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Concert Reviews

Blackberry Smoke at Georgia Theatre

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I have always considered myself to be ‘in the know’ when it comes to music of all sorts. I have since realized that I have been missing the boat for too many years in regard to a unique band called Blackberry Smoke. It’s humbling… like realizing there is buried treasure in your own backyard. You finally find it, and are so much richer for it.

Blackberry Smoke is an up and coming Southern Rock ‘n Roll band. This is the best manner for which I can describe Blackberry Smoke. It hurts my heart that I didn’t catch this vibe earlier, because they are THAT GOOD! These fine gentlemen are on the cusp of major fame – and they deserve it.

After viewing the “Blackberry Smoke, Live at The GA Theater” DVD, (filmed in 2011) on many occasions, I had the chance to see them live, at the same venue on March 24, 2012 – The GA Theater.

My husband and I arrived in Athens early, so as to make the most of the day. As we drove up to the venue, we saw band member, Richard Turner, (Bass Guitar) standing outside. We proceeded to speak with Richard at length in regard to the history of the band. We talked of their musical influences. We even spoke of the opening act (Thomas Wynn and The Believers), of whom he so unselfishly complemented, telling us they were not to be missed.

We then had the great fortune to meet the remainder of the band (sans Brit Turner – Drummer). Each of them are incredibly hospitable, engaging, and have fantastic stories to tell about the excitement of their rising success. ‘Humble’, is the best manner in which to describe this talented group of musicians. It is apparent that they clearly appreciate their fans, and are thankful for the positive direction in which their career is soaring. These men have been paying their dues for years.

I am no fortune teller, but have a gut feeling that Blackberry Smoke will eventually be on the radar of all of those who have an ear for music – They are already on their way… They have toured with the likes of The Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top, Kid Rock, etc… They recently recorded an unbelievable remake of “Yesterday’s Wine”, with country legend, George Jones, along with Jamey Johnson. They are currently signed with Zac Brown’s record label, “Southern Ground Records”.

Highlight of March 24, 2012… My husband and I “accidentally hitting the wrong number on the elevator button” at just the right time at the GA Theater. We were two of the few special fans able to witness the Blackberry Smoke sound check that afternoon. It was very difficult not to clap or scream during a time when we knew that we needed to allow the band to focus on their important upcoming show.

I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face. I realized how fortunate we were to be in the building at that moment, with the music booming. The band remained incredibly serious in regard to the sound, while still joking every other moment, and obviously enjoying their time before the big show.

The most enjoyable part of my/our experience was witnessing the children of Blackberry Smoke join them on the stage during sound check…pistols blazin’, air guitaring and dancing wildly. My personal favorite was seeing Drummer, Brit Turner’s daughter, getting behind his drum set in her little pink dress and sparkly shoes. This happened upon multiple occasions; father and daughter hammering to the Gods, very ‘Bonham-esque’, in her efforts, and in obvious delight to be on her Daddy’s lap.

The delight in each of those fathers’ faces made this woman cry. It was very special. The little boys were air-guitaring better than I can, (a bold admission) and having so much fun with their families. RESPECT, Blackberry Smoke Kiddos! Certainly one of my favorite moments at any musical event, ever…

This was the second occurrence of Blackberry Smoke selling out the GA Theater. With the help of guest appearance by Atlanta guitar virtuoso, Benji Shanks, the venue lit “Up In Smoke”. A treat for us all, their lengthier than usual set list was as follows:

I especially love the line at the bottom of the set list… “Well, are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?” These boys ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Pistols were officially pulled…BANG.

While prominently, their shows consist of original tunes, they throw in a few wonderful covers (or teasers of covers, between their own songs) that also delight their audience. Honestly, after seeing Blackberry Smoke, even for the first time, I felt like I’d known and been listening to them forever.

My first Blackberry Smoke show was an event that I will never forget. Heaven forbid anything prohibits my attendance to any other do-able shows. My goal will always be to be on the front row, getting down with the band and their fabulous fans, with a huge smile on my face.

Bottom line… Y’all, don’t miss this boat. Set sail on this treasure ship coined Blackberry Smoke!

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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