A Song for Your Wild Heart

In April, I went to see Jamestown Revival here in Charlotte. I’ve been a fan for a few years and had already seen them once in Greensboro earlier this year. I wasn’t expecting that I’d leave that night anything less that googly-eyed over their set.

Then the opener happened. I pretty much forgot about Jamestown Revival.

That opener was Ghost of Paul Revere, and these Mainers completely stole the show. Hilarious banter. Energetic performance despite a somewhat empty-ish “before the headliner” room. Fantastic harmonies. And these songs, you guys.

You know how every once in awhile you hear a song for the first time and it just instantly grabs you by your ears? Well, that’s what happened when I heard them play “Wild Child” that night. I was enthralled.

So imagine my disappointment when I found out it was new and it wasn’t to be had ANYWHERE.

Well, finally, six months after that show, the song has been soft released – Spotify stream only for right now, but the new record is only 10 days away. You guys MUST hear this song. I swear I’ve already played it like 100 times.

You can blame me for the earworm later.

Check the band out on tour now and see this song, plus this bad ass cover of “Baba O’ Riley.”

 

MORE GHOST OF PAUL REVERE: Pre-Order Monarch on iTunes | Buy music on Amazon | Watch the AudioTree Session | Listen on Spotify

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Oh, hi there… 2017 Update

So, yeah. I suck at updating my blog. Maybe one day, I’ll be better about it.

As I was driving around running errands yesterday, I was thinking about the post I made back in December. You know, the one where I said that I was going to be better about updating the blog? And talked about all my big plans for the year?

Surprisingly, I’ve actually accomplished a bunch on my list. There’s still more red  ❌ than there are green ✅ … and a couple that remain to be seen, but let’s be honest – it was a pretty aggressive list.

  • Train for and run my first half marathon in five years ✅
  • Lose weight  ⚠️
  • Travel to Australia to see Shelia and Wales to visit Caroline and Lee  ❌
  • Go to Denver and see Red Rocks  ❌
  • My first Montana trip to see Libby  ✅
  • Send a letter or card a week  ✅
  • Write at least one blog post a week  ❌
  • Conduct a massive, soul-cleansing closet purge (trust me, this one is LONG overdue – there are clothes and shoes in there that just shouldn’t be)  ✅
  • Maybe go on date or two  ❌
  • Reduce the amount of Sugar Free Red Bull and Coke that I drink  ❌
  • Go to 125 concerts in a year  ⚠️
  • Get back into taking real photos  ❌

Let’s talk about the half marathon. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t train nearly as much as I should have. And I walked a bunch, and I was slow…but I finished. My awesome cousin, Meg, ran the race with me and cheered me on the whole way. If anything, it was awesome to spend time with her where we grew up. We both had challenging years in 2016, so I think it was probably an emotional win for both of us.

I’ve traveled a BUNCH this year, at least for me. I didn’t make it to Wales to see Lee and Caroline, but… I did squeeze in an unplanned trip to Las Vegas to see them for Lee’s 50th birthday. Caroline and I plotted behind Lee’s back…he had no idea that I was coming, so the look on his face when I showed up there at 11 PM at night was priceless.

I said that this year would be my year to do the things I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I wasn’t lying. I finally got to attend Mile of Music in Wisconsin – over my birthday, no less. On top of that, I got to spend it with my best friend of nearly 30 years, Steph, who I haven’t seen in so so long. So many great moments, but one of the highlights? Dancing on stage Courtney Cox-style with my buddies in Wild Adriatic during the Bruce Springsteen tribute session on my actual birthday. Lots of new artists to love. The music and the company were just what my soul needed, and I’m going to make it a yearly thing now.

Two weeks after that trip, I hopped on a plan to Montana to visit Libby. It was so great to be with her on her home turf and check another state of my visit list. I got to see a show at Live at the Divide in Bozeman, took an amazing couple of hikes, and Libby and I even had a day where we vegged on an air mattress watching the Golden Girls and snacking. We live so far apart, and when we do see each other, it’s usually on The Rock Boat, so there’s no time for just… friending. The cherry on top was the Flagship Romance house show at Libby and Jake’s beautiful new home. Montana is stunning, and I would totally move there tomorrow if it wasn’t cold seven months out of the year.

Just this last month, I flew to Chicago to see Mighty Oaks. If you’ve not been following along for the last seven or so years, they are a band based in Berlin, Germany, that I have the biggest musical crush on. I’ve only seen them once, in an opening slot. So when they announced a short headlining tour in the States this year, I knew I had to go see them. Chicago won as the closest… and, bonus, one of my closest musical friends who lives in Chicago, joined me for the show.

My concert calendar has been pretty full this year, and I’m 20 shows ahead of where I was at this time last year. I’m not sure I’ll get to 125. I’ll get close. Right now, if I go to everything I have planned, I’ll be around 110. Squeezing another 15 shows in seems pretty impossible, but I’m going to try. Keep your fingers crossed. That said, if I were to hang it up today, it would be an amazing year of fantastic shows. I’ve seen Quiet Hounds more this year than I’ve ever seen them in a year before; saw Mighty Oaks; had lots of face time with my Wild Adriatic fellas (and more to come); got to see Third Eye Blind’s eponymous record’s 20th anniversary tour; kicked off my birthday celebration with Future Thieves at my very favorite venue surrounded by some of my best friends; went to my first SoFarSounds show; have seen SUSTO a bunch; knocked out another four Will Hoge shows (trying really hard to get to the 100th Will show); saw Quiet Hollers for the first, second, third and fourth time; fell in love with Judah and the Lion; got to have The Brevet back on the East Coast for a show at The Evening Muse; and sooo much more. And there’s still a little less than three months to go!

There’s all the “stuff” that still isn’t where I want it to be. I remain way too caffeinated, I don’t write nearly enough, still haven’t gone on any dates, still haven’t lost any weight…blah, blah, blah. Those things get to me, of course, but I’m a work in progress. There are still some things I’m working on fixing, things I’m working on about myself, things I’m trying to love about myself. I’m my own worst critic…maybe that’s my biggest accomplishment of this year…learning to let go and give myself a break.

So there’s the update. Stay tuned to see how 2017 closes out….

The Year of 100

IMG_5210Since 2004, I’ve been keeping track of all the concerts I’ve attended. To be honest, those early years, there are probably some gaps, because I wasn’t so serious about it. But in the last 5 years or so, I’ve been mildly obsessed with tracking who I’ve seen and where I’ve seen them, and what my “show count” is for the year. The number has always landed somewhere between 50 and 80 – not too shabby for someone who holds down a full-time job that has nothing to do with music.

In August or so of last year, I was doing my monthly update and realized that there was a distinct possibility that I could set a record for myself if I stepped up my concert game a little. The number? 100 live shows. Could I do it? I was pretty sure I could.

Now, there are rules to my madness. For example, festivals only count as one show, no matter how many sets I see during the event. If I did that, I’d be halfway to 100 by the time the Rock Boat was over in January! Plus, at festivals, you end up moving around too much, seeing only part of a set, etc. I only count something as a show if I specifically went there with the purpose of seeing the artist play – so, if I’m hanging out at a bar and there’s a band playing, that doesn’t get counted. You get the idea. Hey, we all have our rules. NPR’s Bob Boilen keeps count, of his shows, too. But he counts every band he sees as a show. So if a show has 3 acts, that’s 3 shows. (For the record, he saw “506 shows” in 2015.)

What this new “goal” did for me was it forced me to broaden my horizons: go see new artists, acts that I didn’t know at all, and others that aren’t typically the type of music that’s up my “power alley.” Some of those new acts I enjoyed, others I didn’t love quite so much, but I listened with an open mind.

And I did hit 100 shows. 101, officially. (You can see my full list here.)  I’m kind of proud of that number. I realize there are people that go to a lot more than I do, but for someone who doesn’t work in the music industry, I think 101 is pretty solid.

There are definitely highlights worth noting. Like that time I flew to Indianapolis to see the OPENING band because it was the only chance I had to see Mighty Oaks on a short U.S. tour (they’re from Berlin). Or that time I forced Rodric to drive to Atlanta and back with me on a weeknight so I could see Alpha Rev. Or going to see The Brothers Landreth on a whim because Stu Larsen had talked about them, not knowing a single note…and falling weak-in-the-knees in love with them. Or driving to Jacksonville to spend a day at the CleanWater Music Festival, put on by Flagship Romance, and being blown away by Israel Nash. The Dirty Guv’nahs farewell shows. There are literally dozens more that I could talk about.

Who did I see the most in 2015? SUSTO takes that title. Saw Justin and his band of compadres 8 times this year. Watching them come into their own and start to get recognized for their incredible talent has been one of the highlights of my year. Furthest traveled? The Rock Boat wins that contest almost every year. But that Mighty Oaks show in Indianapolis was a close second. Most visited venue? The Evening Muse, hands down.

But the most common question I’ve gotten is… What was your favorite? Normally, I have a pretty cut and dry answer to that, but this year, I have a hard time choosing. I mean, any Quiet Hounds show always sits at the top of the list. But that first Brothers Landreth show was pretty phenomenal. Then there was Rainbow Kitten Surprise, who shattered my expectations and made me feel so alive. That Butch Walker show was pretty darn powerful. Then there was the Counting Crows concert…and we all know what they mean to me. My biggest victory was getting Christopher Jak to play a show this year, and my…that man singing could never be short of breathtaking for me. Oh, and Great Peacock…who I barely knew, but went to see to support a friend…completely rocked my world. I think, though, if I had to choose, it would be a tie between The Mighty Oaks at The Deluxe in Indianapolis and be Noah Gundersen at The Visulite Theater in Charlotte. Both of these artists’ music has come to mean so very much to me personally…and seeing both of them was really emotional for very different reasons.

Of course, because I’m an overachiever, I am ready to do it all again in 2016. In fact, I’m going to try to exceed it. So, 2016 is the year of 125. Who wants to join me on my crazy adventure? Keep up and keep me accountable…

Here’s to more live music in 2016!

 

 

A Dance in the Ether with Quiet Hounds

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“Some things supersede order. Sometimes you need a harmony outside ­- and in. I ring that note. We are a crowd here tonight seeking just such an elixir. Something to soothe, yes, and to heal. But also to excite… We are mixed crowd of many different needs, but we’ve come here tonight with a singular want. To be elevated, to be lifted up, just for a moment, out of our daily doldrums our aches and pains, this Snake Nation shanty town spirit that shackles us all too often. We want just for a night, just one night, to dance in the ether and get rid of order.” – Clark Stanley

Quiet Hounds rebuilt Snake Nation for an evening last weekend in Atlanta.

Quiet Hounds rebuilt Snake Nation for an evening last weekend in Atlanta.

On Saturday night on a stage inside a late 19th century industrial building on the edge of Midtown Atlanta, a battle for the ages occurred. Authority and morality clashed with rebelliousness and creativity, a tempest set afire by Atlanta’s paradigm-smashing band Quiet Hounds. “The Last Days of the Snake Nation” was part concert, part historical lesson, and part grand fiction ­– and if you listened closely, if you soaked in all of the evening’s intricate trappings, you may have walked away inspired or cautioned by what played out on stage.

As you approached the entrance for the show, a man in a top hat and tails awaited your ticket – the first clue that something may be different about the night. Behind him, men and women in late 19th century period costume milled amongst arriving concert-goers. At the doors of the performance hall, a program was handed to you with a flourish and a dramatic red velvet curtain was swept aside for you to enter the world of the Quiet Hounds.

Leading up to the event, the band’s social media pages had flashed cryptic calls-to-arms and images: tin-type photos and introductions to two characters, Jonathan Norcross and Clark Stanley. Unless you’re a history buff, the names may mean nothing to you. But the Hounds intended to resurrect these historical figures and bring them to life.

A brief history:

Norcross, the fourth mayor of Atlanta, is often seen as the man who helped to shape the thriving young city by establishing many of its laws and instituting order. In his successful contest for mayor of the newly named Atlanta (previously known as Marthasville), he became head of the Moral Party and ran against Leonard Simpson, the leader of the Free and Rowdy party, which supported a more creative, less restricted lifestyle. In his role, Norcross also served as head of the police, and worked deliberately to drive out the city’s “undesirables.”

Clark Stanley was a cowboy from Texas who was literally a snake oil salesman. After spending time studying with a Hopi medicine man, he bottled and marketed his snake oil liniment as medicine. He traveled from state to state, selling his liniment with an elaborate act that included live rattlesnakes. Eventually, the government examined Stanley’s solution and declared that it was not medicine, instead mostly mineral oil. The term “snake oil salesman” arose out of Stanley’s downfall.

The Goat Farm Arts Center’s Goodson Yard performance hall had been turned into early Atlanta’s Snake Nation, an area of the city that was (to quote Atlanta Magazine) “an enclave of log cabins and wood huts along old Whitehall Road (now Peters Street). It reportedly earned its nickname from snake oil peddlers, but was home to far more unsavory characters.” The inhabitants of Snake Nation sided with the Free and Rowdy party. These individuals, along with residents of similar areas Murrell’s Row and Slab Town, were the types that Norcross felt threatened the burgeoning young Atlanta.

There’s no record that Norcross and Stanley ever had direct interaction, but in 1850 and 1851, there was an ongoing struggle between the Morals and the Free and Rowdies, one attempting to help the city flourish through capitalism and order, while the other sought to hold on to the young city’s individuality and their own free spirit lifestyle. Later that year, citizens of Atlanta who sided with the Moral Party disguised themselves (in white caps) and invaded Snake Nation, whipping the male residents and chasing them off, as well as “rounding up” the women to shuttle them off to outside of the city where they were released with a warning to not return. Snake Nation was burned to the ground, and it was years before anything was built there again.

As concert goers filled into the performance hall, costumed actors milled about, arm wrestling and talking loudly about the state of politics in young Atlanta and Snake Nation. “Loose women” hung on men’s arms, and laughter filled the air. Areas of the hall were set with period furniture, and Clark Stanley’s snake oil wagon even held down its own corner selling its wares (and doubling as a merch boothIMG_3045). The stage was set ­– literally and figuratively ­– for a night in Snake Nation. The program had a simple list of four acts: Elixir of Truth, Of All That Is Possible, The Clash, and finally The End of Snake Nation, accompanied by a “report” on the “candidates,” Clark Stanley and Jonathan Norcross.

 

Exactly at 9 PM, a contingent of well-dressed men entered the room, talking loudly, trailed by the band, bedecked in their customary masks. This was the beginning of Act I, Elixir of Truth. Here was Norcross, making his way from the back of the room through the crowd, shaking hands and petitioning members of the audience to vote for him. As he made his way to the stage, he commanded a scribe to “write that down,” and began his stump speech, calling for refinement and structure. As he railed against the Free and Rowdy party, whores, pimps, and bums, a small number in the crowd called back in support, with others booing him. Suddenly, he was interrupted by another group, making its way to the front of the room, laughing and mocking the pulpit-like speech of Norcross. Clark Stanley jumped onto the stage, bantering with the audience in a bawdy fashion, telling them about his snake oil liniment, but more about what the forced implementation of order and structure could mean. For nearly 20 minutes, the Stanley and Norcross went back and forth, and the argument peaked, with Stanley offering a “balm” in the form of song, “proof of what Snake Nation is made of.”

The band appeared on stage, launching into a refrain to begin Act II. The lead Hound made his way to the stage through the crowd, carrying a lantern. Once he clambered onto the stage, the band members shed their masks, and moved into a blistering set, rattling off older songs interspersed with songs from the band’s latest album, The Wild Hunt, including “Calling All Gamma Rays,” “Good Bones,” “Night Parade,” “Worn Crush Corduroy,” and the well-loved “Southern Charm.”

A second drummer, Julian Dorio from Athens band The Whigs, was introduced (with a hilarious joke about the Whig political party that I’m sure not everyone in the crowd caught) for part of set, just in time for some of the night’s more up tempo songs, including “Young Clover,” my personal favorite, the percussion-crazy “Dangerlove,” and “Hemlock.”

After “Hemlock,” Norcross and Stanley retook the stage and begin a heated argument. Stanley made a fool of Norcross by joking with him about his relationship with a noted prostitute, and the two men engaged in a brawl that moved off stage. They were followed by the lead Hound. As the music escalated, above the stage, the audience could view see shadows of the Norcross and Stanley in an embittered fight, ending with Norcross standing over Stanley’s still body.

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Meghan charming the crowd.

Quiet Hounds have always surrounded themselves with an amazing cast of musicians, including an exceptional brass section made up of Dave Daly (who also assisted with some arrangements on the band’s latest album, The Wild Hunt), Russell Sauve, and Umcolisi Terrell. They’ve officially brought another one of those accompanying members, Meghan Arias, into the band, making their number six. The newest member’s presence in the band was noticeable, adding a dimension to both the performance and the music itself. She took lead vocal on the song following the brawl, “Art of War.” She proved her mettle when her mic went out at her keyboard in the first lines of the song. She didn’t hesitate to step forward, grab the lead mic, and completely floor the crowd with a new rendition of the song.

Norcross attempts to hang himself while a divided Stanley looks on.

Norcross attempts to hang himself while a divided Stanley looks on.

Following this dramatic scene, the stage darkened, the band stepped into the shadows, and a bloodied Norcross crossed the stage, fashioning a noose from a rope hanging from the ceiling. The lead Hound followed him with an acoustic guitar, singing “Weathervane,” the closing and most emotional track on The Wild Hunt. After slipping the noose around his neck, he stands, staring at his hands streaked with blood, rubbing them together. Before Norcross can hang himself for his actions, an equally bloodied Stanley comes up behind him, knife in hand, evidently of two minds about what he should do. In the end, he cuts the noose down, and the two quietly exit the stage together.

The near-end of Norcross also signaled the near-end of the set, and the band closed out the performance with “Wild Light” and a rousing new song, “If the World.”

The incomparable Quiet Hounds and troupe.

The incomparable Quiet Hounds and troupe.

As they closed the song, the band introduced the actors that played Norcross and Stanley, “distinguished guest drummer” Dorio, and the horn section, thanking the Goat Farm for hosting, and the crowd for attending. Then all the players and band stepped up, sharing hugs and handshakes, joining hands, and chorusing out into a well-deserved bow. It was a defining moment for Quiet Hounds, a group that have found their purpose, who are clearly in love with what they are doing. You could see it in their faces and smiles – and they want to take us along on this adventure with them. To quote one of their songs,”we’ve found our place, so come along, we pave our way, our own parade.”

It’s exhilarating to watch it and be part of this movement. The performance was, from this viewer’s perspective, the best they’ve ever been on stage. The music was richer, the band was in sync, there was more banter with the crowd.The story of Norcross and Stanley well-acted, enhancing the music, and defining a purpose for the evening. And it was impossible not to see that the band was having a blast. This is what the future of music should look like. The elaborate theatrics, the historical backdrop, the hours that went into prepping all of the small details – all of these things are the hallmark of a group of artists intent on shifting the conversation about art. About creating art that engages and lifts us up.

So what’s the meaning of the night? Do you side with the Morals or the Rowdies? You’re left to determine it all for yourself. But if you were listening, the message was there. One of the Hounds said it best during the set. “You know, some of us Hounds feel right at home here in Snake Nation. Some of us, not so much. I’d like to think we all get along pretty good. Some of us may disagree and burn like a beacon sun in the distance, angered, imprisoned, frustrated by the discourse that surrounds us. But we know we’ve been here before. We’ve seen this before. And we remember a place and a time where we didn’t always have the choices that we have today…and we know deep down inside, we always find a way to come out clean in the end.”

If there was one thing to mar the evening for those of us there to hear the music, it was the unbelievable level of crowd noise and disrespect for the performance. Ironic, actually. Here QH is putting on an incredible event about extolling art and creativity, about finding balance between conformity and individuality, and at times you could barely hear them above the din of people who were clearly not there for the art. (We won’t even discuss the guy who climbed on someone’s shoulders in the front row so that his friends could take a photo of him in front of the band right in the middle of the show.) Nowhere was the utter disrespect of all the damn talking more present that when the lead Hound indulged in a bit of uncharacteristic sentimentality to introduce their historically-influenced song “Beacon Sun.” By the way, this song is a tribute to the thousands of soldiers who died in a Civil War interment camp – if any song in the entire set deserved a few moments of silence, it was this one. One of the band members even issued a frustrated “Shhhh” into his microphone as they began playing it. Unbelievable. This isn’t the first concert I’ve been to recently where this has been a problem, and maybe I was just more sensitive to it at this show because I’d literally been looking forward to this show for months. I typically stay away from poking the sleeping bear on my blog, but SERIOUSLY?

Music, art…these things are personal. What moves each of us is different. I try to keep my feelings out of it when trying to write quasi-legitimate reviews. But sometimes, it only seems appropriate to add that personal element in.  I’ve been a rather vocal proponent of this band since its early days – I was lucky enough that a friend (love you, Allison!) clued me into them. I’m not sure that I can appropriately put words to what this band’s music has done for me. It came into my life when a lot of things were a mess, and when I felt pretty lost and uninspired, emotionally drained by the serious illness of one of my parents. I pride myself on my ability to write, to “create” things, and I was at a point where I was completely empty. For me, there’s nothing more devastating to feel like that well is dry, to feel like you’ve lost the very thing that defines you. Quiet Hounds played a big role in reinspiring me. The lyrics, the music, the performance, but more importantly, the thoughts behind it all, their camaraderie, their singular purpose to change the way people view music and art… For me, those things are incredibly meaningful and powerful. They move me to find ways to contribute to something greater. And that’s really what it’s about, right? So on this Thanksgiving, let me say a public “thank you” to this collection of artists who has brightened my life with their music.

Quiet Hounds have graciously made the entire Last Days of Snake Nation performance viewable on their website at http://www.quiethounds.com.

New Quiet Hounds from IndieATL

New music from Quiet Hounds is definitely on my Christmas wish list. So I was pretty happy when the fine folks at IndieATL rolled out a video from the Swans and Embers event this afternoon. The Hounds played several new songs at the show in October, and “Good Bones” was at the top of my list. Although nothing could capture the magic of this night, the video is amazing and gives you a good sense of the atmosphere.

This band just inspires me. Merry Christmas to me! Thanks, IndieATL!

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