Two Cow Garage, Benchmarks, Heathen Sons

I hit the road again for another fun filled night of great music and fantastic friends this time ending up in Nashville at The High Watt. This wasn’t a normal night at a random show as there were some of my best friends from St Louis and all over TN there for the evening which means i’m sorry for anyone around us be we were singing loudly and enthusiastically.
Starting off the night were the Heathen Sons who’ve been written up here before by our own Wolf and to say they didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. I’d given a few listens to their EP and while I liked it it hadn’t stuck out for me yet. This happens more than I’d like to admit and is one of the many reasons why I try not to miss an opener to any show if possible. You’ll never know the music that grabs you until you hear it live. This band is one of those for me while I enjoyed the record the live performance was just full of very different energy that myself and seemingly the rest of the crowd enjoyed. It’s slightly indie while still definitely southern and past that i’d just call it good. Basically check these guys out if they’re close to your town.IMG_3137

Just over two years ago Lucero played two nights in Nashville and on the first night I elbowed a kid in the head that turned out to be Todd Farrell Jr. which was the beginning of a helluva night. When I sobered up I remembered to check out Todd’s band and was very happy that I did as the then current release of Where Fake Cowboys Go to Drink has some great songs on it. After that background up next was Benchmarks formerly known as Todd Farrell Jr and the Dirty Birds which while not a bad name did not accurately represent what the band is doing today so they changed it. In the best way possible there’s no easy way to categorize this band as they’re at their core a great rock band who also pull in some country and punk sensibility while never committing fully to either of the typical interpretations of those genres. So I’ve seen Todd Farrell and the Dirty Birds before at their last CD release and that gave me high hopes for what i’d see this night. I was not disappointed as the band ripped through the most recent American Nights EP as well as some tracks from the previous two release and requests. By their own admission the band hadn’t played together in some time as Todd had been out on the road with Two Cow Garage and everyone else had other obligations but couldn’t hear that from the audience. The set closed with Pawnshops when even Todd had to acknowledge our awful but very enthusiastic singing. I’m not sure when or where you’ll be able to see this band but if/when Benchmarks or Todd solo comes close to your town it is a show not to miss and in the meantime pickup the EP and the previous releases.

I'm terrible at photos but this feature Micah guesting with Benchmarks on American Night
I’m terrible at photos but this feature Micah guesting with Benchmarks on American Night

Next up is Two Cow Garage who I first discovered when Please Turn the Gas Back On was reviewed on this very site and from then on has been one of if not my favorite band. I’ve seen them countless times over the years at shows that have evolved from me and the band to 20ish diehard fans to today when they’re able to draw sustainable crowds. It’s always hard to talk about  Two Cow and Charles Hale did a better job than I ever could breaking down their style, progression and songwriting here so read that if you want some deeper insight into the band. I will say that I think we’ll need to add a new volume to that talking about what Todd is bringing to the band today. On this night the crowd was mixed with people who were obviously there for the first two bands but still curious about Two Cow and then a section of long term fans myself included who were somewhat vocal. Two Cow ran through highlights from most of their catalog not really leaning to one record or another but including the current single Let the Boys Be the Girls and the upcoming Continental Distance. To the folks that have not see Two Cow recently or at all the band is elevated with the addition of Todd Farrell Jr. who to my seasoned but uneducated ears fills out the songs in general and replaces some of the keyboards from the records. I never write setlists or take notes but on this night I took three notes which consisted of this: the 4 way harmonies are amazing and really add something to multiple songs then the unbelievably quiet crowd during Shoulda California and Swingset Assassin which is worth noting as it demonstrates how much people were enthralled by this performance. I always say that i’ll never see a better Two Cow show than what I see in Little Rock at The White Water Tavern but this show has me starting to think that may not be the case. It’s hard to beat a night with great friends and fantastic music so this was obviously a good one for all involved. It’s hard to come up with a better live band than Two Cow Garage so if you have a chance to see it and miss them i’m sorry for you.

My favorite Two Cow Garage photos are always about interaction. I'm terrible at capturing it but there's this.
My favorite Two Cow Garage photos are always about interaction. I’m terrible at capturing it but there’s this.

Benchmarks – American Night – 2015

cover

It starts out with distortion, guitar, and a voice. The voice is one you’ve heard before, been hearing for years. The always-ethereal vocal tones of Kelly Smith (nee Kneiser) of Glossary. Then a new voice, one you may have heard before but certainly not like this. The Dirty Birds have come home to roost, or maybe they’ve flown the coop. The members are the same, but the name and dedication are both newly minted. In Todd Farrell’s words: ” …[W]e are a BAND and not just me and some guys.” This EP, the first under the name Benchmarks, is their attempt to do things the right way.

Part of the genesis of the band (though they’ve been playing together long enough for it to perhaps be the Deuteronomy of the band) is undoubtedly Farrell’s semi-official status as Two Cow Garage’s lead guitar. There must be an undeniable hunger for life on the road once you’ve put in two tours with the greatest rock and roll band in America.

Farrell has drawn on the connections he’s made over the years, and the heft they bring to the EP is considerable. Smith’s harmonies bring the same heartbreaking sweetness to “April Fire” as they did to “Your Heart To Haunt”; the song explores a past that seems somehow more distant and closer with each passing day, and does so with impressive depth and driving instrumentation. The drummer, Jack Whitis, provides keys that give a melodic counterpoint to the complex guitar work. This band is too good to be named The Dirty Birds.

Micah Schnabel, of Two Cow Garage if the name isn’t familiar to you already, contributes a verse to the title track, “American Night”, and his almost-manic vulnerability brings clarity to Farrell’s songwriting, their duet more Butch and Sundance than Frankie and Dino. It wouldn’t be a Farrell record without another shot at a previously-released song. The melancholy “Liner Notes” of All Our Heroes Live In Vans is supplanted by a new version, chock full of crashing symbols and heavy metal guitar riffs. Whereas the acoustic arrangement of the song seemed to be asking a question, the full-band version makes a definite statement.

“Just Fine” seems to be wrapping up loose ends from older albums, and feels like the true end of the record. The book is being closed on old flames and old grudges and it’s time for new beginnings. Of course, it wouldn’t be Farrell without a sobering look at what the future could bring…or the desire to stride towards that future, regardless. The coda is “Paper Napkins”, a somber reflection on non-traditional adulthood and how taxing constant motion can be.

Though I seem to be paying special attention to Farrell’s songwriting, both musically and technically this is the band’s most impressive work to date. You can tell that the pieces were arranged, were collaborations, and not just several musicians trying to follow the instructions of a peer. Each of these men are skilled musicians and, at this point, Nashville old hands. Eli Rhodes (an impressive songsmith in his own right) mastered the album, Farrell and Whitis produced and engineered it. ‘Goose’ Rewinski, in addition to energetic bass playing, undoubtedly provided apt sports metaphors throughout the recording process (you can find some of his talented sportswriting here).

When four guys sit down and talk about starting a band, it’s guys like this who have the best odds. They’ve been around the block, played for pay and played for love, and they are certainly no longer any spring chickens. But that’s alright; summer’s just around the corner. This truly is a debut effort, and it’s Essential Listening.

Pick up a physical or digital copy of “American Night” by Benchmarks over at Bandcamp, but if you insist on using iTunes or Amazon that’s your right as a citizen of rock and roll.

Benchmarks – Band Name Change and Pre Order!

BenchmarksOur loyal readers are no doubt familiar with Todd Farrell Jr: in addition to writing and recording the opening theme to Ninebullets Radio on WMNF, Farrell has released music under his own name and with the band Todd Farrell Jr. & the Dirty Birds. The band has evidently decided to buckle down and put their nose to the eternal grindstone of touring and sleeping in vans as well as several other cliches.

The newly dubbed Benchmarks have put up a pre-order for their new EP American Night on Bandcamp, and given us the title track to listen to. With lyrics penned by Farrell, a more professional sound than the band has had before, and guest vocals by Micah Schnabel of Two Cow Garage, you can’t really go wrong. Check it out!

 

 

Two Cow Garage Tour Diary Part 4 – Todd Farrell

 

two cow last night

May 20
Last night was an interesting one. It was a good show, for sure. The crowd was obviously there for Tim, and only a few folks knew who we were going into it. It was a bit of a Tuesday crowd as well, took folks until the end of our set to really start making some noise (or maybe they were just liquored up enough by then). We all chose to wear Indy Pride t-shirts in response to the refusal of service deal the governor passed last month. Didn’t talk about it, just a little show of solidarity and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.
We had a chance to hang out with Tim backstage a lot more than we normally do. He’s truly a unique and wonderful human. We all come from very different perspectives on things (bulk of TCG being from small Midwest towns, me growing up in Southern suburbs, and Tim from the South and being a train guy for so long). The way he speaks about the blessing of being able to play music lights a fire in all of us. “Do whatever it is you love to do, and do that until the day you die” is basically his life mantra. Live simply and love life. I like his outlook. What an inspiring human being.
I’d also like to highlight the #anonymoustourquotes hashtag on Twitter. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. It’s a gold mine.
Chicago tonight. Looking forward to seeing my brother, Marshall.
May 21
I love Chicago. I love everything about that town, other than that the winters are emergency conditions. Gman Tavern is a gem of a place. We set up on the floor with our amps and drums on a riser like it was an old VFW show or something. The show was absolutely packed, and the crowd was great. One of the more fun ones of the tour.
It was great to see my brother, Marshall, as well. He’s lived in Chicago for about a year and a half, and I don’t get to see him much. He’s a big fan of the band (even before I was in it), and had a great time.
Tonight we’re playing at Off Broadway in St. Louis. I won’t lie, I’m nervous about it. It’s nothing on the venue, the city or the people in the city, it’s just a lingering scab that gets ripped off every once in a while when I think about what happened there. The aftermath was a truly beautiful and wonderful thing. I’d just love to not be put in another situation where that needs to happen. After the show, I think we’re going to end up driving for a good bit before staying the night. I’ll probably still take everything into the hotel anyway. It may be overreacting, but I feel like I’ll sleep better knowing my amp is inside the hotel room.
The local news has already started covering our return, so I think tonight should actually be a really great show. Here’s hoping. I hope I’m not writing bad news tomorrow.
May 22
All of our stuff was not stolen.
Also, St. Louis was a really awesome show. Off Broadway was a great venue with great people working there. Beforehand, a few local news agencies came and interviewed us (Murph), updating us about the theft. They left out the part how the police won’t return our calls, but at least they even wanted to talk. Must have been a slow news day. After the show, Shane, Micah and I played a few songs on acoustic guitars for the folks that stuck around. Then we got the hell out of that city to stay the night in an undisclosed location too far away from band thieves.
More cool hangs with Tim as well. He’s one of those guys who sees colors when he hears songs. Not like, mood or feel, but actual colors when he hears songs. He also doesn’t ever know what chords he’s playing. He taught himself how to do just about everything he does, and his perspective on it was interesting. I’m also a self taught, but I would seek out learning things from time to time, or learn other people’s songs, etc. Tim’s music is 100% natural Tim, which is pretty cool.
We’re driving to Louisville now, and it’s the last show of the tour. I’ve had a blast on this quick little run, and a little sad for it to be over so soon, but it’ll be nice to get back to Nashville for a bit to see my friends, my girlfriend, my dog (or really my girlfriend’s dog, but I consider her mine anyway). Last day of tour is always a little bit like the last day of school or summer camp or something. Well, I never went to summer camp, but that’s what I imagine it’s like. The excitement of getting home to sleep in your own bed and see the people you love, but leaving behind doing exactly the thing you love doing with people you also love is bittersweet. We’ll be back on the road again at the beginning of June out on the West coast, so it won’t be too long.
Louisville tonight at Haymarket Whiskey Bar. Last night of tour, hoping it’s a great one.
May 23
The Tim Barry/Two Cow Garage Midwest Tour is officially over. We’re driving back from Louisville towards Columbus (at which point I will get in my car and drive straight back through Louisville towards Nashville… poor planning). Last night was a great way to end it all. A bunch of friends came into town for it and had a great crowd.
After our set, I decided to let loose a bit and actually go into the crowd and watch Tim at as a fan. It felt great. He was such an amazing and inspirational person to tour with, and I hope we get to see him again soon. When we said goodbye to Tim, he said “see you tomorrow.” We wouldn’t see him tomorrow. He was catching a morning flight to Las Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling, and we were jumping in the van bound for Ohio. “I don’t say goodbye, I say see you tomorrow.” Cool.
Thank you to Gabe at Nine Bullets for letting me do this tour diary. It’s been fun to share a glimpse of our life with you guys, and I thoroughly hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Hopefully one day I won’t be writing it on the notepad of my my iPhone and forgetting things and using terrible grammar and spelling (sorry, Gabe). Thanks to Tim Barry for bringing us out on tour and being an amazing human being. Thanks to everyone who came out, sang along, bought merch, bought us a drink, gave hugs and hang out. It means the world to us that people care.
We’ll be back on the road starting June 9, heading West.
“See you tomorrow.”
-Todd Farrell Jr.

 

Upcoming Tim Barry Tour Dates:
6/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
6/19 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes
6/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
6/21 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
6/23 – Montreal, Canada @ Divan Orange
6/24 – Toronto, Canada @ Lee’s Place
6/25 – Buffalo, NY @ The Studio at Waiting Room
6/26 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub
6/27 – Richmond, VA @ The Camel
 
And while you’re at it, pick up music from Two Cow and Tim Barry!

Two Cow Garage Tour Diary Part 3 – Todd Farrell

Matt Woods Two Cow
May 18
Great show last night at Zeke’s. First of all, it was a rock and roll BBQ joint, and the food was absolutely killer. I try to kind of eat somewhat healthy on the road, because it’s hard to not eat like shit every meal of the day. Shane and Ryan (Parker, our tour manager) try to eat decent as well. Murph teeters, and Micah lives on a strict diet of cheeseburgers and Little Caesars pizza. Everyone has their fix. At this place, however, I ordered something called “The Four Horsemen” which is basically four kinds of bbq on a hoagie. It was life changing.
Being at a BBQ place, we were a little nervous. We’ve done those shows before, and they can be a bit awkward. Playing to seated folks eating dinner isn’t really a Two Cow environment, and Two Cow isn’t really a listening room band. This place was different though. They got the tables out of there, set up the stage and a hundred or more people showed up at the door. All was wonderful, and it was a great show.
Our Detroit friends Jeremy Porter and the Tucos opened up, and they were absolutely stellar. Their new record is fantastic as well, and all should take notice of it. Wonderful band.
More friends were there as well. Matt Woods, Adam Lee and Jeremy Mackinder all played earlier that night and came to hang with us. Seeing other musicians out on the road is always something special. There’s a certain solidarity in the conversation. Always starts with the “how’s the tour, how are the shows?” talk, but quickly goes into the “how amazing is it that we get to do this?” Quickly. It is. It’s absolutely amazing.
Today we have a day off, so we’re driving to Columbus so everyone can sleep in their own bed (everyone but me, of course). Hoping to see Mad Max tonight. Indianapolis tomorrow.

[ed. note: the following is a note Todd passed onto me about music and musicianship, and I thought it would be a neat bit of inside baseball for you all to see]

We had a really cool discussion in the van today while driving to Columbus. Murph and I are probably the most “schooled” musicians in the band as far as music theory goes. He’s a horn player, so it goes hand in hand with that. I had two years in high school of theory, but I don’t really remember too much, and I never really applied it much to my guitar playing. Micah was a drum line guy in high school (and is actually an amazing drummer, for those who don’t know), and Shane basically learned how to play bass as they were recording Please Turn the Gas Back On. Shane brought up an interesting point though, that he had always listened to music as a songwriter as opposed to a bass player. Since he’s started to listen to music as a bass player, he’s improved, he says. I used to listen to songs as a guitar player, and as a songwriter second. In the last five years, it’s been the opposite, and I sort of abandoned improving at guitar. Being in Two Cow, however, has given me a new urge to get the books and scales out and REALLY learn how to play properly. Murph said the same thing. He’s been drumming for over half his life, but never really learned how to play drums. Rock and roll is a strange and wonderful thing where the emotion is more important than the technique. However, we all want to get better with the actual “playing” part. Murph and I both have this want to hit the books when we get home and really zero in on becoming GOOD players. We do this for a living, and we should take it seriously, we decided. For the first time ever, I want to go home and PRACTICE. Just some random van thoughts.

May 19
Today we found out that the Columbus Replacements show that was cancelled will have not be rescheduled. Two Cow Garage has been perpetually the band of “almost”. I think it’s part of the blue collar, working man charm the band has, but it’s definitely not by design. We were so excited about that show. It would have been the biggest show the band had ever played, opening up for THE band. The Replacements might as well be Led Zeppelin or the Stones. Not that this would have been our big break or anything like that. We know better than to believe that. It would have been a nice moment for us though, the type of thing you tell your grandkids about. Now it’s just another foul tip. Another “almost”. So it goes.
Indianapolis tonight. New day.

Tonight is the last show of the Two Cow/Tim Barry tour, so if you or your friends are in Louisville be sure to check it out!! There are still some more tour diaries on the way next week…

5/22 – Louisville, KY @ Haymarket Whiskey Bar
Upcoming Tim Barry Tour Dates:
5/24 – Las Vegas, NV @ Punk Rock Bowling
6/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
6/19 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes
6/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
6/21 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
6/23 – Montreal, Canada @ Divan Orange
6/24 – Toronto, Canada @ Lee’s Place
6/25 – Buffalo, NY @ The Studio at Waiting Room
6/26 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub
6/27 – Richmond, VA @ The Camel
 
And while you’re at it, pick up music from Two Cow and Tim Barry!

Two Cow Garage Tour Diary Part 2 – Todd Farrell

todd cow garage
[Here’s our next installment of Todd Farrell’s tour diary documenting life on the road with one of his favorite bands, Two Cow Garage! Photo credit @joemaiocco]
May 16
Last nights Columbus show was a really fun one. I’m glad it was, because I wasn’t feeling so great towards the end of the drive in. My throat has been killing me from allergies for the last week or so, and it all kicked on in full force when we got to Columbus. I was pretty low key, didn’t drink much and just inhaled water at every moment. I was worried it would be a bad show (for me) because of it all, but once the house music was cut and the lights came down, adrenaline took over, and all was well.
We played after Tim because it was Columbus. He still had a bigger crowd than we did, but there were still a huge chunk of his crowd that still stuck around to hear us. During load out, Tim came over to Micah and I and said “I think you guys are the best rock and roll band in the world.”
It was Micah’s birthday, and his dad (Jon) was at the show. He was a super nice guy, and brought cupcakes for the band. We talked for a long time about music, East Nashville folks like Otis Gibbs and Tim Easton, guitars, and just everything. He was the sweetest dude, and I’m glad I got to meet him. Vanessa also brought cupcakes, so I thing we’ll be pretty set on sweets for the rest of the tour (if anyone’s thinking of making us cupcakes at some point on this tour, please don’t). Sugar overload in the Two Cow camp.
Being in Columbus, we just went to our homes (and me to Micah and Vanessa’s). She loaded me up on tea, vitamins, salt water, and every other remedy possible for my throat, and I’m feeling much better this morning. Tonight we play at the Grog shop in Cleveland.
May 17
Cleveland has definitely been the best show of the tour so far. So many people came out to the Grog Shop to see both Tim and Two Cow. It’s amazing to play to a ton of people and have a ton of people screaming the words back at you, something I’m still getting used to. I’ve started leaving my mic during “Let the Boys be Girls” because I still have that Two Cow fan in me that just wants to sing along with my arms around the people around me. During the “ba ba ba da ba ba” outro, I tend to just get next to the crowd and sing with them. I feel better there.
Tim Barry told the crowd that he thinks Two Cow Garage is the best rock and roll band in the world. That was the coolest. He also told the entire St. Louis gear theft story with it. I had t really thought about that in a while, which I think is a good thing, but it was also a good thing to be reminded. “The best and worst 24 hours of our lives” is something we tend to describe it as. Everything we own that has any value at all, gone in an instant. Then in 5 hours, this amazing music community we’re part of basically gave it all back to us. It’s still surreal to think about. People can be ugly, but people can also be the most wonderful creatures. Most of the people coming to these shows are the latter. It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so much love.
Driving to Detroit tomorrow.
Upcoming Two Cow Garage/Tim Barry shows:
5/19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
5/20 – Chicago, IL @ Gman Tavern
5/21 – St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
5/22 – Louisville, KY @ Haymarket Whiskey Bar
And while you’re at it, pick up music from Two Cow and Tim Barry!

Two Cow Garage Tour Diary Part 1 – Todd Farrell

timmidwest-700x700

So one thing we like over here at Ninebullets is learning about the other side of the equation, and seeing what’s going on with the artists who make the music we love. Todd Farrell Jr., a singer/songwriter whose endeavors have been covered here at 9b before, recently joined fan-favorite band Two Cow Garage as an additional guitarist. We asked Todd to share with us what it was like being a newly minted member of one of his favorite bands.

May 13, 2015

The drive from Nashville, TN to Columbus, OH is one I’m beginning to feel I could do in my sleep, which is a good thing, because it might be the only chance to sleep I get. It was a week ago that I was driving up this way to rehearse for the (heartbreakingly) cancelled show at the LC opening for the Replacements, then back home for the weekend to squeeze a show in with Bill Eberle, and then right back up. Bowling Green, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus. On the way home I always miss my Louisville exit and go through Lexington and the Bluegrass Parkway, or whatever it’s called. But I do it every time, so it might as well be part of the route.
I’m excited to tour with Tim Barry. Being “officially” in Two Cow Garage is still pretty surreal to me, and being part of this world that five years ago, I only knew through shows and blogs. Tim is another one of those names that I’ve always looked up to and respected, and now we’ll be right there with him for a week and a half.
Shane played at Treebar tonight with Kevin Seconds (yep, that’s the one), another one of those names. Kevin put on a great show of songs he’d never played before, which I respected. I have a hard enough time with songs I play every night, so brand new material on the road is a whole different animal. Shane was wonderful, as always. He has this ability to talk to a crowd like everyone in the world is his oldest friend, and everyone believes they are. The songs from his next EP are also wonderful, and I’m excited for its release.
I’m spending the night at Micah and Vanessa’s, as usual. Tomorrow we wake up early to drive to Baltimore for night one.
March 15,
Last night was a lot of fun. As soon as I got out of the van, Tim busted out of the venue and gave us all a hug, including me having never met him before. “You must be Todd. I know you on the social media stuff, good to finally meet ya.” And just like that, I’m part of the club.
The show was great. It took me about three songs to get comfortable again, being the first night of tour, but afterwards it was smooth sailing from then on out.
I had never seen Tim play before, and I was blown away. Such a great lesson in both honesty and storytelling. Most of his stories are absolutely true, and make the hair stand up on the back of your neck with its authenticity. Even the stories that are “stories” still have a way of being honest. His relationship with his crowd is something that really excites me. He can stop in the middle of a song, bark a side-note and then some instructions, and fall back into the whole thing flawlessly. It’s really inspiring.
We stayed the night at our good buddy Nick Liechty’s house, complete with records, 20 year Pappy van Winkle bourbon, and white-trash frozen food. It felt like home.
Back to Columbus tonight to play Ace of Cups.
Upcoming Two Cow Garage/Tim Barry shows:
5/19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
5/20 – Chicago, IL @ Gman Tavern
5/21 – St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
5/22 – Louisville, KY @ Haymarket Whiskey Bar
And while you’re at it, pick up music from Two Cow and Tim Barry!

TWO COW GARAGE ANNOUNCES FUTURE PLANS

tcg

Ninebullets’ own rock darlings, Two Cow Garage, have let folks in on their path forward:

“Today we release the first in a series of singles that will, ultimately, lead to our next record. The plan is to release two (or so) singles, then an EP, rinse, repeat, until we release a collective record (also with new material).”

First of these singles was “Let The Boys Be Girls”, available over on their bandcamp for the very reasonable fee of a single dollar bill.

The emerging social media culture makes it difficult for bands to continue to embrace the traditional record release structure, and Two Cow are trying something different to keep their audience engaged and themselves on the road: a worthy endeavor if there ever was one. This tour they’re also bringing along Todd Farrell (of Todd Farrell Jr. & The Dirty Birds) on guitar, and I can’t wait to hear where the band is musically by the time they get around to my neck of the woods.

There’s a lot to say about this song that I’m going to save for another post, but I’m unbelievably happy that it was written; especially that it was written by one of my favorite bands. At this year’s Holiday Hangout, the entire crowd was singing along a month and a half before the track was released. That’s power.

So, buy the single, check the band out on Facebook and Twitter, and then go ahead and let the boys be girls because who the fuck do you think you are anyways.

HOLIDAY HANGOUT 2014 ROAD REPORT

Two Cow Hangout

This year’s celebration of Last Chance Records head honcho Travis Hill’s birthday, like every year, was also a celebration of life in general. The pins given out in the VIP package summed up the 2014 that so many of us had: ‘Hard Work And Plenty Of It’. I’m sure by now most of you who read this site have been inundated with Holiday Hangout 2014 tweets, photographs, or drunken text messages, and now that the event is over may be breathing a sigh of relief. But not so fast; I still have a few things to say.

The Holiday Hangout is much more than a simple concert, or mere festival: it’s a rock and roll family reunion. This year four 9bullets writers (Charles, RSV, Scott, and myself) gathered with dozens of our closest friends and sang our hearts out to our favorite bands. Those are the things you may have picked of from the never-ending Instagram updates from Little Rock that got less frequent and blurrier as the night, and weekend, went on. I want to tell you about a few things you may not have been able to perceive from over the internet. There may be some friends I made or artists who played that I don’t mention, and for that I apologize. I think every Holiday Hangout might require a novella (and spare liver) to cover adequately, but I have the time and space I have. What follows are the key moments, observations, and musings from my White Water Tavern nights this December:

  • Austin Lucas – Just as this year has been hard for some of us, it sounds like it’s been a hard year for the smooth-voiced Lucas as well. For his set (backed by his band The Bold Party), Austin pulled out all the stops to deliver a powerful rock and roll performance. He also played songs from his new record, which I’m already unbelievably excited for. Those songs have a distinctly more country feel than Stay Reckless, but their true defining quality is the incredible songwriting. Austin has always been a storyteller, but what was on display here was an attitude and clear-eyed determination pouring through his lyrics that I haven’t seen from him before. He also joined in with Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires for their barn-burner “Dirt Track”, and watching the passion with which he sang “Keep on working, keep it on the dirt track” was inspiring. Now is the time to pay attention to Austin Lucas.
  • John Moreland – Yes, yes, you know. John was amazing, and his new songs hit you in all the places you thought In The Throes had already thoroughly covered. It’s like Robin Hood hitting the bullseye with another arrow. The general consensus is that John’s mainsteam success is a matter of when, not if, and I for one am glad of it. John Moreland’s music comes straight, no chaser, and the rest of the world could use plenty of it.
  • Magic Mike – Some of you may be wondering who the magician hanging out with bands all the time is, and why he’s there. Go see his show and you’ll see. Mike loves these bands as much as any of us (he got Red Collar their first gig at the White Water years ago), and he knows how to show a crowd a good time. He also threw a knife at me. It was a good weekend.
  • Jkutchma and Red Collar – I was ill-prepared for seeing Red Collar. Last year JKutchma had to play two solo sets, an ice storm preventing the rest of the band from making the Hangout. I’d listened to Red Collar’s albums and liked their music, but wasn’t a new convert. This performance may have changed that. Red Collar is a powerful band, full of explosive energy and straight-to-the-point lyrics. Their fans, unconditionally devoted, were unbelievably excited to see the band and it showed in the messy, sweaty, almost conversational relationship between those on the stage and those in front of it. I spent the entirety of their set wanting to get to know the band’s music better so that I could take part in that relationship. JKutchma also played solo, and I can tell you this about his new songs: you want to hear them.
  • Two Cow Garage – This is the band that will not quit. Micah Schnabel and Shane Sweeney keep turning out new songs that are as catchy as they are visceral, lyrically potent, emotionally charged. When you see them on stage you cannot doubt that they mean every word they say. The musicianship and energy of their drummer, David Murphy, have propelled them to a new sonic plane (which I think is a D&D thing, actually). You would hardly recognize some of their older songs the way they play them now, and all the change is for the better. Micah and Shane both played new songs during their solo sets, and demonstrated the range of their songwriting. Two Cow Garage is not a peanut butter/chocolate situation, folks: these are two men who have been writing songs for years, managing to grow both on their own and together as a band. It’s a wonder to behold. And speaking of peanut butter, for their full band set they were joined on guitar by 9bullets reader favorite Todd Farrell, and speaking of Todd Farrell…
  • Todd FarrellIt’s hard when your friends make music. First off, what if it isn’t good? Second off, what if you think it’s good but that’s just because you’re friends and the rest of the world hates it and your friend has to become an insurance salesman? Well after the Holiday Hangout I can safely say neither of those cases are true for our friend Todd Farrell. In addition to playing guitar for Two Cow, Todd also played solo at the Arkansas Record Exchange In-Store show (trading his guitar off with Austin Lucas), and one song on Sunday at the demand of Micah Schnabel. The response that Todd received, not just from the crowd but from his fellow musicians, was incredibly heartening. You could see the bonds forming, the songwriters nodding to each other over a clever turn of phrase, laughter and applause mid-song from a crowd on the edges of their proverbial seats because they were seeing something new. The first night of the Hangout, Todd was walking up the stairs at the White Water as Otis Gibbs, grey-bearded bastion of folk, was walking down them. They stopped at the landing and spoke with each other for a few minutes, I have no idea about what. But then they shook hands and they headed their separate ways. That moment felt important to witness.

So there you have it, my take on this year’s Holiday Hangout. Thanks to everyone at the White Water who made it happen, everyone who played, everyone who went and sang and shouted and danced and swore and shook. All we have to do to get to the next one is make it through another year.

Here’s a video of Micah Schnabel, Brent Best, David Murphy, Todd Farrell, Joey Kneiser, Ben Nichols, John Moreland, Travis Hill, and Shane Sweeney playing “Like A Rolling Stone”. If you have to skip past the first three minutes of laughter and terrible jokes because Shane forgot to plug his guitar in, that’s what you have to do. But I don’t recommend it.

If you like the picture above be sure to check out Melissa Brawner Photography, who took some AMAZING photographs that you may just want to buy a print of, as did Carra Martin!

Did you have any favorite moments this Holiday Hangout, or questions about the shows? Leave a comment and let’s talk! Or hit us up on Twitter, @Real9Bullets!

[Playlist] Ninebullets Radio – 06.28.2014 – 88.5FM WMNF Tampa

Back up in the cut with all sorts of new shit this week. New Lucero. New Gaslight Anthem. New Old Crow Medicine Show. New Sturgill Simpson. Old Whitey Morgan and The 78’s. So what the fuck are you waiting on? Carve out two hours and drop your earholes on the archive of the show.

Below is the playlist for June 28, 2014 [Artist – Song (Album)]

01. Steeldrivers – Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey (The Steeldrivers)
02. Lucero – Tears Don’t Matter Much (Live In Atlanta)
03. The Gaslight Anthem – Rollin’ & Tumblin’ (Get Hurt)
04. The Underhill Family Orchestra – The Great Wausau Bank Robbery (Stories Of Appalachia Proper)
05. Seth Walker – 2′ Left to the Ceiling (Seth Walker)
06. Kathleen Edwards – I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory (Asking For Flowers)
07. Arlo McKinely & The Lonesome Sound – Dark Side Of The Street (self-titled)
08. Nikki Lane – Wild One (All or Nothin’)
09. Big Shoals – 12 Steps (Still Go On)
10. Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band – Hard To Hear The Truth (Promises To Deliver)
11. First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Stay Gold)
12. Matt Woods – Lucero Song (With Love From Brushy Mountain)
13. Drive-By Truckers – Zip City (Southern Rock Opera)
14. Todd Farrell – Pawnshops (All My Heroes Live In Vans)
15. Chuck Ragan – Non-Typical (Till Midnight)
16. Old Crow Medicine Show – Doc’s Day (Remedy)
17. Kasey Anderson – I Was A Photograph (Blake’s Song) (Nowhere Nights)
18. Jason Isbell – Dress Blues (Live From Alabama)
19. Cale Caudle – Countdown (Paint Another Layer On My Heart)
20. Frank Turner – The Road (Last Minutes & Lost Evenings)
21. Lydia Loveless – Head (Somewhere Else)
22. Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Body Electric (Small Town Heroes)
23. Doc Feldman & the LD50 – Cold Tile Floor (Sundowning The Station)
24. Sturgill Simpson – The Promise (Metamodern Sounds In Country Music)
25. Ben Knight and The Welldiggers – Hammerdropper (The Divining Rod)
26. Whitey Morgan and the 78s – I Ain’t Drunk (self-titled)
27. Hellbound Glory – Streets of Aberdeen (LV)

Bold = Request

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P.S.: If you like this show, do me a favor and post about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It’ll do a lot to help these bands reach new ears…and in the end, that’s what this is all about. It’ll also help bring the existence of the radio show to more people’s attention & the more people there are listening/paying attention to the show the more likely it is to stay on the air.

Episode 182: aired 06.28.2014