Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Putting Athens Back on the Map: Part 1 of the 2 part New Years Eve Episode and Ticket Giveaway

Welcome to part 1 of the New Years Eve Episode of the HAPCast. With guest host Jay Rogers we start things off with "Working Man" from The Higher Choir.  We discuss with Lowdive what kind of band they really are,why they have a Tonka, what is happening with their new album and the changes in the Athens music scene over the last 20 years.  Showtime gives us the scoop on their new album, when to or not to use the f - bomb, and why there are no hip hop shows in downtown Athens..  Pay close attention we give away two pairs of tickets for the NYE Ball at the Caledonia Lounge on December 31.  You have to listen to find out how to win the tickets.


HAPCast Episode 3 Love and Rock n Roll

One of the best parts about the music business is all the wonderfully weird, talented, kind and amazing people we are able to meet along the journey.  This, the 3rd episode of the HAPCast, I get a chance to sit down with the ever jolly, clever, and madly in love Ty Manning and Kelly Hoyle Fuller of Beauty and the Beard. Ty and Kelly talk about their rock n roll wedding at the Georgia Theatre this Thursday, December 19th. Ty breaks down his writing process and Kelly gives us the breakdown on Ty's constant storytelling, wrapping it all up with a live cut of their song "Whorible Woman".  The show opens with an old demo from Ty's days with the Barefoot Hooker Revival band "High on a Mountain" which was perfect since we had some technical difficulties and had to come up with an intro on the fly.The episode finishes up with "Everynite Drugs" by Scott Low off of his new album, "The Stories I Shouldn't Tell".


HAPCast Episode 2 From Athens to Muscle Shoals to the Blue Ridge Parkway

In the 2nd episode of the HAPCast, Handpicked Artists Presents delves into the music of Muscle Shoals with Norma Rae. Local singer, songwriter Drew Kohl plays "Oh Darlin" live, and efren and Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work make their HAPCast debut.  Tune in and enjoy the show!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HAPCast Episode 1 The Tip of the Iceburg

The HAPCast is the new podcast from Handpicked Artists Presents. In the first episode, the host, Erin Drello, dives right in to the local Athens music scene. John Strickland from Lullwater talks about 90's grunge and why making their new album in Seattle was so cool. The Woodgrains debut a track from their new album and discuss their show coming up with Lullwater at the 40Watt Theatre on Nov 23. Brad Lauretti from The Frontier Needs Heros out of Jacksonville,Fla stops by and lays down a track. Last but definately not least Todd White of the Wonderful Whites of Watkinsville sits down to talk about this years Turkey Ramble and the dirty pranks of Jay Rodgers. We will be giving away concert tickets and so much more. So tune in and enjoy the ride.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

No More Buffalo

                The last few nights I have been turning off the tube a little early and falling asleep with my headphones in.  As usual the music I listen to jumps from artist to artist, but it all does the same trick in the dark, taking my worries of the day from my over active mind and off I fade into the black.  Tonight, I saw a picture from a honky tonk sign in Luckenbach, Texas, with James McMurtry playing tonight and Billy Joe Shaver playing tomorrow night.  Immediately, I did just like I have every other night this week, turned off the television and put on my head phones and let Mr. McMurtry roar.  Instead of drifting off to sleep like the other nights this week, my mind went on a rampage, twisting and turning about the state of music today. With Lou Reed’s passing, Katie Perry being number one on the charts, and somehow thinking that this is all evident in my little city of Athens, Ga. Having been watching people here unwilling to pay a cover for live music with venues falling in stride, and “hickhop” videos becoming a mainstay of conversation, tonight this old rock n roll lover is having to dig deep to remember why I got into this business in the first place… Well, not really. My friend and musician, Grant Mitchell, put it straight the other day.  He said “Erin, we do what we do because we love it.”
                I have been writing about a few different subjects on a regular basis over the last few years.  However, this concept of an open and honest commentary about the music around me has been in existence for less than a year.  Since then, I have returned to the birthplace of my love for live music, and shortly after my arrival back in Athens, I teamed up with a couple of well-seasoned, highly talented, local musicians and started a booking agency.  I am convinced that the music here and in nearby southern states, being created by small, mostly unknown independent musicians is as good as music has ever been.  This was the driving force in my decision to jump further into what some folks might call the cesspool of the music business.   What would happen to these wonderful songs, if they cannot ever make it around our great nation, bouncing from stage to stage, saving those souls warn from the stress of the human existence as they once saved me? They will get bypassed by a DJ with an I pad and a pocket full of opiates, and old dogs like me will have to find another way to spend our weekend nights and that won’t be good.
                 I have had James McMurtry on shuffle for an hour or so now and “No More Buffalo” has played a couple of times.   It is to me a song about growing older, life’s adventures running out, and no more rock n roll as we know it.   Well I am getting older, the adventures are still around but with a different face and rock n roll is alive and well.  My friend was right; we do what we do because we love it. And as long as that love for that sweet music stays in my heart, I will fight the good fight to keep it alive.  After all, I owe her so much more.  Rock n roll has been the best girl I have ever known and I would be lost without her.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

cactusgrass by Scott Low (of efren) official video!

'Stuck in the Country' Offical Music Video by Scott Low

From his album, The Stories I Shouldn’t Tell, Scott Low presents the music video “Stuck in the Country”.
Filmed and edited by Jay Braver (www.JayBraver.com), the video was filmed at the Historic Village at Hurricane Shoals State Park in Maysville, Georgia.
The Stories I Shouldn’t Tell includes 14 tracks recorded over the last two years, available on Amazonand iTunes.
Scott Low currently leads the band Efren, as well as penning his own southern folk songs. He has been writing and playing songs a long time and has dabbled in many genres: punk, jazz, bluegrass, rock, blues, folk, Americana, country, not in that order. Playing hundreds of stages and rooms, the song has lead the way.
Chasing the melody and pushing thru stories and odd analogies, after bouts of lead guitar ego bubbles, Scott decided to start singing and reconnecting with the American song, verse, chorus repeat, maybe a bridge. Writing about our lives, the ones we love and especially the ones we don’t. Scott Low sings songs of loss, love, drinking, and rumors of peace. Scott Low comes from Athens, GA; which is the home of intense creativity and true American art and music. Scott has returned to writing and singing. He lives to play the guitar and listen to Townes, Dylan, Ben Nichols, Hank, Cash, Tweedy and Willie. Divorce and children mixed with dirt roads, friends and Georgia hills are all blended in to create his sound… A couple hundred shows, four albums, and intimate views on many songs, a solo stage has called Scott to tell these stories. In just under two and a half years the stories and harmonies from the quartet of albums pushed our ability and perspective. While Efren will never die, Scott Low has a separate agenda, a dark road that must be traversed alone.
Now wrapping up a full length solo album of folk southern Americana songs, Scott pushes ahead. Love has been found, but scars don’t heal too easy in the back country. The humidity of the South radiates tell intriguing tales (probably more than just the humidity).
“As the main man in Athens, Ga.-based Americana band Efren, Low currently stands out as one of the Peach State’s potentially great up-and-coming songwriters.”
– T. Ballard Lesemann, Charleston City Paper (Jun 27, 2012)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tour of Duty

Since Jason Isbell’s newest album Southeastern was released earlier this year, it has been a mainstay in my daily musical rotation.  It is safe to say I have listened to Southeastern more than I have not since its release.  This year I have been lucky enough to have more than one album speak to me and seem relevant with my current place in life.  I have been a fan of Jason’s for several years and I have been following his solo career pretty closely, especially, as of late, with his new lease on life found in his relief from his battle with alcohol and substance abuse.  Like Jason, I have had my own battles with drugs and alcohol and we are on a pretty close timeline in our journey into sobriety. His new album resonates loud with the struggles of the past, bad mistakes, lost love, and redemption.  All emotions and experiences I know too well.  Southeastern and Jason’s show last night at the Georgia Theatre are testaments to the fact that people can change, despite the pain, and come back better than ever. 
I have wanted to do a piece on Mr. Isbell for some time now, but I have been holding off for the right time and it has finally arrived.  Last night’s show at the Georgia Theatre was pretty special for a few reasons.  I had an extra ticket and was able to give it to a buddy of mine who is a big fan; one that despite all the concerts he has seen over the years has never been to the famous Georgia Theatre.  A trip to the GATH is a must for any true music fan, but when it is one of your favorite musicians, it makes it that much better.  Watching my friend shake his fist and sing along to Jason’s mighty voice and doing some rocking of my own with a few amazing new friends encapsulated everything that is great about a true rock n roll experience.
Flying over Water, from the new album started everything off.  This is one of my favorites to sing along to, showing Jason’s strength not only as a guitar player but as a singer as well.  With this we were off and running.  Go it Alone, Tour of Duty, Decoration Day, and Outfit were all fantastic mixing the old and new together flawlessly.  With Different Days, out came the acoustic guitar and things slowed down a bit. All country and full of glory Jason sang these slow and admittedly sad songs with a huge smile.  Live Oak, Stockholm, and Travelling Alone are three of my favorites and he nailed them all with confidence.  The band wrapped up the show with Never Gonna Change, Alabama Pines, and Goddamn Lonely Love.  All were deep and heartfelt played with the passion of a new man, finally comfortable in his own boots.  Jason encored with Super 8 and the Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’.  Both were full tilt, straight up rock n roll. The GATH was rockin’ and Jason loved it.  It was more than obvious Jason was happy to be in that moment on that sacred stage.
 Jason nailed the night and it showed in his voice, his guitar, and his smile.  He looked healthy and happy, seeming to be having the time of his life.  It was great to hear everyone cheer when he sang of “swearing that stuff off for good this time.”  It was more than evident that a clear and sober mind does a body good, and allow for all the greatness to show after hiding in the dark for so long.  Jason put on a great show, he knew it, and the crowd knew it and we all felt good.  Leaving a rock show the way we should; happy and satisfied.  Hopefully, Jason will continue on his own Tour of Duty, proving song by song  and show by show that he is hands down the best songwriter in America today.
One last note, St. Paul and the Broken Bones open the show last night and all I can say is wow.  If you love Otis Redding the way I do, you will love these guys.  They will be one to keep an eye on for sure.  Simply amazing!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Music Midtown 2013

By Rusty Ruus

Friday the lineup sucked. The two Americana bands on the whole festival bill were Drivin' & Cryin' and North Mississippi Allstars. Both played at 4:00 and were missed by 90% of the attendants. Thanks a lot, schedule maker. F-you, too, BTW...  Then, it was a huge line of shit, including 2 Chains, Phoenix, and fuck; I can't remember all that garbage...  Long story short, Jane's Addiction still fucking rocks and bringing out 2 women who jammed meat hooks through their backs and swung around over the crowd put them over the top as the best act of the festival. It felt really wrong & really right at the same time.  I won't even discuss who the genius was that decided that Mexican karaoke  Journey deserved to be Friday's headliner, but I'll say, the lil' guy sounded just like Steve Perry as I was walking to my car...  At least the weather was beautiful....
Saturday the weather WAS NOT beautiful.  It rained like a motherfucker for the 1st 6 hours of the fest. Completely mud pitting the festival grounds and dampening some goddamn great sets from Reignwolf and the Black Lips.  The locals Black Lips came out to thunderous Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop music (well played, guys) and told tales of sneaking into all Music Midtown's from the past.  Weezer was okay. Meh. They played Jonas & Hashpipe 1st & 2nd so I went to eat at the food trucks 3rd time.  The Arctic Monkeys, one more time, The Arctic Monkeys, They were brilliant. During their set, the rain began to let up, a bit. They were my most anticipated band at the show & did not disappoint. Alex Turner is a really charismatic rock star & told tales to lead from one song to the other... The rhythm with which he delivers the lyrics is really unique and it was great to finally see them. Looking forward to seeing them in a smaller venue, they fucking jammed.... And a big, fat +1 to any dude who carries a comb in his pocket & brushes his hair countless times between songs... The Yeah Yeah Yeahs did not rock that much or hard. Karen O (who has been fucking banshee rock beast in the past) was over doing it and not that spontaneous. I went and ate food trucks again, when Maps began... Karen O? More like Lame-O.  Queens of the Stone Age was next... And Awesome! Josh & Alex Turner (arctic Monkeys) have a similar swagger to their delivery. Since we left YYYs early, we were able to get up on the rail for QOTSA. It made a huge difference. Except for the raging drunks, the set was phenomenal. They have been & will always be one of my favorite bands... Lil' sad that Atlanta got a festival set instead of a headlining gig but they'll be back soon & I anticipate it being awesome... Nothing like being in the front of 35,000 rock fans, though!  Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined. They play too much new stuff & my feet hurt... & I was soaked... 
Except for the weather (excused) poor scheduling (inexcusable) that forced me to miss BOTH DnC and NMAS, Kendrick Lamar (for QOTSA), and Cake (for Jane's), Music Midtown 2013 was pretty damn fun.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Today Was a Good Day

Today, being yesterday, which was Saturday, was a great day.  It was the second day of Jay Rodger’s birthday celebration at the Max Canada.  The music was both Friday and Saturday nights with proceeds going to support the Athens Human Rights Festival.  Perfectly, this coincided with my own birthday on Friday.  Jay managed to pick the right bands for the weekend.  It was a perfect mix of roots rock, Americana, southern soul, and ska/punk/reggae, and hip-hop party music.   The crowd was great, new friends were made, and we all did our part to help further the Human Rights fight, all with the mighty sword of rock n roll.
I am a little bit of a late bloomer when it comes to the punk, ska, and reggae scene.  Although Sublime was a large part of my early twenties, bands such as Social Distortion, the Clash and Danzig are fairly recent additions to my musical rotations.  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones pop in and out from time to time, but for the most part ska and reggae are not part of my regular intake.  However, with the rebirth of my workout routine, these genres have been added to the play lists to help get this old man through a few hours of painful exercise every day.  Now that my love affair with the jam band scene is quickly coming to an end, I am realizing how much fantastic music I have been missing out on.  Last night’s Lowdive show, reinforced the fact that I need to get off that sad, whiskey soaked, alt country train and put some more fun, upbeat, happy music into my diet. 
Looking at the words thesaruas.com lists as synonyms for fun to find the right description for Lowdive, I think I will go with boisterous, diverting, merry, and witty.  The word fun does not touch the tip of the iceberg for the performance these guys put out on Saturday night.  The song selection was wonderful.  Songs about booze, mouth tumors, tits and Liz Taylor are all originals; some reggae, some ska, some punk, all fantastic.  These guys are high energy all the way and had the crowd rocking.  An old friend told me once you can never go wrong with a three guitar attack.  After watching Lowdive’s show, if I did not agree with my friend before, I do now.  Josh Perkins, Dede Giddens, and Colin Hatmaker, all on guitars, brought the heat, mashing it all up with Jay’s bass, Scotty Nichols’ keys, and that beast of a drummer, Tanka, hammering that shit down my ear hole to the point of a rock n roll orgasm. Top all that off with the balls to cover songs by the Police, Prince, the Who and Ice Cube, and they nailed all of them in their own funky kind of way.  Lowdive blew me away and sent me home satisfied with a huge smile on my face.  I cannot wait to see them again
Every time I hear Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day”, it always puts my life in a better perspective.  It reminds me of how truly blessed I am.  I am one lucky son of a gun to live this amazing life full of fantastic music and celebration.  Maybe one day we can convince Lowdive to put out their own version of this song from the early 90’s that we can all sing along to happy and guilt free.

Happy Birthday Jay Rodgers!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Right Place at the Right Time

            Through out rock n roll history there have been cities and places in time where the music carved its own path.  Memphis, New York, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Muscle Shoals, and even little Athens, Ga have all been cities to have that have made their mark on the rock n roll timeline.  And like all good things they must come to an end.  Some places, however, might be lucky enough to see lightening strike twice.  Well the rock n roll Gods are at it again and a storm is brewing here in Athens, Georgia and that lightening that struck here years ago is on the horizon one more time. 
            Saturday night I set out for a full night of rock n roll satisfaction and headed to the Caledonia Lounge for Adam Payne’s birthday celebration.  I had caught Danglfy, Adam’s band, during Athfest and was excited to see them in a small dark room.  Some bands just belong on those stages.  Street Rhythm and Rhyme got the night started.  A young four piece, born in Athens, seemed to have all the right moves.  Despite my current fascination with dark, sad, whiskey driven music, the rhythm and the rhyme put a huge grin on my face.  The music was loud, happy and full of smiles.  The young kid on the lead guitar ripped his parts to shreds with vigorous enthusiasm.  These guys were tight and happy, plus, any band that gets the cute girls out and gets them dancing gets a in my book any day.  This little nerdy kid next to me was getting down and having the time of his life, and it felt good to watch him.  I found myself laughing and smiling through the whole set, enjoying the brighter side of rock n roll for a change.
            Dangfly! I have seen my fair share of music since my first show in 1990.  Without a doubt Dangfly is the real fucking deal.  I was right about seeing these guys in a small dark room.  The sound was right, just loud enough to hurt a little.  At a loss for words to truly describe the essence of this amazing band, my new friend Josh Perkins of Lowdive, said true Americana with balls.  I could not agree more, especially with the balls part.  Right smack in the middle of the set these guys break into Journey’s Separate Ways and nail it note for freaking note.  First of all, this song will always hold a place in my heart from my youth in the 80’s.  Second, it is a bad ass freaking song that to this day I have never heard anyone else play.  This took balls, even if it is for a small room.  Dangfly went on to play She Makes the Rain, Pledge, and Bangin', all off the new album to name a few.  It was loud, rowdy, and full of rage, pain, happiness, and full of love.  These guys hit on every emotion while melting faces along the way.  As I listen to Thick and Thin now, off the debut; Good Luck, Curiosity, there is no doubt these guys have earned their way to the top of my playlist. Dangfly!
            Earlier in the night I had the pleasure of meeting local Athens singer, songwriter, guitar player, Josh Perkins. Right out the gate we were into it, local music, who was good, who was great, and how much we both loved what is happening here. Josh said it best.  “There is something happening here in Athens, Georgia right now.”  I could not agree more.  There is so much great music here; Athens is bursting at the seams.  We went on throughout the night discussing the thoughts of pod casting, a Guns n Roses Blue Grass Review, and one hundred other things revolving all around Athens music.  It looks like I have landed in the right place at the right time. I will do my part to make sure the world hears about all this fantastic music happening in Athens, Ga, The lighting is coming get ready.

Happy Birthday Adam Payne

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Write Words to Say

A while back I wrote a piece about breaking the rules of “southern rock”.   Looking back, I used the word rules as method of definition.  There are certain aspects of rock n roll that might define a sound to this or that genre.  However, those rules are by no means confining.  Where would Led Zeppelin be if they “followed” the rules of traditional blues music?  They took a simple format, twisted it, and tortured it until what came out, came out and is now legendary.  Now that I am entering the realm of writing for a profession, I too am faced with the same rules or expectations for my art.  Here I stand at the same crossroads as my artistic predecessors.  Do I conform to the rules of traditional writing or journalistic law just to get paid?  Would I then be a sell out or would I be fulfilling my dream as a paid writer?  Which road is the wisest for my career?
The other night as I was paying the cover charge to see a few local Athens bands, the promoter caught me at the door and said that if I was going to write about the show, I did not need to pay.  I insisted, ultimately, I was there to support the bands.  And I had not decided at that point whether I was going to write about the evening or not.  Rarely, does that decision ever occur before the music plays.  It is never a moment with much forethought.  I either write or I don’t.  I never force it.  I am neither a critic nor a journalist.  I am a fan that chooses to write about music.  Some music moves me and some doesn’t.  Some live performances inspire me to write, others do not.  Neither are ever representative of the quality of music or the performance given.  More often than not, the music I choose to write about is often just a catalyst for some other part of my emotional being that needs to come out in this artistic form I have chosen.  This is my own need for expression. 
Over the last few months I have sent some pieces I have written to several publications in the music arena.  Most of which I have not received any response.  The responses I have received from submissions where all about the rules.  More details about the facts and less about my thoughts or emotion.  And most of all stay away from writing in the first person.  Literally not twenty minutes ago I was discussing this with two well known Athens musicians in my living room.  I described trying to write about rock n roll in the third person is like trying to describe what an LSD trip is like to someone that has never experienced it.  Often, my rock n roll experiences are heavy and can be quite spiritual in a sense.  Sure, I could write about these experiences in the third person, but who wants to read that shit. I don’t.  I write words that I like to read.  I like to read about a true and honest firsthand experience and I know I am not alone here.  Sure I could keep the emotion out of it and keep it just to the facts.  But who really gives a fuck about just the facts?

A while back I caught Dave Grohl’s key note speech from this year’s SXSW music festival.  This was right around the time I started writing about music.  It was powerful, moving, and inspiring.  What I took away from his speech was, do it your way.  Make the art you make your own. Never compromise it for anyone or anything.  So I am going to do what so many others have done before me.  I will follow in the footsteps of the Iggy Pops, the Nirvanas and the Led Zeppelins of the world.  I am going to do it my way, writing how I want to write, and fuck the rest.  And if I happen to get paid along the way, I will be the luckiest guy alive.  Until then, I am just a rock n roll fan writing about what I love.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

This Town is Nuts!

I had a very specific purpose in moving the Locomotive operations to Athens, Ga.  Much different from the first time I moved here, chasing a woman at 19. One of the main reasons I moved back was to submerse myself and my writing into some roots rock n roll.  Well let me tell you folks, Athens knew I was coming and I got exactly what I asked for and so much more.  The first night in Athens went something like this; 4 great bands, 2 amazing female vocalists, and a whole lot of fun.
The night started with an amazing performance from Austin Darnell of the Darnell Boys.  Now, I am not much of a blues guy.  Some of it is ok, but for the most part it is not my thing and I have no idea why.  Yesterday afternoon I spent some time listening to a local Blues radio show and was bored after a short while.  Austin Darnell very well, single handedly, completely changed my dislike for the Blues.  With his brand new custom made acoustic guitar with lightening bolds cut into it, Austin belted out some tunes that knocked his Braves ball cap sideways. I can imagine it is quite difficult to stand up on stage and project a sound armed only with an acoustic guitar.  And project Austin did.  His sound is strong and powerful, southern grown and cultivated.  Darnell wrapped up his set with a vocals only song and the crowd keeping time that blew me away.  I will be keeping an eye on this guy and his band the Darnell Boys for a while.  There is no doubt in my mind they will be around for quite a while.
Next up was Darkwater Rising from Robeson County, North Carolina.  Now, I have no idea where Robeson County is, but according to their Facebook page it is right in the middle of the swamp.  What I was expecting with a name like Darkwater Rising, was something dark and haunting.  Well, I got the haunting just not the dark.  The entire band a full on southern draw, and the lead singer, Charly Lowry, uses it to her advantage.  The stage at the World Famous is small so Darkwater skipped the drum kit and opted for hand drum with a deep, rich sound, and I loved it.  There songs were full of soul, deep in subject matter, but light in sound.  With four out of the five members all singing at some point, these guys put out a sweet yet powerful sound that reminds me of happy, sunny days, where everything goes my way.  It was great to hear that they had just finished a showcase in NYC for some record label guys.  They definitely deserve a shot to play with the big boys.  Can’t wait to see how it goes and we will be supporting this band any way we can.
The Burning Angels rounded out the night at the World Famous.  Mark Cunningham knows exactly what I like to listen to and proceeded to play songs about the south, pills, whiskey, the devil, women, and even shitty little cities in Alabama. The quartet consists of two guitars, one acoustic, one electric and acoustic bass, and a mandolin, dobro playing, pedal steel player.  This is all a perfect match for Mark’s scratchy voice.  Andrew, the mandolin, dobro playing, pedal steel player, kept my ears attention for most of their set.  The sound that resonates from the dobro and pedal steel are some of my favorites, and Andrew does a great job of incorporating them into the Burning Angels songs, seemingly with plenty of ease.  After speaking with these guys on a couple of occasions recently, I know they are working hard on a new album.  It will be fantastic to hear the finished project.
After all the music ended at the World Famous, we headed over to the Green Room on the suggestion of Radiolucent’s manager to check out Thomas Wynn and the Believers.  My friend and I decided that we were going to listen outside for a minute to see if we liked the music enough to pay to get in since it was already close to 1 AM.  From the Globe to the door of the Green Room which is only about twenty to thirty feet, we heard enough and gladly paid the 10 bucks to get in.  The lesson to be learned here is when management for another band who you love recommends a band, listen and go.  I don’t know what rock I have been living under to not know about Thomas Wynn and the Believers, but I am sure glad I climbed out and got on board.  This band is freaking amazing.  First there is the obvious uniqueness of having a tattooed, smoking hot woman on vocals, and an Alice Cooper/Ronnie James Dio look alike on the harmonica, which puts them into a whole different playing field.  But the badassness does not stop there.  Thomas has this metal, bluesy, gospel; I don’t know what the fuck to call it thing going on that is so real.   With Dave Wagner on Bass guitar and Ryan Miranda on drums, Chris Bell on harmonica, and Olivia Wynn on vocals, Thomas has a tight night crew and it is a perfect mix.  From love songs full of pain and anger to J.J. Cale, and a metal sound that I just don’t want to shake has me convinced this is my new favorite band.  Good enough to consider travelling to see without a doubt. If you are a roots rock guy like me then the idea of travelling to see Thomas Wynn and the Believers is a surely something to consider.  I will not be missing these guys ever again when they are in town and Locomotive will be keeping up with them as much as possible.
The best part about my first night living in Athens, Ga after twenty years was getting to meet all of these musicians.  They were all so humble and gracious without any of that rock star attitude. My hat goes off to those musicians who take pleasure in talking to the folks that just watched them play.  There are not many places in the rock n roll world where you can spend an entire night seeing music and mingling with amazing musicians like it was everyday’s business. Thanks for the huge welcome home Athens, Ga. 
Go See Live Music

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Who's To Say?

      If you are like me, a rock n roll fanatic, and from the South, you probably spent many of your musical formidable years listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Little Feat, Charlie Daniels, and others that define the term “Southern Rock”.  What has always drawn me to this sub genre is the fine tuned storytelling and the songs about the darker side of life. If you have ever been on an old mountain road alone at after the sun has set or in the French Quarter at 3 AM Halloween night, then you know that dark side I speak of.  Unfortunately, what most people consider to be “Southern Rock” are those misunderstood redneck anthems. If you are to poke around the South a bit; in the honky tonks and bars, a new sound is brewing.  Who’s to say those “Southern Rock” rules cannot be broken?

      Last night was a typical hot, humid, summer night in Atlanta.  It was even hotter upstairs at Smith’s Olde Bar, especially with The Higher Choir railroading the crowd with their self described “Southern Gothic” rock n roll.  Last night was THC’s EP release party for “Steeped in Southern Tradition”.  Well a party is what they called it.  I would call it an old fashioned ass whipping!  It was obvious these guys have been working hard on their craft and proved they are here to stay.  The sound was loud, dark and dirty. With seven members in the band, these guys are big and powerful.  And they know it!  Which to me is fantastic, rock n roll should be a little cocky, on stage at least.

      With six different instruments on stage, Chance Walls does a fantastic job pulling it all together with his country punk presence and screaming vocals.  Stephen Darley, Wayne Glass, and Harold Sellars hammer down the foundation on the bass and drums.  I think the left side of my face is a little bruised from standing in front of   Darley’s bass amp all night. And let me tell you folks, Wayne is a beast on his translucent green drum kit.  Alan Connor and Grant Mitchel take turns with the guitar work, making it look easy.  The two are a perfect fit with Grant on the backup vocals and Alan stepping up to the front, shoving his nasty guitar work down your throat, all with that guitar player flare.  These two were tit for tat all night without missing a note, even with Grant ripping up a bunch of strings.  The Pozz sits back calmly on the keys, collected and cool, with his dark shades on.  The Pozz, with Sellars on percussion, wrap it all up with a nice pretty bow, giving the band wisdom and depth.  Hell, I think there was even a trumpet, a pedal steel, and a mandolin on stage at some point last night.  Take all that and mix it up with stories of corn liquor, race car drivers, guns and hard work, and a perfect southern cocktail is what you get.  Heavy, haunting mystique, with a little bit of rage makes for a fantastic rock show.

      The Higher Choir answered the question, who’s to say we have to stay in the lines of the typical southern rock definitions.  At a loss for my own words to describe their sound I will have to agree that “Southern Gothic” fits perfectly.  So, if you like it loud, a little rude, and even a little scary like I do, do yourself a favor and get out and see these boys.  You might even get lucky, and hear a version of Althea, that will melt your face in a whole new way! 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Athfest 2013

       I had a few different ideas on how I wanted to start this article off.  I played around with when Athfest started, how much Athens has changed since my mid twenties, and a few other openers that are not even worth mentioning that lay crumpled up at my feet (metaphorically speaking of course, I don't use a typewriter). So instead of going through all that bullshit and over trying to sound like Mr. Fucking Eloquent. I will just get straight to the point and lets talk about the music.  After all this is a "rock n roll commentary".
     My philosophy to music festivals is: pick the bands you want to see and if anything new falls in your lap, fantastic.  I have a hard time going to see bands that I have not listened to enough to recognize the songs when I see them.  I made sure I spent some time this past week going over the bands I wanted to see and I took a little time for some focused listening.  Unfortunately, I could not go to Sunday's events so I had to make the most of the time I had.  On my list of must see's were: Scott Low and Friends, Dangfly, Beauty and the Beard, The Whigs, Welfare Liners, Shonna Tucker and Eye Candy, Cracker, Radiolucent, and Dead Confederate.  Of course I missed a few on this list and saw a few that I had not planned on. Here is how things went.
      Dangly kicked things of Friday afternoon at the New Earth Music Hall.  I have always been a huge fan of the fiddle and this little instrument helps broaden and define the unique sound that Dangfly has.  Coming off their release of "Good Luck, Curiosity", the band seems to have some momentum. I knew only a couple of songs from the album, and I was more than impressed with what I saw and heard.  It will take me awhile to come up with a good description of these guys other than fantastic.  Adam Payne delivers a semi high pitched voice, esp for a big guy and he even notes this in one of the songs.  They are heavy, quirky, and full of emotion.  "Walkaway" with Betsy Franck and "Bangin" were two of my favorites that show how versatile these guys are.  From strong and serious on Walkaway to funny and  light hearted on Bangin, these guys will be a band to watch.  It will be fun to watch them grow and see what happens.  They are definitely at the top of my must see list.
      Daniel Peiken of Athensrockshow.com and Scott Low are two new friends that have been kind enough to introduce me to some wonderful people who just happen to be fantastic musicians as well. Ty Manning and Kelly Fuller are two of these people.  Their dynamic duo named Beauty and the Beard is soulful and laugh out loud funny.  This was the second time I have seen Kelly perform, and that is all it took.  The two have such great chemistry on stage.  Kelly's voice has that old school country authenticity that I love.  Mix her rich, buttery voice with Ty's southern accent and off color lyrics and a musical treat is what you get.  "Whorrible Woman" and "Stairway to Freebird" were two songs any honky tonk lover could get down two. Lucky for me these two play out a lot.  It is always a lot of fun to watch people you know have a great time doing what they do best, making great music.
     A few months ago I was fortunate enough to catch a Scott Low solo show with Daniel and I was hooked.  Throaty, whiskey soaked outlaw music is what Scott does best.  His music is full of energy and guitar heavy, just the way I like it.  I managed to see him twice this weekend playing his own music, some new and some off the latest Efren album.  I also got to see him back Chris Moore at the GA Bar. Scott's gritty guitar playing fit the lyrics and the crowd.  Scott played  "Write a New Song" and "If My Heart Don't Fail Me Now" both of which are two of my favorites.  And they both came out exactly how he describes his singing.  "I dont' sing, I grumble and growl."  Not for the faint of heart.  Serious music lovers only.
     Last but but definitely not least I have to share about my favorite of the weekend.  Radiolucent is the real freaking deal.  It can not be easy for a young new band to follow up a smoking set by Cracker at the 40 Watt and these boys crushed it.  These boys came to play for sure.  Mike Mann, might have the biggest voice I have seen in rock n roll in a long time.  All I can say is the Black Crowes better watch out.  With what seems to me to be a huge gospel influence, Radiolucent is a force to be reckoned with.  They have it all, the southern sound, driving guitars, piano to soften them a bit, a beast of a drummer and the gospel choir vocals.  Their latest effort, "Turn Me On or Turn Me Loose" is quickly becoming my new favorite album.  I have been around for a few minutes and I have seen bands come and go.  I can say without a doubt, these guys are not going anywhere but up.  There are certain bands I have on my do not miss list and they are on it.  If you like full tilt rock n roll without the frills, then this band is for you.  Do not miss them again!
     Well that will just about wrap it up.  I wish I could have stayed for the Sunday festivities, but time did not permit.  Athens, you rock my soul.  A huge thank you to all of you that made this weekend possible.  Most of all thank you to all the musicians.  We are all grateful for all that you do.  Keep making that music and we will keep coming to see you play, that is a promise!

Go See Live Music!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What's New is New... (Again)

by Russell Holbrook  

     Growing up in the Atlanta Hardcore and Metal scene of the early / mid '90's, I was privileged to see some truly amazing bands. I'll never forget seeing Act of Faith, Quadiliacha and Crisis Under Control at the Somber Reptile (R.I.P.), or watching Cerebral Hemorrhage at the Wreck Room. Those were amazing times and amazing bands; talented, prolific, LOCAL bands, who now sadly reside in the "I wonder whatever happened to them" section of most of our memories. As people say; that was then, this is now, and, thankfully, now is a fucking great place to be, especially if you're into heavy music. Our wonderful, eclectic city is blessed to call herself the hometown of some of the greatest heavy bands around nowadays. Let's give thanks to the thunder gods for the likes of Mastodon, Zoroaster, Withered, Sadistic Ritual, Death of Kings, Royal Thunder, and many, many others, who are thriving and helping to create, or, recreate, a vibrant, exciting local scene, even if some of them are away on tour a great deal of the time.
    One local band who always seem to be in another city is Attila, Atlanta's self-proclaimed "party metal" band. About a year and a half ago my fifteen year old son introduced me to them. He said they were coming to town with some touring hardcore bands and that we should go check them out. He was already an Attila fan and he said he thought I'd like them. So, in the spirit of giving new bands a chance, and wanting to hear what's going on outside of what I'd normally listen to, I agreed.  To be honest, I'd go watch a tree grow if it meant getting to hang out with my son.  Plus, how many parents have a kid who turns them on to new heavy bands? How cool is that?! So, anyway... We went to the show and Attila killed it. Absolutely. Since then we have seen them a total of three times and every time we see them they wipe the stage with whoever has the misfortune of having Attila open for them. Their latest victims were Chelsea Grin, who Attila made look like a parody of a cliche' of a "metal" band.
    While I'm not a big fan of metal core, or death core, or any of the "cores" that came out any later than 1990 something, I really do enjoy Attila, and to my own sincere surprise. I went in a sceptic and they won me over. If you've never heard Attila, I'm hard pressed to give a short, simple description. Their sound is a blend of  traditional metal, thrash, metal core and hardcore. There are breakdowns, but not to the point of monotony. The vocals are a mix of insane screeching, guttural growling, and screaming. When they play live, they go nuts and the audience goes insane with them. It's so fun to see hundreds of people screaming "Suck my dick!" in unison as the vocalist leads everyone in the mad ritual. It's ridiculous! In addition to the hilarious vulgarity and the spastic, over the top antics, this band can really play. The guitarists play more than one chord, actually, they play several, and, they do solos! The drummer and the bassist never lose time and the vocalist, Fronz, ties it all together like a gift that tells you to fuck yourself when you open it. Brilliant. I'm still surprised that I'm writing this in a public forum. Many Metal fans do not consider the genre that Attila is associated with as "real metal", but, maybe it's just something new. I didn't consider it to be real Metal either, at least not initially. However, after seeing Attila live on several occasions, I have been converted. It's refreshing to see the new generation of local bands doing something new. At least it's new to me, and, what's old is over, and what's new is new. If you enjoy heavy riffs, vulgar gesturing, and gratuitous profanity, you can't go wrong with an Attila show. The shit is seriously fun, I'm not kidding, and fuck, I'm OLD!!  I love metal and I love our wonderful city. Fuck yeah!! See you at the show! 

GO SEE LOCAL METAL!!!! (Or whatever local music you enjoy!!) 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrate Wayne Sawyer & Conquer SADS

     One of the best parts about being in the business of rock n roll is the people we meet along the way.  Most of us have an interesting story, some happy, some sad, some uplifting, and some motivating, but never boring. Today was one of those days where I was able to hear a story, sad, tragic even, yet highly motivating and very uplifting.  I have been a devoted Widespread Panic fan for the better part of 20 years and do my best to keep up with the comings and goings of anything dealing with the band and its fans.  I was living in Denver, CO, when I heard about the passing of Wayne Sawyer, on September 29, 2009.   Somehow Wayne and I never met, yet at the time we had several mutual friends and it was obvious how special this man was and how much he was loved. Now, on May 9, 2013, a little less than a month before the 4th Annual Celebrate Wayne & Conquer SADS memorial benefit show at Smith’s Olde Bar, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Wayne’s wife Shannon and I was able to get a firsthand account on who Wayne Sawyer was, what the benefit is raising money for, and how we as a family can make sure his death was not in vain.
     SADS, which stands for Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes, are genetic heart rhythm abnormality conditions that can cause sudden death in young, apparently healthy people – who are undiagnosed. Wayne suffered from what is called Long QT Syndrome, which is a disturbance of the heart’s electrical system.  Nearly half of the people who suffer from Long QT Syndrome never show any symptoms.  This is part of what makes the disease so hard to detect.  It is genetic with a 50% chance of its being passed down from generation to generation.  The hardest part of this is the disease being misdiagnosed eventually leading to a sudden fatal heart attack at a very young age. Wayne Sawyer died two weeks before his 41st birthday.  With the help of the SADS Foundation and benefits like this one, light can be shed on this destructive genetic disorder and lives can be saved.  Shannon informed me that there is headway being made in stem cell research today.  With the correct medication, had Wayne been properly diagnosed, this tragedy could have been avoided.  Thankfully, after Wayne’s passing, his family was tested and it was brought to light that other family members including his daughter also suffer from Long QT Syndrome. Fortunately Wayne’s passing, helped save his daughter’s life as well as that of his two sisters.
     With a big move to Colorado and a new life for Shannon and her family two weeks after the June 1st celebration, Shannon insisted to me that this year’s event was going to be less money driven and more about remembering her late husband and the man that he was.  Not knowing how her move to Colorado will affect the annual fundraiser in the future, she wants this year to be very special.  I could hear the love in her voice as she described who Wayne was, and how important he was to the people he was closest to.  Wayne was an artist, a writer, a musician, a business partner, and a founding member of the Widespread Panic road crew.  Shannon stated in our conversation, “The most important thing to me, when writing about Wayne, is to say how very much he loved his wife and daughter. He was so devoted to both of us. And that he died to save his daughter's life.  I truly believe it, beyond my personal need to assign meaning to his death. I believe it in the depths of my being ... that his soul & body knew, and he truly loved her that much.”
     This year’s event will once again be held at Smith’s Olde Bar on June 1, 2013.   There are VIP tickets available for $50 and regular tickets for $25.  The VIP music will start at 5 pm with Cameron Stack and Betsy Franck, and catering will be provided by Fox Bros BBQ.  The music upstairs will begin at 6 pm with The Heap, Col. Bruce Hampton, featuring AJ Ghent, Jerry Joseph with Jeff Crosby and the Refugees, and Bloodkin.  These guys will rock the house and everyone will have a great time.  There will be a silent auction, and Shannon tells me there are some great pieces to bid on this year.  So bring your money and be ready.  Tickets are going fast so grab one while you can before they are all gone.  This will be a night you will not want to miss.

If you are interested in donating, payments through PayPal are accepted @ climb4wayne@gmail.com.

For more information on SADS please go to www.sads.org.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Got a Ticket in My Pocket

     Wow!  It has been a whirl wind few weeks here between Atlanta and Athens, Ga.  It all started April 27 with two nights of Widespread Panic at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Next up was Drivin n Cryin May 2 at the Melting Point in Athens.  May 4 and 5 we had a full weekend of the Shaky Knees Festival at the Masquerade Music Park in the 4th Ward.  There was so much music to choose from.   I was able to catch Moon Taxi, The Joy Formidable, Lucero, Jim James, Goat and the Black Angels on Saturday.  Sunday, still wet from the constant downpour consisted of Murder by Death, Kurt Vile and the Violators, and hometown heroes the Drive by Truckers.  I did not get to see everything on my list but such is the way of music festivals right.  Just when I thought I have had enough, two tickets to the sold out Soundgarden show at the Tabernacle fall into my lap.  Since I had not seen these guys since Lollapalooza 1992, I felt like it was a no brainer.  Glad I did not miss them.  Needless to say I am completely showed out and have neglected most of my duties but it was well worth it.  After all this is why I do what I do, for the love of the music.  I would have to say that if you have never seen GOAT, do not miss them next time around.  They are absolutely a funky, spooky, Black Sabbathy, gypsy act worth every penny. 
     It is agreed that several big name publications that I won’t name are missing the boat on the local music scene so we are more than happy to pick up where they have left off.  With that being said I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing the first band I ever saw live on May 2 at the Melting Point in Athens, Ga. First, I have not been to the Melting Point since 1996 maybe.  It is a very nice venue, putting the fans right up close to the musicians, making the shows very personable.  Drivin n Cryin went on right as I walked in the door and played for a solid two hours.  They played songs from all over their catalogue including a bunch of stuff I have never heard.  They looked quite a bit different from that night at the Fox in October of 1990 but the sounded just as good if not better twenty three years later.  The addition of Sadler Vaden on lead guitar has proved to be a fantastic decision.  This guy can play the mother freaking guitar.  This gives Mr. Kinney the freedom to carry the band with the songs that are so lyric driven.  This show was as good as anything I have seen live, ever. A Small venue, a big sound, some loud guitars, and some of my favorite songs make for the perfect recipe.  As happy as I was to have plenty of room to enjoy the show I cannot for the life of me understand why there were so few people at the show.  Well I can tell you if you were not there, you missed Gibb Droll getting on stage for several songs and blowing the doors off the place.  Part of me would love to keep the shows small and intimate with plenty of room to dance, but on the other hand I would love to see these guys back to opening for the Who again.  I will say, never miss a Thursday night show, especially if it is Drivin and Cryin!
     The highlight of this two week musical bender was getting to sit down with Drivin and Cryin drummer Dave Johnson and talk about Nuci’s Space.  Oddly enough, I was not star stricken, yet calm and collected.  We talked about Nuci’s Space, what was in the plans as far as branching out to Atlanta was concerned, and hopefully we will be able to get these guys on board for a great cause.  It is not every day one gets to talk to one of their favorite musicians about the nonprofit they work with.  I think I was smiling the whole drive back to Atlanta that night.  Speaking of Nuci’s Space, we are currently in the process of setting up a fall benefit show here in Atlanta, to mirror the big DBT shows every January.  We are very pleased and happy to have our friends Efren and The Higher Choir on the bill.  I promise this will be a night full of dirty, gritty, rock n roll for a great cause.  Hopefully we will have a venue and a date by the end of next week.  Stay tuned for more details.  This will be a night you will not want to miss!

That is all for now folks and remember GO SEE LIVE MUSIC!

If you are interested in helping out or becoming a sponsor for the Nuci’s Space benefit please email me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Locals Only

     I had a great discussion with a musician from a local band here in Atlanta this weekend.  We talked about the state of local music in the Atlanta/Athens area.  We discussed who was writing what about the subject, good or bad.  We discussed local music festivals and their willingness to bring in big bands for big bucks, which in turn screws over the local musicians.  This musician shared with me his thoughts on what should be the path for local businesses and local musicians and where those loyalties should lie.  We enjoyed local barbecue sandwiches while we talked, listening to the spring rain pound the roof in Little Five Points.  In this moment I realized how important the term local is to everything I buy, including my concert tickets. Now, ten plus years removed from my residency of L5P, I completely understand what those bumper stickers stood for and how much the local neighborhoods need local support as well as the musicians in them and the art they produce.  Oddly enough, the musical experiences I had planned for the weekend turned out to follow this discussion to the t and it pulled the blinders off my eyes for a lack of a better term.  Local music here in Georgia is full of musical peaches ripe with whiskey soaked voices and thundering guitars, loud enough to make any outlaw happy.
     After my superb barbecue lunch at Fox Bros. in Little Five Points, I headed to Athens.  Bloodkin was playing at the 40 Watt later that evening and I had a meeting with Nuci’s Space in a few hours.  On the ride, I listened to Bloodkin, shuffling from album to album.  I reminisced on my first experience with Athens, Georgia years ago and how much I loved living there.  I thought about all the friends I made there, working at Rafferty’s, and how simple life was then.  I was first introduced to Bloodkin and Widespread Panic in 1994, and those are days I hopefully will never forget.  I remember my roommate and me, listening to Can't Get High, over and over again.  We had both broke up with our girlfriends around that time and that song seemed to heal whatever pain we were feeling.  Now that I think about it, Bloodkin has quite few songs that have helped with my healing from wounds from others and of my own making. For years Rotgut and Quarter Tank of Gasoline were always two of my go to songs when life got heavy.  Now, the entire Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again album has conveniently, coincided with the last two years of my life, and in my opinion deserves every bit of four stars and might be the best album the band has ever put out. 
     I walked into the 40 Watt with my friend Daniel from Athensrockshow.com Friday night around 10 pm and the Dashboard Saviors were well into their opening set.  I recognized the name of the band but I have no recollection of them from my time in Athens in the early nineties.  This is completely unfortunate for me.  These guys freaking rocked.  Now that I have a full on obsession for outlaw-alt country-punk-rock, these guys blew me away.  The lead singer’s southern twang permeated my ears while I watched their amazing drummer completely assault his drum kit as if it had just fucked his girlfriend.  His beats were fierce and eloquent all at the same time.  All I could think about was how am I just finding out about this band now that they are for all practical purposes defunct?  It was like falling in love with a woman in one night knowing you will never see her again. 
     While Bloodkin was taking the stage, Daniel pointed out to me the crowd was a who’s who of Athens musicians.  John Keane and Patterson Hood and a few other names were there to check out the music for the evening.  The fans that had assembled to see the show were older, definitely closer to Bloodkin’s age than the typical college crowd.  It had been years since I have seen the entire band play.  I caught an acoustic show of Danny’s a few years back in Boulder, Colorado.  It was exciting to hear that solid Athens sound I fell in love with so many years ago.  Danny quickly apologized for the state of his voice, clearly showing their age, in turn making me realize it has been almost 20 years since I first saw this band.  I was very happy to hear them play My Name is Alice, a song that I have had on repeat for the last six months or so.  Rotgut, Mercy Train to Bogart and Success Yourself were also highlights.  Those are three songs that I could hear every day and they would never get old. It was really fun to look around the crowd and see folks my age and older getting down and rocking out to a much older and wiser Bloodkin from what I had seen in my younger days.  I could hear the love for the Rolling Stones in Eric Carter’s voice when they closed with their rendition of Happy, and he nailed it.  They came back on after a short break and encored with Henry Parsons Died and Dylan’s New Pony.  Both, in my opinion, are painful songs about the south full of mystery and the dark.  These are subjects Bloodkin portrays strongly in their music, which is what makes me a fan.  All in all, I headed back to my hotel room after the show feeling completely full and satisfied with my night full of home grown rock n roll.  After all these years Bloodkin does not disappoint and still knows how to play that straight up rock n roll I love so much. 
     On a big side note, before entering the 40 Watt, Daniel insisted we stop into Flicker next door to catch a bit of Scott Low’s solo show.  He swore that I would like it and he was right.  Scott is a local Athens musician and the lead singer of the self-proclaimed folk-rock band Efren.  Scott’s whiskey drenched vocals immediately pulled me in while he sang about hard times and hard drinking, while stomping his boots to keep the time.  Today, I have listened to Efren’s latest release, Write a New Song two times over and I cannot wait to see them live.  They are dynamic and full of roots rock and the southern twang that moves my soul.  It will be exciting to see where these new southern rockers end up. 
     It is safe to say that “local” is the direction Locomotive is headed.  I have spent my time following bands in the big arenas and now it is time to rein it in a bit.  My two new favorite bands, The Higher Choir and Efren, neither which I have seen live yet, are the epitome of the music that I love.  Songs about hard living and hard rocking are what seem to wet my whistle today.  It makes me smile to be a part of this local music and enjoy it while I can before it catches fire. I am not forgetting about all those big national acts that I still love, just slowing down and redirecting my focus on the local gems that could use a spotlight or two. 


Sunday, April 7, 2013

6 Friends 3 Shows and a Nuci’s Space

      In lunch meeting I had on Thursday with a fellow music enthusiast and writer, we agreed on the way we saw and felt about music.  We discussed the feelings that we share at a live show of amazement, excitement, waiting for the spark to light the fire.  We went into great detail about how we share the constant quest for more music.  New, old, it does not matter.  I need and want all of it.  I know hundreds of music fans but only a few seem to have the calling to be completely engulfed in music’s bittersweet embrace.  Luckily, this weekend I was able to see five friends who share this obsession, see three shows in two days and meet with an organization that depends on the musically obsessed to help musicians in need.
     The weekend started with a collaboration meeting with a friend of mine that is about to graduate from the University of Georgia.  She is well connected in the music scene in Athens, and like I mentioned before is obsessed like me with rock n roll.  We shared our ideas and thoughts over burgers and coffee, watching the cold spring rain. We discussed some ideas and ways to help each other further our writing and such.  I was meeting her older sister later that evening for dinner and the Black Angels show at the Georgia Theatre.  My writer friend expressed that she was working the merch table for the impromptu acoustic Perpetual Groove show that evening and that she would try to get us in.  I had only seen PGroove a couple of times and was hopeful to get in since they were breaking up and playing their last show on Friday night in Athens.  The weekend was shaping up nicely; now it was time for a nap at the hotel.  The rest would be needed if I was to be running with these two sisters in a night full of rock n roll.
     Thankfully the rain stopped  my friend and I were able to grab a nice, dry, dinner before the music started.  After sharing a few small plates we headed to the Green Room to see about getting in to the Perpetual Groove acoustic show.  The band and my friends are very close as well as many of their fans, so as expected my friend was bombarded with hugs and joy immediately upon entering the super crowded bar.  The band was only going to play for an hour and so we were lucky to have gotten in.They were right at the halfway mark of their hour when we walked in.  I did not know the first two songs I heard, but I enjoyed them as I watched the band just a few feet away play their instruments.  After returning from a bathroom break I found the sisters, right as the band was finishing a cover of Modest Mouse’s Float On.  I love that song and the whole place was rocking.  It was fun to watch my friends smile even with heavy hearts as they watched their friends and favorite band play.  Finally the band played the only song I knew to wrap up the show. “It Starts Where It Ends,” is a song about the inevitable and moving forward, and is one that I have listened to over and over in the last year and a half of my own struggles.  The sisters next to me danced and sang along, crying, which brought tears to my eyes, reminding me why I listened to this song in the first place.  It was a sad but amazing feeling to be there with my friends loving the music that they loved and to be a part of that. 
     After the Perpetual Groove show we headed to the Nowhere Bar, where any self-respecting Widespread Panic fan goes before any show at the Georgia Theatre.  My friend Woody was in town from Denver for PGroove, and he met us there for a few drinks before we headed in to the Black Angels.  Woody is one of those friends that like me are completely obsessed with rock n roll.  It was great to see my friend even if for just a few minutes.  My friend Patricia finally showed up, and yes she is one of us, and we headed across the street to the Theatre.  There are not many feelings that equal walking into the rock show with three hot, amazing women.  Needless to say I was a very happy man.  We were all lucky enough to end up on in the VIP section for most of the show.  It was my first time seeing the Black Angels and I was blown away.  The band consisted of four guitar players, two of which also played keyboards and a woman on the drums. This was a lineup that I had never seen.  At some point everyone traded guitars, including the base during the show.  There must have been 50 pedals on stage, even ones on top of one of the organs.  The sound was loud, and full of reverb and distortion.  The band was tight and confident.  It was a sound I have never seen live before and I loved it.  It was dark and haunting, which to me are essential in rock n roll.  They played for an hour and a half straight, with the drums turned way up.  The woman on the drums beat her skins violently and passionately.  The psychedelic images on the back drop were fantastic, reminding me of the only time I saw Jeff Beck.  The back ground images bounced back and forth to the beat of the base line and strobe lights.  Yes, folks this was without a doubt a rock concert.  The cool part was it is music for smart people.  There were “Blog Dorks” everywhere dressed in black and bobbing their heads.  It was well worth the $45 I spent on three tickets and cannot wait to see them again in May.  However, seeing them will require some intense homework so I can know the songs I am hearing.  A must see in my opinion.  I cannot wait to see my poster in a frame!
     After a nice lunch downtown the next day with the rock n roll twins, I had yet another fantastic meeting which I will get to later, and headed to Atlanta for my first My Morning Jacket concert.  After four years of trying so hard to like this band, spending time putting an honest effort into listening to them, something finally clicked.  I was grocery shopping a few days before the show, listening to MMJ and something hit me deep inside.  It was that moment I had wanted for the last four years.  I have always wanted to like this band, yet something was keeping me from that jumping off point, but here I was, two days before seeing them live for the first time live.  Like seeing the Black Angels for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.  I was meeting two friends at Centennial Park for the show that were huge fans and the anticipation was killing me.  From the first guitar lick to the last, I was completely amazed.  I recognized a handful of songs, as I have been listening diligently.  I knew that if I could recognize as many songs as possible there would be a better chance of liking the show.  Well to be honest, that really did not matter.  I am rock n roll fan.  I love load guitars and musicians that know how to play them live.  Jim James’s light and high voice permeated downtown Atlanta along with the chest pounding guitars.  If I could feel the base guitar and drums bouncing off my chest fifty rows back.  Very rarely does that happen and the show sucks, especially an outdoor show.   So, I will admit, on record, that I was wrong.  My Morning Jacket is absofuckinglutely the real deal.  They were by far the best show I have seen in the last two or three years hands down and I have seen a lot.  It is perfect timing too, as my life has been changing and so has what I have been wanting to see live, this new love could not come at a better time.  I will not be missing another MMJ show within a 500 mile radius.  I cannot wait to see Jim James at the Shaky Knees Festival in a few weeks.  These guys are fairly young in their careers and it will be an exciting road to follow!
     Last but not least I want to share a bit about the meeting I had before I left Athens I mentioned in the paragraph above.  Nuci’s Space is a nonprofit organization in Athens, Georgia that helps to prevent suicide by providing obstacle free treatment for musicians suffering from depression and other such disorders as well as to assist in the emotional, physical and professional well-being of musicians.  Since, battling with my own health and addiction issues in the past, this is a group I have kept a close eye one. Back in January I was able to go to the Drive by Truckers Nuci’s Space benefit shows as well as the fundraiser at the space.  It was at that fundraiser where I was fortunate enough to have a local Athens musician share his story with me and how Nuci’s Space was pivotal in his recovery. As an aspiring writer, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, and rock n roll fan I was immediately inspired to get involved with Nuci’s Space.  I know how hard my own struggles have been and understand what it means to be without insurance.  So, it makes sense to me to do whatever I can to help out fellow artists in their time of need in a city that I love any way I can.  I met with Nuci’s Director Bob Sleepy and Volunteer Coordinator Lesley Cobb on Friday to discuss how I can help.  We had a great discussion and hopefully we will be looking into several ways and means to help grow this organization and help create a better life for the musicians that make the music that we love so much.  Please stay tuned for further updates on Locomotives involvement with Nuci’s Space. 
    I am going to keep this closing short and sweet.  That was an amazing weekend.  It was a weekend full of friends, great music, beginnings and ends, and the promise of a better day.  I could not ask for more out of life.  The old saying is true; you get out of life what you put in.  That was completely evident this weekend,  I received everything I wanted and so much more.  I am blessed and forever grateful.

If you are interested in Nuci’s Space, visit their website www.nuci.org.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Spring Tour

     The next few weeks have turned out to look really promising.  Hell my calendar is full of shows from next Thursday all the way till June 1st.  It is perfect timing since spring has arrived and it is time to fly the coup.  Just like the new birth of spring I am throwing myself into the rock n roll gauntlet and checking out some music that I do not know that well and have never seen.  This will be a new experience for me since I have been on a very strict outlaw country and jam band diet for the better part of thirteen years, if not longer.  Some these shows include some psychedelia, quasi hair pop metal,  a few indie giants,  one classic crooner and a touring machine.  Here are a few of the bands that are hopefully getting ready to rock my world.
      The first band on spring tour is the Black Angels.  A friend of mine in Denver got me into them a few years ago.  They are a hard rocking group from Austin, Texas.  They named themselves after the Velvet Underground song “The Black Angels Death Song.”  I figure any band that is that into the Velvet Underground are alright by me and should be pretty good.  They remind me of a modern sounding Iron Butterfly with some Jefferson Airplane influences.  The songs, “You on the Run”,” River of Blood”, and “Manipulation” I am really getting into recently.  I have only had these guys in a steady rotation for about six months now.  From what I know the Black Angels pack enough of a punch to keep me interested and wanting for more.  Hopefully a live dose at the Georgia Theatre will be enough.  I am expecting a lot of guitars, major strobe light action, and a constant wave of dope smoke.  This combination is a perfect recipe for a great show.  It will be an interesting night to say the least.
      There are people in my life that I respect deeply.  Some for their moral code, work ethic, faith, knowledge, well you get the point.  This holds true for people in my life that have a deep love and understanding for music.  The one thing these few people agree on is how amazing My Morning Jacket is.  Some of these people I went to high school with, some I have seen a plethora of shows with, and others are just those people that are there and I am not sure where they came from.  Fortunately for me they are playing a free show here next weekend.  This will hopefully give me the opportunity to see what everyone else sees and maybe decide to spend some money on a real show of theirs.  After all, I have been battling with My Morning Jacket for the last two years at least.  There are not many bands my friend Paige and I disagree on, shit I think this is the only one.  But since I hold her taste and love for rock n roll in such high esteem, I feel that I have to like them on principal.  Yet after several tries, listening to them just does not cut it. So, I will take Paige’s and everyone else’s advice and go see them live.  I really hope this show is the turning point in our relationship.  The love and hate is really starting to drive me nuts.
                I have really been working to branch out into the land of indie music these days.  I enjoyed so much what Dave Grohl had to say in his Key Note Speech at the SXSW festival this year.  Hearing him talking about being completely in charge of his career, having been down a different path with Nirvana, I am inspired to listen to more bands that take that same approach.  Why? Cause fuck the system, it’s my music.  I am not really one for festivals these days, but The Shaky Knees Festival is highlighting some if the bands that have this attitude towards their music.   A few such as Drive by Truckers and Lucero are a some of my favorites.  Bands like Frontier Ruckus, Murder by Death, Shovels and Rope, Road Kill Ghost Choir, and Death on Two Wheels are few on the lineup I am really excited about seeing.  All the way around this weekend will not be disappointing.  Early May in the south and a full weekend of great music outdoors will surely be amazing.
     Son Volt, Widespread Panic, Jerry Joseph, and Bloodkin will be rounding out the gaps of the spring tour.  Old faithful’s I would call them in a vast see of new music that I am seeing.  Lots of old friends, old favorite tunes, and great causes, will accompany these shows and leave me feeling satisfied as usual.  I cannot wait to see all the familiar faces and making new friends along the way.  My Spring Tour is looking like a beast. What about yours?   

In the words of Patterson Hood, “I’ll see you at the Rock Show.”


Monday, March 18, 2013

What Does Come After The Blues?

     Over the last few days I have been contemplating a few different topics to write about.  Nothing seemed to really grab my interest.  I hate forcing my writing.  It never sounds right when I do.  So I had decided to wait until something popped into my head that really grabbed a hold of me.  This sometimes takes a few days or a few weeks, but eventually it will happen.  Well this morning I put on some Blind Melon while I was writing my morning emails.   Almost immediately the music sucked me in and I was looking at pictures of the band, posting them on the Locomotive Facebook page.  Then, I got to thinking about Shannon Hoon’s passing and how tragic and preventable it was. Shannon was so talented with such a bright future.  To this day I believe Blind Melon’s self named debut album is one of the best debuts of all time and are completely underrated as a band.  Unfortunately I never had the chance to see them live.  I am sure they were fantastic.  Needless to say I eventually got back to work, still blaring the Blind Melon.  Shannon’s face was sort of etched into my brain for while.  Somewhere around 2:30 I checked my phone for the first time in a few hours and a buddy of mine had sent me a text saying that Jason Molina had died from alcoholism.  My heart sank.
     Jason Molina, was a musician somewhat new to my catalog.  He was the singer for Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia.  My great friend and fellow music lover Paige turned me on to him a few years ago.  I have listened to the albums Sojourner, What Comes After The Blues, and Trials and Errors quite a bit over the last three years.  His haunting voice and painful lyrics have kept me company on many lonely and sad nights. I will admit while I read the articles about Jason’s passing this weekend, I shed a few tears.  His songs about love lost, mistrust, hurt, pain, death, and hope, have all matched up with some point in my life these last few years.  Lyrically, it is some of the best music I have ever heard.  North Star, Such Pretty Eyes for a Snake, and The Dark Don’t Hide It are brilliant songs beyond comprehension.  It is almost as if he was looking at the world through my eyes when he wrote those songs.  It is funny, I enjoy those albums so much, I have yet to venture past them.  Jason had an amazing career spanning 15 years and a huge lot of albums and EPs.  Many of which I have yet to listen too.   I better get busy.  I can only imagine the gems that lay hidden on that wax.
      Once I decided to write about this subject I pondered what I read about Jason Molina’s struggles with Alcoholism.  I thought about all the other amazing musicians that died from the terrible disease of addiction.  Addiction is something I understand well.  I have my own battles with substance abuse.  I spent a lot of time wondering why musicians are so different.  Why is their pain so much heavier than other artists?  Or is it the rock star image that pulls them in and never lets go. Andrew Wood, Brent Mydland, Danny Whitten, Jay Bennett, and Phil Lynott are a few musicians that you might not know that all died from addiction.  All of these guys are now ghosts in my music collection.  Hopefully one day fellow musicians will learn from the mistakes of their elders, so that the deaths of so many amazing artists will not have been in vain.  Maybe?
     I would have much rather come up with another topic than the very recent death of a musician that I loved.  I guess that is why we call it Rock N Roll.  Life is full of ups and downs; life and death are everywhere, even in music.  Shannon Hoon, Bradley Nowell, and Jason Molina all sang about their deaths and the possibility of it happening sooner than later.  I wonder how many other musicians that died from drugs or alcohol also sang about their untimely deaths before they happened.  This sounds like a perfectly good excuse to waste a Sunday and make some “mixed tapes”.  Jason Molina, thank you so very much for the amazing gifts you have given me in your music.  I will continue to cherish your work long into the sunset my friend. RIP!

“It’s your last chance, to forget me now and its done for good
you always said I’d make it out somehow darling, I knew I never would.”

Jason Molina

1973 - March 16, 2013 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where is My Band? A Rock n Roll Tour

     I think I was 19 when I experienced my first Grateful Dead lot scene.  At that time in my life I was an avid music fan, but quite different than how I am today.  I had no idea of the “local music scene” in Atlanta at that age.  This is pretty weird since two of my favorite bands at the time, Follow for Now and Drivin and Cryin were both Atlanta bands.  Later on in my in that 19th year of life I moved to Athens, Ga.  It was not until then did I truly learn about the local music scene concept.  Twenty years have gone by now since the day I moved to Athens and how I feel about music is the same today, just with a lot more depth.  Today I have spent a good bit of time reflecting on how my love, obsession, understanding, and desire for rock n roll has grown and changed over the years.  The conclusion I came to after all the reflection was that my geographical locations over the years have played a huge part in the relationship I have with music.  This is a brief part of the story of where I have lived and how the music in those times and places have shaped this faithful relationship I have with my one true love.
     I had the wonderful experience of turning twenty one in the beautiful city of Athens, Ga.  I bought my first drink at DT’s Down Under.  This was also the same night I discovered the High Hat Jazz Club.  I can remember seeing bands like Squat and Day by the River there.  I remember Dave Schools use to sit at the door and keep the bouncer company.  This too, was about the same time I was getting into Widespread Panic.  I wish I could remember more of the bands that I use to love to see.  The nights at the Georgia Theatre seeing Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Bloodkin, Five Eight, along with several others were the beginning of my education. This was also my first live experience with Widespread Panic. I can still remember what the River Walk Amphitheater looks like to this day.  1995 was the year I saw the Grateful Dead.  It was the last show the Grateful Dead every played in Atlanta, Jerry died that August.  I even had the pleasure of seeing Merl Saunders play at the Theatre shortly after Jerry died.  Now I was really hooked.  There was no turning back.  I had crossed the line of no return. Side bar: My ex at the time ended up with the tickets to the first Panic show at the Classic Center.   I have yet to see my favorite band in Athens, Ga.
     A few years later after a short stint in the Coast Guard, if found myself working as a chef on Grand Cayman Island. For those of you that do not know, Grand Cayman sits right smack in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.  Surely, I thought to myself this will be a great opportunity to get my fill of the local music.  I was so excited about hearing the reggae, dance hall, and dub bands right on the beach.  Wow, was I sorely mistaken.  Somehow this little twenty seven mile long and nine mile wide island was passed over by such music.  Now to make things even worse, I was the only single person, the youngest person, and the only American at my restaurant.  This meant I was on my own.  No one I worked with was interested in showing me the ropes of the island and where to get what I needed.
      After a few weeks of going straight home after work, I found a little place called XTC.  The crowd was full of people in the service industry and the music that was playing in the bar was good enough.  Well it was not long before I was drinking here every night and learning the ways of Grand Cayman.  This consisted of three things.  There was no live music on the island, well at least not outside of the Hyatt.  The big thing was techno..  DJs!  This plays a very important part of this story I will get to in a minute.  To top it all off Monday nights was the big bar night and they stayed open to 1:00 AM.  I was very confused.  Now, I could have just gave in and gone home or get in where I fit in.  It is amazing what you can learn to love when you live in paradise.  Evidently Grand Cayman is a hot spot on the DJ circuit.  This meant a lot of private parties all over the island.  I have to admit this was pretty cool.  DJs flew in from all over the world to play these parties.  When in Rome is what I thought!  Trance and Techno is really not that bad on a private beach, surrounded by hot women with accents and a head full of Ecstasy.  I got to be a regular in this crowd and became friends with the owners of XTC, who were responsible for bringing in a lot of the talent on the island.  You see if you are white and are a Cayman citizen you are pretty freaking wealthy.  I came to find out later that one of the owners of the bar, Chris, had gone to Miami and ate the love drug once, and immediately came back and opened a bar called XTC a week later.  I will save the rest of this story for another time, but I eventually had enough and came back stateside.  I saw the first New Years Eve Widespread Panic shows at Phillips Arena two weeks later.  The year was 1999!
     Jump forward to 2008, and I have recently moved to Denver, Colorado.  The summer before I saw Widespread Panic on a three night run at Red Rocks and fell in love.  A year later I was where I wanted to be.  Once again, however, I was on my own in a new city, trying to find my way.  The only friend I had in Denver at the time was married with a young daughter and one on the way so she was no help.  I asked where I should go drink in an online Widespread Panic discussion forum.  Someone suggested that I belly up to the bar at the Highland Pacific, and I would be taken care of and find what I was looking for.  This could not be further from the truth.  Looking back, that first night was the spark that lit the fuse in my life with rock n roll.  Soon I was on a first name basis with some of the local Denver heroes.  These guys were not only fantastic musicians but genuine and kind.  They played in bands like Polytoxic, Bloodkin, and Henry Parsons Project.  Just to put things in a local music scene perspective, there are at least fifteen music venues in a ten mile radius.  In the three years I was there, I think I saw well over one hundred shows.  Bands like Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, and the Drive by Truckers, to name a few were there several times a year.  This somehow influenced the local music scene. In 2010 I met a new friend from Nashville, and soon after started an online music magazine called Colfax Radio.  This was a game changer.  I guess the sun and moon were all aligned at that time.  I was working as a door man at Pete’s Monkey Bar, which opened a ton of doors for me and my business partner, Little Mikey Colfax.  Our little pod cast had the pleasure of interviewing musicians such as Tori Pater, Eric Martinez, Damon Wood, The Fox Street All Stars, Dorian Vibe, Eric Hood, Mark Brut, Whiskey Tango, The Longest Day of the Year, HOME and so many more.  There were open mic nights around the city were full of fantastic music on any given night.  The city is had everything from honky tonk, jam bands, metal bluegrass, and everything else under the sun.  Being able to be a part of such great music with so many great people is a time in my life I will never forget.  It is a warm memory that puts a smile on my face a year and a half later.
     Today, I am living back down south, licking my wounds and healing from all those late nights over the years.  When I work on my plan for the next step, I think about these three points in my life.  I think about what I want, what I need, and what I just cannot have, no matter how hard I try.  These past experiences have all played a part in my walk with rock n roll.  And today, I know I cannot be a part of it like I was in Denver, and I don’t ever want to go to see another DJ as long as I live, but I do know that I need my local music.  It is now a part of me and has shaped me forever.  Athens, Ga is starting to sound really good about right now.  Who knows, I will only be able to tell you when I get there.