The Soundcheck, November 2012
By j. Gabrielle
What a whirlwind Fall this is turning out to be! This column will be part confession this month. I have been SO covered up; I’ve not been able to make the rounds to live shows that I usually do. The beginning of October was the Virginia State Fair. I would love to offer you a review of that! I saw Diamond Rio, The Kentucky Head Hunters, Starwood! (A John Denver Tribute), The Rhinestone Roper & Lucky Joe; a fabulous Wild West show, and even a genuine FREAK SHOW! Then it was back to Roanoke for several gigs and packing for a cruise as a face painter at the end of the month. In the middle of all of this, Mac Daddy and I did manage a Friday night out to catch a couple of bands.
Gloom, Despair N Agony at The Village Grill was our first stop. The power three-piece is very tight and has just the right sound for “punk-billy, surf”. Their 10-song CD “Love Songs for the Zombie Apocalypse” is the perfect soundtrack to a stormy October Monday morning. I have to say I am enjoying hearing the nuances and lyrics to these well-written songs, something I missed at the live show. I have already made a mental note to myself to see these guys at a big stage. The Village Grill is a tough place for me to enjoy music. The sound is always terrible, too loud, too distorted. There is a tidal flow to the room as smokers periodically exit en masse to the deck. Lead singer Chad Jordan had a good sense of humor about it and seemed to enjoy entertaining friends and family. Bassist Randall Houchins sang a couple of songs, including a unique arrangement of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear a word he sang. Same case when drummer Michael “King” Pendleton took the vocal on a Dead Volts tune. The band has a good look and Chad is able to converse comfortably with the audience. I detected no arrogance from the band - like they should be playing some place better – but they should be.
Our second, and last stop of the evening was a benefit show for murder victim Anthony Hall and family at Growler’s. The turnout for the event was HUGE for the three bands. Another confession; I was already kicking myself as I entered the door for I realized I had once again missed Valley Blend writer J.D. and his band Madrone! Forgive me J.D. I’ll get there! We did, however, make it in time for The Floorboards.
This was a band I knew nothing about except I loved the name and I knew drummer George “RockSteady” Penn. George is one of those magical people to me that I just know whatever he’s involved in, I’m probably gonna like it. Sure enough, just minutes into their set, I was all happy feet at the lyric-based country rock. Tunes like “A Woman Named Whiskey” and “Pistol and a Bottle” are catchy and radio ready. The band bio reads, “The Floorboards marry rock n' roll and country roots music with the sights and sounds of southern mountain towns. Jake and George shake the leaves from the trees. Bob wails like steam whistle cutting through the pines. Patrick coaxes stringed cries from the hills and hollers. Matt tells the story.” Excellent description! I hear comparisons to Uncle Tupelo, and locally, to work by Michael Mitchell and Clayton Ellers. Must be the fiddle? Jake Dempsey is on bass, Bob Chew, steel guitar, dobro, vocals, Patrick Turner on fiddle. mandolin and vocals, Matt Browning is the lead singer and rhythm guitar. Back to that dreary Monday morning, this band is the perfect soundtrack to disappearing broken clouds and sunshine comin’ down.
I promise to revisit these bands at a later date. Both are far more multi-faceted than this short musing can tell. They deserve more space and they deserve more fans! C’mon Roanoke! SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC!