walked off stage and met the many fans that came out to hear him.  

If you get a chance to see Ryan Culwell soon, do it.  Doesn't matter if he's opening for someone, headlining, with a band, or solo.  This guy is the real deal.  He's out there slinging authentic, honest songs and deserves every ounce of our attention and the accolades he's been receiving.  I highly recommend his latest album as a starting point.  It's lyrically strong and the music is a perfect amalgamation of what makes Ryan Culwell so great.  But, don't sleep on his 2015 release Flatlands. When you go see him (or hell before, so you'll know all the songs), buy one or both of those albums.  You won't regret it.


Sep 26, 2018

Matthew Reviews Great Peacock… Playing HIS Wedding Reception

Photo by Darcy Ferris


by Matthew Martin 

I'm going to do something a little unusual here.  I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite days I can ever remember up until this point in my life.  On Saturday, September 15th, I made a pretty big life change.  I married my best friend and it was amazing.  It was in front of a church built in the 1800s with much of its stained glass still intact.  The weather was perfect, if a little hot (but, it's September in TN, what can you expect).  All that was something I could never forget.  But, then we got to the reception and it was the most fun I've had at a wedding (yeah, I know I'm biased) because we did something a little unusual: we got one of our favorite bands to play our wedding.  That band is Great Peacock.

One of the first dates my wife and I went on was to see Great Peacock at Hill Country here in DC.  It was a hell of time back then, and time has done nothing but made Great Peacock better.  One of our concerns with having a band many of our friends had never heard of (not for lack of our trying, I want to add) was whether or not people would be inclined to dance to songs they didn't know.  This turned out to be a ridiculous concern as people were out on the small dance floor we had and the surrounding grass almost immediately.  

When we were talking to the guys in Great Peacock, we made it clear that we didn't want them to be a wedding band, we wanted them to be exactly who they were.  So, if they wanted to play a couple covers, those covers should be songs they wanted to do, not songs we wanted them to do.  Although, I will say that we requested for them to play "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty for our first dance and it was perfect.  

Needless to say, they ripped through their songs at near perfection.  They played songs from their first and second albums, which we love.  They played songs such as "Take Me To The Mountain", "Tennessee" (which my dad specifically requested), "Miss You Honey", and "Let's Just Get Drunk Tonight."  Oh, and on "Let's Just Get Drunk Tonight" the guys let me come up and play harmonica.  Now, I'm not one to usually do something like that because of things like, oh I don't know, over a hundred people looking back at me, but my wife and I talked about it and this was something she really wanted me to do.  I'm glad I did, because the joy it brought my family was special.  

Photo by Darcy Ferris


They ended their night on "Desert Lark", that is, until the 150+ people at the wedding shouted for them to play one more song.  So, they played their always hell-on-wheels version of Whiskeytown's "Hard Luck Story."  It was the perfect cap to the perfect day.   Maybe it was the moonshine my dad was handing out (don't ever question my country bonafides, son), maybe it was the joy of being at a wedding, or maybe it was the perfect backdrop of an old pre-Civil War era cabin, but this was by far my favorite time seeing Great Peacock perform.  

When we had set out to thinking of the reception, we asked ourselves what could possibly make our special day even better.  We kicked around a DJ, we kicked around a bluegrass band, but ultimately we thought we'd share with everyone the band that we both believe in and genuinely love.  Sometimes it's hard to convince people to go to a show of a band they'd maybe only heard of but with busy schedules just never got around to checking out.  So, we wanted to make it easy for them.  And, we also knew that the music would be perfect.  And it was.  We had aunts, uncles, cousins, old friends, new friends, grandmothers, and our parents out there dancing, throwing their hands up, and shouting with reckless abandon.  It was a magical moment and it wouldn’t have been close to being possible without Great Peacock.  They picked up new fans from Dallas, TX to London, UK.

So, on that note, I'll leave this by saying, go see that band your friends have been raving about.  You don't know how much your presence might mean and you might also find your next favorite band.  The guys in Great Peacock make some of the best music out there right now.  I am confident in saying that.  They are tight, they are professional, and they have all the chops you'd want from a band.  And, to top it off, they are genuinely some of the nicest dudes I have met.  I'm glad we got to share this special day with them.  Go see em and go buy their music wherever you buy music.

Photo by Matt DeFina



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Great Peacock's latest album, Gran Pavo Real, is available on Spotify and all the usual locations.

Jul 30, 2018

Live Review / Glassjaw / Mohawk, Austin, TX

by Robert Dean

At last week’s show at Mohawk, in Austin, Texas, it was probably my 15th time seeing Glassjaw. I’ve been with the band since Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence dropped during my senior year of high school way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in 2000. 

In the time since then, a lot has changed in all of our lives, we’re a little heavier, our hair isn’t as cool, and we get tired faster after a long night. But, at the heart of it, those songs we’ve had for almost two decades endure. Glassjaw has entered that rarefied air of punk/hardcore bands where people love them on the back of their cult classic status. Glassjaw was never an arena act, but it was painfully obvious who the majority of Mohawk was there to see, with no disrespect to Quicksand, whatever. 

Pummeling through songs like “Shira,” “Mu Empire,” “Tip Your Bartender” and “Siberian Kiss” Glassjaw’s current incarnation worked through a few early mishaps to deliver the magic we’ve all cherished for so long. It’s an interesting dynamic to hear Glassjaw’s newest rhythm battery work through the catalog, given their pedigree while playing with The Glass Cloud. While earlier it on, it seemed like drummer, Chad Hasty was playing catch up, but ultimately found his center and moved with precision. 

But, the one elephant in the room whenever seeing Glassjaw is their insistence on maintaining a sense of musical and personal progression that borders on frustrating. Since their second “official” album Worship and Tribute dropped, Glassjaw has been very reluctant to play anything from the back catalog before it. 

Over the years they’ve cited the lyrical content of those songs, and by all means, it’s understandable not to want to belt out lyrics that make anyone feel uncomfortable. 
We get it, everyone gets it, saying stuff that’s shitty and sexist isn’t cool, and honestly not what punk or hardcore taught us about values, respect, or life. 

But, our 20’s were a long time ago, and Daryl had a pen and a platform before he knew what power he was actually wielding. But, there are a lot of people packing into those rooms who aren’t as lucky as me who got to experience hearing those songs when they were new. Glassjaw’s new record, Material Control was worth the wait. It’s rock solid, and a welcomed piece of the band’s legacy, but in respect to that legacy, and love for their future, the past should be embraced, if anything as a cautionary tale. 

I’d argue that if a palatable way to donate to a cause, or make funding a non-profit with donations at the shows, an easier to pill swallow when singing words like “you can lead a whore to water, and you can bet she’ll drink and follow orders.”

Palumbo isn’t Straight Edge any longer, he isn’t preaching between songs, and there are no side project bands that make fans cringe. Instead, he and longtime guitarist and partner Justin Beck seem at ease in their roles as Glassjaw. 

One day, I hope they can find a solution that honors the mistakes of the past content but also champions the fact that Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence is a classic. For its ugly intonations and moments of cringe, there are songs many would love to hear for a night. I would gladly donate an extra $10 to a #MeToo propelling cause and hear a speech about fickle youth and the idiocy of men to hear “Ry Ry’s Song” or “Lovebites and Razorblades” live once again. 


Editor: I guess this is Glassjaw from that show… weird as hell looking.


Jul 23, 2018

Live Review / Tyler Childers / Austin, TX

©Fernando Garcia


by Robert Dean

Despite my friend’s Doug’s best efforts to give me alcohol poisoning last night at The Scoot Inn, I managed to enjoy a hell of a night thanks to Tyler Childers and his band. 

Ripping through tracks off of his debut record, Purgatory, Childers and his band proved why the show was sold out, with folks standing on the outside, trying to grab a ticket to get inside Austin’s hottest (it was 105 last night) gig. 

Staring out into the crowd with those low-slung eyes, Childers always appears to be searching for something, calling out to a void that could swallow him whole. Through his prayers to the outer world, the crowd fed off Childers relentless psychic energy and last night, we saw the entertainer people in and out of the country world are falling love with, much like his mentor, Sturgill Simpson. 

“Feathered Indians,” “I Swear To God,” and his biggest tune, "White House Road” all made their appearance into the set, while lots of tracks off the Red Barn record popped up in the setlist, too. Not gonna lie, I was waiting for “Nose On The Grindstone” but can’t win em’ all. 

Photo by Jurae Danielle from Floores' show
From the videos I took, I can double down on my enthusiasm for Purgatory and Tyler’s ability to work a room full of cowboys from outside Austin, and the hipsters in camo shorts and Vans alike. Together with his band, those boys held the place in the palm of their hands, rising and falling with every shouted chorus. While some front men rely on fancy moves or a lot of banter, instead Childers let the songs do the work for him. 

Through my adventures of being a drunken mess, I managed to sneak into the green room and talk to Tyler’s band. This the part where I would typically look at my notes and tell you a whole bunch of facts about their time on the road, and their bond as friends. But, thanks to a lot of Jameson, I accidentally deleted my notes last night, because I’m a remarkable journalist. 

Photo by Jurae Danielle from Floores' show
But, what I do remember is how absolutely sweet those dudes were. What a sincerely, nice, group of humans, especially Tyler’s drummer, Rod Elkins. It was apparent throughout the set that his band,  known as The Food Stamps, are a UNIT. They play with precision and execution that is perfection. It made my heart happy to know these were the guys Tyler came up with, the guys from West Virginia he paid his dues with instead of some jobbers from Nashville.

If there’s a night you want at a country show, it’s outdoors on a hot night in Austin, Texas. The weather was perfect, the Lonestars were cold, and we were ready to ride with Tyler Childers and his band. It was exactly what you hope for when you lay the cash down for a show: an experience you’ll be telling folks about for a time to come. We’ll see Tyler Childers grow into the larger venues like Stubbs and ACL soon enough, but for those who were lucky to experience those songs last night, this was one of the nights where we can say, “I saw them way back when.” 

Thanks for that, boys. Come back to Austin anytime. This time, I promise I won’t delete my notes while drunk. 


Who the hell am I kidding? I totally will. That shit was awesome. 






*editor's note - not edited*

Jul 12, 2018

People Need To Chill Out About Vein


by Robert Dean

As a dude who’s in the twilight of his 30’s, I’ve got beef with some of the reviewers out there and how they’re approaching Vein and their record Errorzone. In some of the reviews I’ve seen online in the blogs or vlogs (6 out of 10 WTF, mate?), I gotta call out when people say Vein is trying too hard to be unique or isn’t as good as Botch or Converge, or even the original Norma Jean record. That’s straight up garbage.

Here’s the thing: these are kids in their early 20’s, they weren’t around when I was going to see Coalesce at the Fireside Bowl or watch Botch play a matinee show for gas money. They weren’t born or just barely in diapers when I was watching Converge play the “Saddest Day” in Chicago for the first time ever. I was there when those bands were in their heyday, infancy and ultimately their demise. To mention Vein in the breath of those legendary acts is a triumph because so many bands desperately try to copy that style and that moment in hardcore. And 99% of those bands either suck total ass or fail.

When Vein took the stage at Barracuda in Austin last night, it was a watershed moment for them. Despite Code Orange having to cancel, it was 100% clear the majority of the bodies who still wanted to see the show were there for Vein – the openers. They’re a band on the rise, and the hype is deserved. They’re mixing styles flawlessly and for a first record, written by a band who most of them can’t even legally buy a beer is fantastic. What did YOUR band sound like at 20? 

Cruising through their cuts off Errorzone, the crowd was excited, and it was a mix of old dudes like young kids screaming their hearts out and me, many probably attending their first hardcore show. That’s cool. There were clearly kids who weren’t “in the scene” and ready to freak out for their new favorite band. A band, who isn’t playing super radio friendly metal, but a band that’s playing off-kilter, off-timed hardcore that is a direct descendant of Dead Guy, Pig Destroyer, and Glassjaw. We should be so lucky people give a shit. 


Critics pretending that they’re all wise and critical are nothing but assholes. We should be thrilled that Errorzone is as good as it is because the potential to blow it away is written into the DNA of what Vein is. They mix a lot of genres, and the end result is powerful, emotional and absolutely is a throwback to when we got to see bands like Cave In play for ½ empty rooms because no one liked Jupiter. To think that Vein is capable of dropping a hybrid of Deftones White Pony and Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity isn’t a pipe dream.

As an official hardcore grey beard, I call bullshit and that we should rally around the new bands. These kids are changing hardcore and making it fun again. How many fucking Hatebreed copies do we need? Madball can barely be Madball anymore, so why do we need another guy copying Freddy? 

Let the kids play. They’re killing it. People are excited, and you know what, we need as much fierce rock and roll as we can get.  Vein is bringing it in spades. 



Jul 9, 2018

Show Review / Lori McKenna / Ram's Head Onstage

by Scott Colvin

As much as I like to think of myself as someone adept at “discovering” new music, it never hurts to have friends and family with good taste to turn me onto something that I might have missed due to whatever sub-genre I’m overdoing at the moment.

In junior high my older cousin taped me (dating myself big-time) Metallica’s Ride the Lightning when it came out. That blew my mind way more than the poodle haired safe for radio “metal” I knew at the time. Years later in high school, I was into 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. when some older friends clued me into to Jane’s Addiction and The Smiths (to name a few). A whole new world opened. And of course now we all have Trailer who introduced most of us early on to that Sturgill fella (and many other real country artists that makes us all swoon…thanks, bud).

Sometime in the early 00s I joined a CD trading community called Lala.com (RIP). Artist suggestions on the site’s message board were more prevalent than half-finished PBRs at a Blake Shelton concert tailgate. One “friend” knowing that I had an affinity toward women singer/songwriters asked me if I heard of Lori McKenna and particularly her new album Bittertown. Sheepishly, I said, “no, but I’ll check it out,” which in “Scott speak” means, “I’ll get to it as soon as I listen to the 20 or so CDs I have but haven’t listened to yet, learn how to finally play mandolin and naturally cure cancer.” But, I trusted the dude enough and gave it a whirl. And that’s when I fell in love with not only Lori’s aching voice, but the voice inside her head that wrote the most gut-wrenching songs I’ve ever heard. “Stealing Kisses,” a song that Faith Hill regrettably drained all of the angst out of on her Fireflies album, was and will always be one of my most cherished McKenna songs.

I was lucky enough to see McKenna on her tour for 2007’s Unglamorous and again in 2011 for Lorraine (where she played another personal favorite that would appear on 2013’s Massachusetts, “Make Every Word Hurt”) at the intimate Rams Head Onstage in Annapolis, MD. Both were fantastic shows that played up her catalog.

Good fortune reared its head on June 29 as McKenna returned to RHOS on the first night of her tour in support of her new album The Tree (out on July 20).

Going into the show, I fully expected and anticipated hearing a steady dose of new music, songs she co-wrote for others that became big hits (although part of me thought it would’ve been amusing if she would’ve covered those artists instead…like imagine her singing “Truck Yeah” or “Pontoon”…in her distinct heartbreaking style…but I digress), and a smattering of her older fan favorites.

I was mostly right, but also partly wrong, which had me days later a little bummed after some reflection (AKA looking at my concert notes while sober), even though I left the show on a total concert high (and a little drunk). Don’t get me wrong, the songs she played were brilliant tales of love and loss, with dynamic twists at the end (the story arcs in her songs are anything but predictable), and impeccable musicianship by her band. Her banter with the crowd was lighthearted, informative and endearing. 

What was missing though was a musical acknowledgment of her extensive back catalog (her set consisted solely of new songs, a few off her previous album “The Bird and the Rifle (such a great record by the way), and a cover. I can understand “sticking to the new stuff” for artists who tour often, but she really doesn’t these days, focusing more on her songwriting craft (she is one of the most sought after co-writes in Nashville these days). I can also see why an artist would want to focus on the now and not the past, but when the new album won’t be released for weeks it can make for a long night of not hearing anything “familiar.” It’s a minor/spoiled music fan gripe indeed, as fortunately, the new songs sounded sublime and I can already predict that the Dave Cobb produced album will sit atop many top 10s at the end of the year.

Of the new songs she played “The Tree,” “Young and Angry Again,” “Mother Never Rests,” “The Lot Behind St. Mary’s,” “The Fixer,” “Like Patsy Would,” and the album’s first single “People Get Old.” As mentioned, she also played songs from her previous album The Bird and the Rifle including the title track, “Old Men, Young Women” and naturally, the stunning “Humble and Kind” that Faith’s hubbie turned into one of the finest songs on pop country radio in recent years (I still would’ve killed to hear her take of “Truck Yeah”).

McKenna and her band had a “rock-out” moment with “Happy People” written by McKenna and made famous by Little Big Town. During the encore her band provided transcendent harmonies to another song LBT recorded and sprouted from the mind of McKenna, 2015’s most ubiquitous radio song, “Girl Crush.”

The concert concluded with a cover by another American songwriter hero Tom Petty, as they played a stellar version of “Room at the Top.”

In the end, Lori McKenna live, as on record, is a treasured storyteller that country fans who prefer swimming in the deep end of country music’s pool can thoroughly appreciate.  



Jun 18, 2018

Live Review / Kelly Willis / Annapolis, MD



by Scott Colvin

Over the years, I’ve been to a handful of Sunday matinee shows at Annapolis’ Ram’s Head on Stage and one thing I’ve learned is that many touring artists are not used to being “on” for a 1 pm performance. Don’t get me wrong, Cracker, Rhett Miller, Robyn Hitchcock, and Lydia Loveless nailed their respective performances, but all joked in their own ways about not being used to playing so early in the day (kudos to Loveless at her show opening for Cracker as she was battling the flu).

That said, country vet Kelly Willis and her terrific band didn’t seem phased at all during their stellar early afternoon performance on Sunday June 10 where fans were more likely imbibing on bloodies and screwdrivers instead of the venue’s fine selection of their own microbrews (I was definitely in the screwdriver mood on this particular day). Yeah…

Willis, touring for her wildly regarded Back Being Blue (her first solo album in 11 years) made the most of her 90 minutes on stage focusing primarily on songs from the new platter and 1999’s What I Deserve, all the while peppering in songs from her nearly 30 years in music.

The title track from her new album, “Back Being Blue” kicked off the show. It was a perfect start to highlight her aching vocals that has clearly charmed FTM Grand Poohbah Trailer, who has already publicly stated it’s one of his favorite songs of 2018. 

Willis immediately threw out a “bone” to older fans with an Easy track, the honky-tonkin’ rumbler “If I Left You” which featured killer guitar licks from guitarist/pedal steel guru Geoff Queen who spent the night seamlessly switching between electric guitar and pedal steel while adding subtle harmonies. Queen’s harmonies would come into play a few songs later during “What The Heart Doesn’t Know,” a song Willis admitted was her attempt at writing a 50s “country girl duo” song which she not only accomplished but added about her harmonist “Geoff does a good job being my back-up girl” which got a good laugh from the crowd.

Throughout her career Willis has had the good fortune to write with or perform songs from some of the finest writers in country music. She featured many in her set this afternoon including the title track to What I Deserve (Gary Louris of the Jayhawks), “Wrapped,” and “Not Forgotten You” by her husband Bruce Robison, “Sweet Sundown” by Damon Bramblett, “Find Another Fool” by Marcia Ball, and “Get Real” by John Leventhal. 

One of the funnier moments of the performance was during the introduction of the country rocker/revenge song “Take It All Out On You” which was written by her first husband Mas Palermo and current husband Bruce Robison (who at the time of the song’s inception was on “a break” with Kelly at the time). She’s told the story many times over the years while touring with Robison and it still gets a good laugh as she explains that it’s the “song that qualifies me to be a country singer.”

Willis closed out her set with the last song off her new album, “Don’t Step Away,” which had boots a-tappin’…well her boots for sure…as most in the crowd were sporting flip-flops or sandals on a balmy spring day in our pleasant drinking town with a sailing problem. 

Willis and her band triumphantly returned to the stage moments later to play What I Deserve’s “Cradle of Love” and the old-school rocker “Whatever The Wind Blows” by the legendary Marshall Crenshaw. 

Kelly Willis is one of country music’s finest artists who sadly gets overlooked. She’s not glossy, stylish, or pandering to the masses. She’s the epitome of class with a sweet temperament that wows audiences with every achingly beautiful, twangy, bittersweet vocal. Her songs can elate as much as they can rip your heart out. And you should openly and freely let them do both when experiencing her music, whether it be in a live setting or listening to her records at home, because they are simply good for one’s soul.




Editor's note: You'll never get an unbiased review outta this guy. :)

Jun 11, 2018

Live Review / Mastodon / MECU Pavilion


by Scott Colvin

There’s something to be said for ritual. Oftentimes ritual becomes an “obligation,” like holidays with family or school reunions. There are some rituals that are not only sacred, but necessary. For me and two of my friends, our ritual is an annual Mastodon concert. While we see each other often during the year based on our respective jobs, we know there is one day of the year* (see post script) where we hang out, drink, beer and sometimes good tequila, and throw up the horns for the best metal band going today.

Mastodon returned to Baltimore, MD (this time at the recently-named MECU Pavilion (formerly Pier 6 Pavilion) on Saturday June 2nd for a crushing metal performance that no act could truly follow. The poor souls that had to follow Mastodon on this occasion were Primus. To be perfectly honest I’ve never liked Primus and this performance 20-some years after I first saw them didn’t change my mind. Good for Primus though, they’ve probably made more money off South Park royalties than I’ll ever see. Thankfully, 30 minutes into Primus’ set, our one friend who actually wanted to see them was either really bored by the slow-moving, meandering jams that sounded the same, or was agitated that the venue stopped alcohol sales. Probably a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B. Regardless, I was happy to bail early as I had to wake up at 6:30 for work the next day.

Onto the awesomeness that is Mastodon.

Coming off the heels of two Grammy noms (one win) for 2017’s epic Emperor of Sand (my personal 2017 album of the year), the Georgia-based band focused on the new, while satiating old fans with a splattering of sick songs from their vast catalog. FTM side-note, Robert Dean wrote one of my favorite articles of 2017 about not “getting” Mastodon and having old fans try to explain the cosmic appeal to him upon every release. While I disagreed with him, it was the most brilliant article I read all year and he deserved an online Pulitzer for Music Writing, if such a silly thing exists (if it did, I’m sure it’d be as meaningful as a CMT Award). And speaking of old fans and only slightly more off topic than my last rambling tangent, I’ve been one of those old fans Robert talked about in his article (seriously, read it). What I failed to realize before my first Mastodon show five years ago was drummer/vocalist Bran Dailor went to my high school (a year younger than me). Like, I had no idea until a mutual friend mentioned it to me. 

Anyway, off Emperor, the band opened with the relentlessly punishing “Sultan’s Curse” and closed with the mythic and at times psychedelic “Steambreather.” In between they played “Ancient Kingdom,” “Roots Remain,” the pulsating “Precious Stones,” and the head bangin’, head bobber, “Show Yourself.” 

Definitely a nostalgic moment for Baltimore Mastodon fans was the bands’ performance of “Ember City” which they dedicated to the dozens of fans who would see them regularly play at the legendary Ottobar back in the day (those shows must’ve been crazy bonkers to see in such a small venue).

As for their older stuff, they played a solid mix from their decade-plus career, including “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” Bladecatcher,” “Black Tongue,”  “Megalodon,” “Andromeda,” “Toe to Toes,” “Sleeping Giant,” “Ghost of Karelia,” and “Mother Puncher,” all of which were equally powerful and divine and solidified Mastodon’s place in metal’s pantheon of greatness. 


*P.S. Three days after this show, Mastodon announced an upcoming show in Silver Spring, MD with 80s, 90s, 00s indie rock Gods -- Dinosaur Jr. Looks like there is a new Mastodon ritual for my crew in 2018.
---------------------------------------

Here's like... 30 minutes of the show... if you wanna watch it:



May 11, 2018

Show Review / Lindi Ortega / @RamsHeadOnStage

By Scott Colvin

Lindi Ortega’s penultimate concert on the U.S. leg of her world-wide Liberty Tour came to the intimate Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD on April 25th. While the venue wasn’t at capacity (it was a Wednesday, so let’s cut the artist and venue some slack) the fans who were there were presented with a thrilling performance by the Canadian country torch singer with one of the finest albums of 2018.

While the majority of the show focused on songs from her striking new album Liberty, Ortega led off the night with a pair of tracks from her “recognized” debut album Little Red Boots -- “Dying of Another Broken Heart” and “All of the Angels.” Both songs (hell, one can say this about most of her songs) were flush with Ortega’s aching vocals and steadied by drummer Ryan Brewer and “Champagne” James Robertson’s jangly guitar playing. “Demon Don’t Get Me Down” off Cigarettes & Truckstops came up next and was a rollicking ride of country attitude and featured a fantastic slide guitar solo by Robertson.

Among the songs from Liberty, Ortega played “In The Clear,” a reflective song about weathering a personal storm, the head-bobbing title track with very western guitar licks, and the slow and sweet “Lovers In Love” a song she said was “one of the first real love songs she’s written” (marriage will do that). 

She also played Liberty’s musically and vocally intense “Comeback Kid,” the album’s first single, featuring Brewer’s ominous drumming which added a certain danger to the song. Ortega celebrated her Mexican/Spanish speaking heritage with “Pablo” and the lovely “Gracias a la Vida” by Chilean composer Violetta Parra which was the encore’s first song. 

Ortega closed out the set with a song about “backstabbers,” “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me” where she slinked and slithered on stage, selling the song while showing her fun side.

Two of the finest moments of the night came when Ortega sang the brilliant Nashville underdog song-writer song “Tin Star” and probably her most known song, the transcendent “Cigarettes & Truckstops.” 

Lindi Ortega is an adept storyteller in melancholia.  There is a pain, power and lucidity in her voice that is absent from today’s party-hardy, feel-good scene (which has nothing to do with real country music) and is certainly welcome and admirable.  


Obligatory shot of Scott and Lindi

Jan 31, 2018

Live Review: SLEEP, Moody's Theater, Austin, TX



by Robert Dean 

If there’s anything you can count on when seeing Sleep plow through their songs live, it’s that you’re going to get stoned even if you aren’t the one pulling off the joint and the wall of amplifiers will be so loud it’ll rattle the skeleton inside your meat suit.

At Sleep’s recent stop at Austin’s Moody Theater, best known as the location of Austin City Limits, the doom masters didn’t disappoint with almost two solid hours of riffing and off the cuff jamming. Wandering through classics like "Dragonaut" and "The Druid," Sleep maintained zero communication with the crowd and let their riffs do the talking.

If there was any shining star in the constant chugging Twilight Zone, it was Jason Roeder’s precision, almost mechanical drumming that sounded more like a box factory than a heavy metal drummer. Bassist Al Cisneros and everyone’s favorite Lemmy stand-in, Matt Pike ripped through off the cuff renditions off their much-lauded records Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker.

It’s easy to dismiss Sleep as the premier stoner rock band or Black Sabbath tribute act, but once seeing Sleep, it’s apparent that the group are much more groove reliant than any Sabbath tune. While Black Sabbath ventures off into the weeds, sometimes crafting riffs from the middle of nowhere, Matt Pike instead hovers around three or four sonic ideas and explores them endlessly. While a spaceman might traipse around the stage, giving the already enchanted crowd a nod to the otherworldly experience, the presence of the music relies on the ever-building sense of wholeness and the slow, muddy groove that is unrelenting.

Experimenting on moments, ideas, feelings, Sleep might have stuck to the setlist as a means to have guidelines, but once in the music, they never relied on track length or what was expected, but instead traveled down sonic back alleys, looking for new ways to stake out territory in their universe. For a setlist comprised of eight songs, it took two hours for Sleep to find their way through them. There’s more to Sleep than meets the eye and certainly more musically going on than many give them credit for. There’s a little Black Flag and Motorhead in there, despite what sludgy slowness might bubble up from the murk.

As the packed room gave every inch of themselves over to the masters of the riff, there’s one hot take that’s unavoidable: Sleep is a jam band for dudes who like Motorhead.



Not from the same show, but it'll give you a sampling of Sleep.

Jun 9, 2017

That Time At The Drive In Finally Came Back to Austin

by Robert Dean

When The Relationship of Command came out, it changed my life. The jangly guitars, the chaotic vocals, mixed tightly with a percussive section that boomed instead of blasted – to those of us who first heard At The Drive In when they landed on the national radar, our minds were blown.

For all of its off-time, brilliance, The Relationship of Command stands as a body of work that defined a generation, and remains ground zero for many punk rock Millennials on that cusp of Generation X who didn’t know Fugazi in their prime or had yet to crate dig and discover Bad Brains. For many of us, At The Drive In Changed how we heard music. We didn’t know The Stooges, nor did we understand why Shellac was important – but, after One Armed Scissor gave us a new sonic direction in punk, we certainly did.

There’s a cultural ownership to an iconic record. It’s a bonding agent, as well as a mode of expression realized by the people who adore it long after the artist has moved on.

As At The Drive took the stage in Austin, Texas, for many, including myself, it was an annunciation of sins, a talisman within a shaking exorcism, which was seventeen years in the making for many of us. For the old folks, now with kids and potbellies - we finally got to hear the songs we’ve lusted after for so long.

The set was a mix of the new record, which is to be expected, and the older material everyone knows. But, let’s cut the shit: everyone in the building was there for the songs off of The Relationship of Command, and not anything else. Despite my love for In Casino/Out or De Facto, there is one record that defines the band’s legacy, and At The Drive In is smart enough to realize it, but play coy to the societal advances.

But, that’s the rub with bands who release legendary records – some embrace the historical nuance of their merits, while other accept their place, but constantly try to move forward: At The Drive In falls into to the latter, and sadly so.

Tonight’s set ebbed and flowed, with moments of mouth-frothing goodness ala Enfilade. But, we also had to endure new songs, too. The thing is, we love the new songs, and we accept them as a piece of the cannon that keeps the band humming along. Artists want to write new material, and that’s amazing. BUT, when you’re whipping out your first major tour since your initial breakup, you need to give the audience their money’s worth for the legacy factor.

 I feel like such a douche complaining after seeing At The Drive In, one of my bucket list bands, but honestly, I have to. All I wanted from their set was three songs:

·      One Armed Scissor
·      Enfilade
·      Arc Arsenal


We got two out of the three, but realistically, we needed Arc Arsenal for that sexy, leaving so fulfilled moment. We needed the maracas, and we needed that sense of stylistic chaos. Each of these songs are pillars that anchor the identity of The Relationship of Command, and not getting all three feels cheap. While I know and understand that the band has been touring on and off for the last few years, it’s important to realize the emotional impact of The Relationship of Command’s legacy and what it means to a lot of people.

I’m happy for my chance to see these guys, I’m at a loss for a sense of purpose of the show. Was it good? Absolutely. It was a wonderful experience to finally see and hear the songs I’ve hollered in my car countless times. If anything, it was an emotional homecoming, harkening back to a simpler time in my life, one that wasn’t mired in self-loathing, debt, or basically adulthood.

I don’t feel cheated in the least and was certainly better than all of the times I saw Sparta or The Mars Volta. Which truth to be told, is the overarching point: last night was like attending church for many, I just wish the band respected the wishes of the day before dancing on the corpse's ashes.

Dudes, play all three of those songs, for us old folks. It means a lot.


Feb 20, 2017

The Cavalera Brothers Return to their Roots in Austin

by Robert Dean

Twenty years ago, when Sepultura released Roots, it was a milestone in heavy metal. On the surface, it was unique to see a band embrace their cultural heritage instead of trying to be completely Americanized. Sepultura was from Brazil, and they wanted to make a statement that they were from a rhythmically different side of the planet. Their traditions gave them different time signatures, a deeper reliance on drums, a different feel of timbre. Roots showcased heavy metal as world music, and it changed the game.

But, as their signature record gained stream and bands around the world copied the crushing style, Max Cavalera bailed on Sepultura. The classic lineup of the band was over. And in the years since, Cavalera has gone on to form Soulfly, while the remaining members of Sepultura keep busy with recording and touring. Iggor, Max’s brother, stayed in Sepultura for some years later, but eventually left the band he and his brother formed all those years ago. 

With the 20th anniversary of the seminal Roots record coming to pass into 2016, the Cavalera brothers, along with Soulfly alum Mark Rizzo and Tony Campos hit the road to celebrate. As bad blood flows black as night after all of these years, getting the original lineup today proves a Misfits-style quagmire, but hey Glenn and Jerry patched it up for two shows, so who knows what the future holds.

The Roots tour made its way through Austin last night, and the vibe was exactly what I wanted from some vintage metal: very drunk and very excited. With lots of head bobs and beer guts, the folks who came up on the Roots album were in full force. Everyone might be a little older, but the excitement was just the same. As for the Cavaleras, it seemed like Max was a little skeptical, and going through the motions of the set, as this is the second leg of the tour. But, as he saw the reactions of the crowd, and felt the appreciation coming back from chants and interaction, he livened up as the songs went by.

As they pulled out the drums and held tribal jam sessions, or crushed their way through Dusted, or even the encore of songs like Procreation of The Wicked, Children of The Grave or Ace of Spades, it was evident to anyone that the band went from another night on the road, to enjoying the room full of people who wanted to do nothing more but pour their hearts out back to them.

Those songs may be old, but they carry weight. Root Bloody Roots, Cutthroat, Attitude are metal classics. While they don’t crush with the sheer brutality of the newer bands, it doesn’t matter. Hearing these songs in their entirety was just satisfying. There’s a level of appreciation when a band tours on a classic album and that wasn’t lost last night at Grizzly Hall. Austin came out to say thank you to the Cavalera brothers for giving us such an incredible record that stands the test of time, two decades later. 

Jan 30, 2017

Live Review: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

Craig Finn- Pittsburgh Living Room Show 01/20

 by Matthew Martin

On January 20th, 2017, the day our new President was inaugurated and spouted nationalist rhetoric to the thousands who were in town, my buddy and I drove to Pittsburgh to get outta DC and see Craig Finn play an intimate show in an office space.

Seeing Craig in this particular setting playing songs from his new album appropriately named "We All Want The Same Things" was extremely cathartic for me.  We sat on the floor and listened to songs about people who've seen better days, but are so damn positive that those better days are still reachable and right over that horizon.  

This blue collar optimism in the face of defeat is the signature of any Finn-penned song.  The new songs on the upcoming record are no different, if maybe a little darker at times.  Those characters are still there fucking up, but getting back up and fighting back.  If this isn't a metaphor for the times we're in right now, man, I don't know what is.

I'd never seen a show in this setting, and I gotta say, it was wonderful.  It was something I'd highly recommend to anyone who is within driving distance to see one of their favorite musicians play an incredibly intimate show to fewer than 50 folks.  It gives a real sense where the artist was when that song was created.  It didn't hurt that Craig made time for some questions during the show, so it was a real insight into some of his songs.

I think most in the room, including Craig, felt a little weird about what had just happened earlier in the day.  I think everyone felt a little better about the world afterwards.  Maybe not for too long, but at least for a little bit.  And, dammit, that's what music is for.  Craig Finn is a national treasure and I can't wait to hear this album in full.  Go pre-order this album here and I can guarantee you you won't be disappointed.

Dec 9, 2016

Live Review: BJ Barham at Jammin' Java

Live Review: BJ Barham, Jammin' Java, 12/3/2016
By Matthew Martin

If you don't know who BJ Barham is, I'll go ahead and get that out of the way.  He's the frontman of longtime, hard-working band, American Aquarium out of Raleigh, NC.  His debut solo album, Rockingham, is something else and I highly recommend it.  If there's one thing that I don't like about the album it's that it is a short album at only 8 songs.  But, that's unfair.  Many great albums contain 8 songs- both Japandroids albums, Led Zeppelin's IV, Metallica's Master of Puppets, etc.  The album doesn't contain a blemish.  It's the work of a determined man with stories to get out.  For those that don't know the story- Barham and band were overseas when the Paris attacks occurred and the band was put up in a hotel for three days where Barham felt isolated and anxious, and wrote songs to deal with his situation.

With that said, BJ is a showman and live is the best way to experience these songs.  I've seen American Aquarium play somewhere around 10 times, I believe.  Hell, my dad has had the guys play in our front yard out in my hometown of Pulaski, TN.  But I'd never seen a BJ solo show.  Seeing him sing and play these songs live with only his guitar as accompaniment is a treat.  I'll also go ahead and get it out of the way that it was a hell of an evening with about an hour and a half of music and stories in between.

BJ played all the songs off the solo album plus a few American Aquarium songs that really benefited from the solo setting.  One such song was "Man I'm Supposed to Be."  The song is already pretty minimal on the album Wolves but seeing it with just BJ and his guitar was really more of a punch to the gut than I had been ready for.  Maybe it was the coupling with touching songs off the solo album, but it was quite a song to hear in that setting.

The solo songs were the real winners here, though, and the song "Unfortunate Kind" was the most effective.  With the lines, "Do you remember that first week?/When you burnt that pecan pie/And I ate the whole damn thing/I couldn't stand to see you cry," you could hear the crowd nearly gasp.  It's a simple statement filled with so many different emotions.  It's a case-in-point of what makes BJ such an affecting and clever songwriter.  The ability to take a mundane situation and make it into a moment with much more gravity – it's not something just any songwriter can do.

There isn't much more I can say about BJ or the show.  If you get a chance to go see American Aquarium, go do so.  But, if you get a chance to see BJ play a solo show, drop what you're doing and do it.  He doesn't play as many solo shows as he does with the band and you need to see these songs played this way.  So, go see him as soon as you can, and until then go buy Rockingham wherever it is you buy music.  Support these artists so they'll continue doing these things that bring us so much joy.

Aug 1, 2016

Road Dispatch: Austin Lucas & Matt Woods


Road Dispatch: Austin Lucas & Matt Woods
A Study in Contrasts, Live and on Eight Legs, 
at the Earl in Atlanta

By Kevin Broughton

One of the benefits of being in Farce the Music’s stable of reviewers/critics is regularly getting turned on to new artists.  Yes, many friends consider me a “music snob” (if not a general butthole) for my sneering at their infantile tastes, and I wear that badge (well, the “music snob” one) proudly. I haven’t listened to music on commercial radio in years, and Outlaw Country is pre-set #1 (channel 60) on my Sirius/XM receiver. Still, all it takes is a periodic email from FTM Boss man/Editor “Trailer” to make me feel like a noob.

The names in an email soliciting reviews might as well be “some guy,” “this one band,” “her,” and “them.”

That’s how I discovered Austin Lucas, and stumbled onto the best country album of the year. And through him, I met another amazing artist I’d never heard of.  And of course, the ubiquitous Sally.

Lucas and Matt Woods (formerly “Who’s This Guy?” to me) played The Earl – an iconic Atlanta venue -- in mid-July on their “Live on Eight Legs” tour.  


 The solo acoustic twin bill was a delightful study in contrasts of elite songwriters whose catalogs stand up just fine in an intimate setting without a band’s support.

Woods, a scruffy, husky East Tennessean, ambled through an hour-long set of poignant songs punctuated with witty observations, sometimes at his own expense. (Imagine Steve Earle with a sense of humor, as tough as that is.)  He revealed what might have been the moment he became destined to be an artist. Glued to the TV as a youngster, “There was Conway Twitty, in a dark suit with that long, skinny-handled microphone. He was drippin’ sweat and singin’ about gettin’ busy. I knew I had a chance. ” His natural connection with the audience is one of the first things you notice; well, after the bracing vocals on songs like “Johnny Ray Dupree,” a murder ballad that does Earle’s “Billy Austin” one better.

“I spent the better part of the last two years living out of a backpack,” Woods notes, “supporting my album With Love From Brushy Mountain.” He explains that Brushy Mountain is the state pen down the road from his childhood home “and it scared the shit out of me.” He then does a rousing version of that album’s title cut, itself a fine murder ballad. He previewed his upcoming album How To Survive (October 7 release date) with “The American Way,” a painful, increasingly all too common tale of a veteran trying in vain to re-adjust to civilian life.

But it was “Dead Man’s Blues,” FTM’s Song of the Year in 2013, that closed Woods’ portion of the service, and it definitely had an altar-call feel, with an enraptured  audience-turned-choir joining him on the last chorus for a full throated a cappella finish.

Lucas would do him one better on a closing number, but first he had an album’s worth of new material to introduce. Actually, the songs came just after Sally settled in for the show.

Sally in her stage-side seat

Lucas, not shy about discussing his own issues with anxiety and depression, has an emotionally interdependent relationship with his best friend; they’d each be lost without one another. So, with Sally ensconsed in his guitar case, Lucas began his own hour-long set.

It’s one thing to hear a professionally produced album with great songs and top-flight instrumentalists; without them, Between the Moon and the Midwest wouldn’t be the great record that it is. It’s another thing entirely, though, to see it put to the test in a small room with nothing but a guitar and a microphone. Producer Joey Kneisser did a fabulous job on it, but he didn’t use studio sleight of hand or any other gimmicks.  One after another, a balanced mix of songs from the new album and 2013’s Stay Reckless poured out of Lucas and filled up the room. During one of them, he hit the brakes suddenly, paused for a beat or two, and then started belting the opening lines of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

And he freaking killed it. I mean Steve-Perry-note-for-note-not-in-a-lower-key smoked that thing. “That’s the number one downloaded song of all time, and if you don’t like Journey, I don’t know what’s wrong with you,”* he said, before resuming his song.

You can’t fake that.

“Some of y’all know,” Lucas said, as he readied to close the show, “that I have issues with anxiety and depression, so I’d like everybody to gather around.” The 50 or so in attendance complied (including Matt Woods & me at the back of the crowd), as he unplugged his guitar and stood down from the microphone. (At this point Sally got up from the guitar case, stretched, then lay down in the middle of the stage.) It was time for another sing-along, this time the touchingly sweet “Alone in Memphis.” And for a few moments, artist and audience – every one of them – had a genuinely spiritual connection.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of artists – so dedicated to the craft – for a night of singing and songwriting excellence. And serious live music fans should hope that “Live on Eight Legs” gets an encore tour, sooner rather than later.  


 ----------------------


*Journey is the worst band of all time – maybe second-worst behind Poison – but he may have a bit of a point here. And he freaking crushed that song.


Apr 26, 2016

Lucero & St. Paul & The Broken Bones Rock Memphis

Just some random thoughts and sights from the Lucero Block Party 2016.
by Trailer 

Minglewood Hall (outside), Midtown Memphis TN, April 23, 2016

Young Valley
Mississippi boys, Young Valley opened the show as we were coming into the venue. They're cool. Country music with ample rock energy and weird fun thrown in. They started the "better live than on album" theme of the day… but I guess that's how 90% of 'our' acts are. Young Valley was exuberant to be there and it showed. They played their short stint with energy and joy. I've heard them do a better set, but it was damn good stuff. They're a band to watch in coming years.

• Ben Nichols of Lucero stood directly in front of the stage watching Young Valley for a while, until he was unable to do so because of folks asking for pictures and autographs. I'm a huge fan, but I've met him before and he was enjoying the show, so I didn't bother him.

• Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones was also in the  crowd, but he was more hanging out than watching. He looked completely different in street clothes, to the point that my friend and I were debating whether it was him or not. It was.

Mark Edgar Stuart was next on the lineup. I haven't heard him nearly as much as I've heard the rest of the acts, but he was damn good, funny, and engaging. He seems to me something of a mix of folk music + Willie Nelson (vocally) + Randy Newman. Mark sang his new single "Don't Blame Jesus," which was timely and HILARIOUS, and got the crowd into high spirits.

• Pabst was the beer sponsor of the event. You could go inside and get whatever drinks and craft beers you wanted, but once you get settled in for some good music, you just want what's nearby, so it was PBR and Old Tankard (their uh, craftier beer) the rest of the evening.

• The edgy shirt vendors and the BMX team riding at the back of the event brought in some of the vibe of Lucero's more punk-esque early days, but generally this was a regular Joe kinda crowd. Lots of families and lots of diversity. Hardly any hipsters though.


Cory Branan played the next slot. It was just him and his guitar, but he was magnetic.
He played mostly his more well known up-tempo tunes. He's a born entertainer, but not in the way of showmanship. He just knows how to get the crowd in the palm of his hand by being real and open. Guy should be a lot bigger than he is.

• There were food trucks to keep us fed. The famous Central BBQ, which I've never actually had the pleasure of eating, had a truck, but I figure I'm gonna have the real deal in the original location when I finally take the dive. I went with a Cuban sandwich from the Food Geek truck and it was divine.

The crowd loaded in for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Not to say I wasn't there for Lucero, but I was a little more excited to finally see these guys. They did not disappoint, to understate things a bit. The band was just (insert fire emoji). They're tight as hell but loose in the groove - and not in a robotic 'white dudes approximating the swing of soul music' kind of way - naw, they're the real damn deal. Paul sang his ass off - I've never seen a video of him half-assing it. It's a wonder he manages to still be a …um, larger gentleman. He probably won't be for long, because he just lays it all out there, sweating like a roofer and hollering like a Pentecostal preacher.

They played a bunch of songs from Half the City, a vein-popping cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," and…and…. they announced that the new album is DONE, and played 3 songs from it. One of them had the crowd swooning and shouting and raising hands skyward. Nobody knew a word of it, I couldn't even discern a title, but it was indescribably bad ass. What a show.

This band, when it finally gets a Grammy nod and some air time in front of a few million eyes and ears, will be huge. Not if, just when. It's going to happen. They may not be bringing much new to the table genre-wise, but they just live inside of soul music. Their songs are killer and well-written, but the experience is the thing. It's church.

•The weather was perfect. Late April is when all festivals in the south should be scheduled, even though that's not possible. It was sunny, 80, and breezy, then cooling down and breezy. Wonderful.

The main event was up next. Lucero took the stage with no horn section. I haven't seen them play without horns since 2012 or thereabout. It was a rock show.

Ben and the boys played all the hits and the crowd sang along with hands in the air. Memphis being the band's home base, this makes sense, but I've never seen so many Lucero tattoos. One was on a guy's head. That's the kind of dedication this band inspires.

We got all the favorites like "Tears Don't Matter Much," "Tonight Ain't Gonna Be Good," and "My Best Girl." We also got a good mix of Lucero's newer tunes like "Texas and Tennessee" and "Woke Up in New Orleans." On the albums, these more polished songs sound a lot different from the band's earlier punk-edged persona, but live, they fit right into the flow, the ragged vocals and gritty musicianship blending everything into a pure rock n' roll feast.


• People kept passing Ben Nichols drinks. Not water, not beer, not even mixed drinks. Nothing so refreshing for the dude singing his heart out in the warm air. Nope - pure Jack, full cups. He was fine with it.

If you've never seen Lucero live and they come within driving distance, go. I don't care if you're not particularly a fan. The show is where they make the thing work. They'll never be the best songwriters, the best singers, or the best players (aside from Rick Steff), but there's something about the mix of these southern boys, a warm night, and some cold beverages that can turn a passing interest into a lifetime love affair.


Ben played this oldie, "Outsiders," from his previous (previous as in 19 years ago) band Red 40.

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