What is it with me and female fronted bands these day? It seems that I just can’t seem to get enough of them. On July 17th, 2013, I went to the Hollywood Palladium to check out the Athens, Alabama-based quartet Alabama Shakes. I can’t pinpoint the time I first heard their music, but I remember that the song I first heard was “Hold On”. It was a Southern rock/blues tune that sounded modern enough for today’s radio, but also seemed rooted in classic 60-70s soul as well. But stylistic impressions aside, it was the lead singer’s voice that pierced through the music and into my psyche. I bought their debut album, “Boys & Girls” sometime August or September 2012 (I remember this because I bought their album the same time I bought The Heavy’s “The Glorious Dead” which came out around then).
I pressed play on “Boys & Girls” in my car, it kept playing the rest of the day while I drove around town running my errands. For a debut album, I was smitten with their sound, and definitely one of the better albums I had bought in 2012. After watching Brittany Howard perform a tribute to Levon Helm with with an all-start cast (including Elton John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons, etc), and Ms. Howard showing EVERYBODY up, Alabama Shakes quickly became a band that I put down on my list as “must see live”. Fast forward to 3:30 of the video below to see what I’m talking about.
I met up with some friends,and after giving each of them their ticket, we head inside inside the venue. While my friends got some drinks, I walked over to the merchandise booth to purchase a special poster that band had printed for their two gigs at the Palladium. A limited edition, signed by the artist, and numbered (167/200) poster that’s going to find a nice spot somewhere in my crib once it’s been properly framed. It’s probably one of the cooler posters I’ve purchased this year.
We had just missed the first of the two opening bands perform and we floated about in the venue to find decent spot to watch the next band, Fly Golden Eagle, take the stage. As my friends and I were meandering the GA area to find a spot to stand, I noticed someone very familiar looking around for a place to watch as well. Holy, shnykies. It was Brittany Howard. I’m a total photo slut when it comes to snapping pictures with musicians I’m into, and having done this on several occasions before, my body seem to go in to autopilot.
As I handed my camera off to a friend, I whispered to Brittany that I was huge fan, and whether I could snap a quick picture. She looked hesitant, and I assured her that I would keep it on the “down-low”. My friend snapped the picture, and the flash went off. So much for on the “down-low”. I could tell that Ms. Howard reluctantly took the picture (I think her biting her lip kind of tips it off), so I apologized, thanked her and told her to “break a leg” … but I still got a picture! Woohoo! It also goes to show how awesome Brittany Howard is for wanting to support her fellow musicians by actually hanging out in the General Admittance area to watch the other bands play just like all of the other concert-goers in attendance.
Having blown her cover, Ms. Howard and her friend scurried away to blend back into the crowd. Fly Golden Eagle started playing and I think most everybody else was focused on the stage. I didn’t notice others swarming around her for photos, so I think that I kept it on the “down-low” as much as I could.
Fly Golden Eagles set was solid. A band based out of Nashville, their music seems to touch upon classic-rock and psychedelic vibes. The lead singer’s vocal delivery had a friend of mine comment that he had a Dylan-ish sound (translation: sounded kinda like Bob Dylan). I agreed. I liked the band, and I’ve checkout some of their older music and they are a solid “add” on facebook.
The only part of the show that I could have done without was the wait between sets. Wanting to get up as close as I could to see the Alabama Shakes do their thing, I thought that I’d be able to float closer up front after Fly Golden Eagle closed their set. Nothing doing. It appeared that everybody wanted to be up close to the Shakes, and people were guarding their space, not moving a square inch, for the 40 minutes between sets. C’est la vie. If you are a fan, and you want to see YOUR band up close and personal, you’ll stay in the same spot for as long as it takes. Kudos to those staked their territory.
The Alabama Shakes took to the stage, and amazed. Their set list was as follows:
- Hang Loose
- Hold On
- Always Alright
- I Found You
- Boys & Girls
- Be Mine
- I Ain’t The Same
- Worryin Blues
- On Your Way
- Gimme All Your Love
- You Ain’t Alone
- Heat Lightnin’
- Heavy Chevy
The band is a well-oiled machine, and can jam with the best of them, but this band is Howard’s. At 24 years old, her voice is way more mature than her years, with every word sung from her mouth coming from something deep inside her soul. I don’t know about her past, but it certainly felt like she was singing from place of entrenched memories, whether painful, angry or joyful. Her performance is one that makes concert goers feel like they are there in the here and now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the venue lost money on drinks during their set because you would have been a fool to stop watching.
Sometime during the set she bantered with the audience for a minute and concluded by stating, “You got to give a little to get a little.” Brittany and the band gave us their souls, and we gave them our fan loyalty. I think that’s a fair trade.