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 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!