in the backwoods they understand

Sometimes a body just needs some boot stompin’, beer-swiggin’ American rock and roll. That’s precisely what the crowd got at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin on February 15, 2014 when they saw The Wild Feathers.

Affectionately dubbed “The Snowed Out Tour” according to Taylor Burns due to the sub-freezing temperatures the Nashville quintet has been encountering throughout the Midwest, the band warmed up the room with a blazing set that hit every track on their debut record along with a new song. Highlights included “Hard Times,” crowd-sing-along favorite “Left My Woman,” and barn-burner “Backwoods Company”.  Also of note were their well-chosen encore choices by The Band and Led Zeppelin – where their main set was a stone-solid performance the encore was more akin to a jukebox sing-along with your best pals.

Part of The Wild Feathers’s appeal is the diversity found among the members – drummer Ben Dumas can bang it out with the best of them, Burns has a bluesy bent that calls to mind Chris Robinson, and Joel King’s garage-rock howl is tempered by Ricky Young’s gorgeous delivery. Preston Wimberly rounds out the four-part harmonies but really shines on guitar; his solos actually add to the quality of the songs as opposed to being indulgent or distracting. Such a wealth of talent in one place led to a truly memorable evening.

Opening acts Saints of Valory and Jamestown Revival were no slouches either – SOV’s anthemic rock is ready for an arena stage and the Jamestown boys have buckets of charm. The three bands will be touring together into March. Click here to get dates and free tour sampler.

You can check out all the photos from the show here.

Hard Wind, Backwoods Company, I Can Have You, If You Don’t Love Me, Got It Wrong, Hard Times, I’m Alive, How, Tall Boots, [New Song], American, Left My Woman, The Ceiling
Hey Hey What I Can I Do (Led Zeppelin cover), The Weight (The Band cover)

a trip’s what i need

“Half-convinced the singer of Vacationer is Kenny from The Starting Line.” I received this text from a friend who was at Spotify House last month during SXSW. It turns out she was totally right. M|H had featured Vacationer last year on the Summer Jams mixtape, completely unaware that it was fronted by Kenny Vasoli. Having been in love with The Starting Line for a number of years, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Vasoli’s new, beachy project when they opened for The Naked and Famous on April 14, 2012 at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin.

As “the Eastern seaboard’s foremost relaxation specialists”, Vacationer is about more than just the music – it’s about the vibe as well. Vasoli kicked things off by telling the crowd, “this is like a big cuddle in music form.” While the band may have intended for the crowd to chill out, the audience had a different idea. Madisonians are a dance-y people; when we like what we hear, we’re going to move. Remarked Vasoli, “this may be our danciest show yet,” and, “we’re going to pick up the pace because you guys are great dancers and we want to take advantage of that.”

Playing a good portion of their debut album, Gone, singer Vasoli radiated joy throughout. From the bass thump of the earnest “Great Love” to the sweet longing of “Be With You” the message was love, love, love – and dancing. “The window to dance to our music is closing but that’s okay because the next one’s a banger. It’s called ‘Trip’.” While yielding more of a blissed-out sway than a body-shaking dip, it was high point of the band’s set.

For tour dates, a free download, or to book a trip of your own, visit Vacationer’s website.

Click either photo to see more shots from the show.

when you’re gone i know you’re with me

Good bands play a room the same way whether there is one person or ten thousand people. Dreamers of the Ghetto are a good band. Playing to about twenty people at The Frequency in Madison, Wisconsin on February 23rd, 2012, the band easily could have been on stage at a much larger venue. Their songs fill the room and when they relax so does their enthusiasm.

Influenced by the vaguely-gothy 80s, the music and the band members themselves have a somewhat serious front – there’s not a whole lot of movement on stage and one is more likely to step-sway than pogo to show their enjoyment. As the show progressed, though, things loosened up. After having to restart their excellent single “Connection“, keyboard player and vocalist Lauren Jones mimicked the last line of the previous song, an endearing move.

A major strength for Dreamers of the Ghetto is that they’re closer than the average band in their personal lives – Lauren is married to lead singer and bassist Luke Jones, and the guitar player is Luke’s brother, Jonathan. Drummer Marty Sprawls completes the lineup.  The Everly Brothers have had their impeccable harmonies attributed to their being brothers, and a similar situation seems to be at play with DotG. The blend between brothers, in-laws, and husband and wife is lovely. Luke’s voice is raspy and cavernous, Lauren’s strong, Jonathan’s smooth.

The Jones’s vocal compatibility was most prevalent on their best song of the night, “Phone Call“. While a strong cut on the album, it was more remarkable live. Rearranging on stage to crowd in among the keyboards, the members played off each other and relaxed. Dancing and clapping, they gave themselves completely over to the music. Jonathan had a chance to bring his voice to the forefront and it was beautiful and surprising. Luke’s ability to sing soulful high notes is hinted at in the recorded version of the song but live he goes for the gusto with great success. They could easily perform this song five times in a row and it wouldn’t wear thin. While the band’s overall performance could be tweaked here and there, there’s little doubt their continued touring will land them better and better bills.

Click to download “Tether” from their album Enemy/Lover, and click on either photo to see more shots from the show.