Alabama Shakes – Glory Hallelujah!
Here I am at the once storied, Crocodile Cafe. About to have a life altering show experience with the buzz worthy band, Alabama Shakes. I had no idea that it would be this good as I purchsed my ticket six weeks ago when a friend told me to check out the show. Thanks Kyla, for the great tip.
Lead singer, Brittany Howard starts Church and I was completely swept away. She and her band had the audience, quoting Dickens here, “listening to sweet music in a perfect rapture”. Although, not all their music is best described as “sweet music”. Sweet would be too soft of a word to describe Brittany’s vocals. That babe can belt! Hallelujah, amen! She can also, bring a tear to your eye. Is this what it was like at an Otis Redding show? It had to be a similar baptismal experience. Alabama Shake’s music washes over and you feel reborn into a world that is somehow better. I feel like a better person having been witness to their glory. Minds were blown all throughout that lucky Crocodile crowd. And the crowd was plentiful, people were crammed into every inch of that club. Everyone jostling for a good vantage point to catch a glimpse of “the next big thing”. I didn’t see one unhappy fan in the crowd last night. I also had a total stranger walk past me and exclaim that my face was “expressing sheer joy”. The same could be said for the faces of Alabama Shakes. Those kids, clearly, love their job.
How am I this lucky?! I just spent a portion of the past two days with “the next big thing”. I got to hang out with members of this most impressive band, Alabama Shakes. If you know nothing about these kids don’t waste anymore of your life not devouring anything and everything that they create. If it weren’t so obnoxious, I would be exclamation pointing every sentence I write about this band! You get the idea, I think these guys rule the school. The toughest school. In any neighborhood. In any city. Their talent is formidable. Go see their live show when it comes to your town and then look up the definition of “formidable”. I just gave you homework. Get used to it, cause you are going to get schooled by this band when you do see them live. These guys are brilliant songwriters, talented musicians, solid performers, and excellent human beings!! Did you notice the double exclamation? That was cause I really meant that part about being excellent human beings. Honest to god, humble, engaging, sweet, well mannered, grateful, funny, generous, down home kind of folk.
We met because a mutual acquaintance gave them my number. This is Alabama Shake’s first time playing this city. They knew no one and had a day off. I was their tour guide if they needed it or just their Yelp of the Puget Sound if they needed a good 411 on food and the happenings for their much needed day of rest(?) in Seattle. I stopped by their hotel room and met Steve Johnson and Brittany Howard, drummer and lead singer. “Ah man, these guys are so sweet and nice. I just want to put em in my pocket and carry em around with me all day” is what I was thinking as we had our introductions and sat down to chat. All I knew about Alabama Shakes was that people were buzzing pretty heavy about these cats and that their live shows were destroying audiences everywhere they went. I’m pretty glad that I went in nearly blind. I had a genuine and fun encounter with two people who are about to have their world changed, drastically, in the next year. Hopefully, it will change for so much better than they can dream of. They deserve it. Not all bands do. But this band does. Their music, it comes from a good place. It comes from the soul. A soul, that as far as I can tell, is sincere and is willing to share it’s most beautiful and engaging expressions. I didn’t know that as we conversed. I hadn’t been to the church of Brittany Howard yet. I gave them dining options, including the option of a home cooked meal at my house before their show at The Crocodile, Tuesday night. They seemed to jump at the offer of home cooked. They showed me a hilarious picture of Steve and Zac Cockrell, the bassist, that was taken outside a mini mart in Canada the night before. They had surrounded their faces with their hands full of deep fried gut bombs. Corn dogs, meat pies and a burrito so big that it is hanging over one of their wrists. They let me know that they would invite the rest of the band, but would most likely only be the two of them. We had ourselves a deal. They would do sound check then come over for dinner and then back to The Croc to please the sold out crowd.
Turns out they had an interview to do with a British music magazine right after sound check. See, what’d I tell you about the buzz? They are about to head to Britain for a 10 day tour and for, what I’m almost sure will be, a media frenzy. Britain better pull up their knickers and tighten their shoelaces……socks will be knocked off! Brittany got held up and couldn’t get away. Steve came solo. I had a few of my great and hilarious friends over, they were going to the show too. Steve walked into the middle of some serious girl talk, lucky fella . We listened to Nilsson Schmilsson. When it was over, I sent Steve to my living room and asked him to pick the next record. I have a wall full of records from Townes Van Zandt to New Birth. Steve picks Thin Lizzy Jailbreak. Excellent choice, my new friend. We had a little chat about our mutual love of vinyl. Record nerds unite!. Time got away from us, everyone was talking over each other, lots of laughing and eating. I, now, knew that the night ahead of us was going to be epic!
Epic is a downplay. Everyone who’s anyone (from Seattle anyways) was at that show last night. Memories were made, some of them not fit for print. A solid fan base was formed for this rising star of a band. The ecstatic crowd waited, chanting “Shakes” before the band returned for their encore. Again, they crushed us. Their, now, devoted fans.
Backstage was full of well wishers and people in awe of the nights performance. It was cleared out when I said my proper “great show” to Brittany. I smothered her with praise and she charmingly accepted more worship from my companions. We ended up talking and bonding tough in the next 15 or so minutes. My friend Joy asked her what the lyrics were to her song about the “new boyfriend wanting to take the kids out”. Britt started by just speaking the words and ended up singing A Capella. We had our own private sermon. I couldn’t help myself, once she was done singing I went in for a giant bear hug. I vomited more adoration on the wonderful Miss Howard.
No doubt that we will see this band rise to much deserved fame. Conversions to the faith will be wide sweeping and music venues/revival tents will be filled.
Run, don’t walk, to witness Alabama Shakes preachin to the choir!