Blues rock

Coachella Band Preview: Alabama Shakes

Too hyped that Coachella is only 3 weeks away? Me too. I’ve been listening to music, planning what to pack, and figuring out some other things I need for my arrival in beautiful Southern California. It’s about to get so real. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to blog about a band from the south playing the festival this year for their first time, Alabama Shakes.

Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell began writing songs while still in high school together in Athens, Alabama. They recruited drummer Steve Johnson to join the group  prior to recording some of the tracks they had been working on. Later, guitarist Heath Fogg came on board and so began their life as Alabama Shakes. They were formerly just called The Shakes but added the “Alabama” to differentiate from other bands also known as The Shakes. Their first album Boys & Girls was released in April of 2012, but they started gaining attention prior to that due to the release of a four song EP in September 2011. The band received Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Performance” the following year for their work on the debut album.

I first heard of Alabama Shakes in the spring of 2012 shortly after the release of Boys & Girls. I heard the single “Hold On” and really enjoyed it. Then I remember reading about the group/album thinking, “these guys are gonna be like Foster the People was last year. I need to get into them before everyone else finds out about how good they are. (I like to say I knew about bands “first”.)” So I went out and bought the album. I told all my friends to listen to them. I saw they were touring and selling out shows after a solid performance at SXSW (South by Southwest) that year. However, what I thought would happen didn’t really happen as I expected. Alabama Shakes did end up receiving those Grammy nominations that were predicted when I first heard about them, but I still think Foster the People blew up more.

The band plays a blues, soulful type of rock known as roots rock, which is a combination of folk, blues, and country rock. They could also be classified in the Americana genre. Now that I think about it, it makes total sense why I got into Alabama Shakes in spring 2012. It was also at that point that my interest in The Black Keys started to peak. I purchased El Camino probably a month before I got Boys & Girls. Although I wouldn’t classify their styles and sounds as being the same, both Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have some similarity with the blues rock sound they produce. Alabama Shakes definitely has more soul and a country-ish feel to their music though. I guess I kind of progressed to Alabama Shakes after listening to The Black Keys.

Like some other bands/artists playing Coachella this year, Alabama Shakes also have a new album due out soon after the festival (the week after Weekend 2 to be exact). The sophomore album is called Sound & Color and the group has already released two singles from it, “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, but I doubt those will be the only new tracks the band plays in Indio. This year Alabama Shakes joins Coachella for the first time in a minor headlining role. They play Friday on both weekends. There’s not that many bands I have on my must-see list for Friday, but Alabama Shakes is one of them. I remember wanting to see them in 2012, but not having anyone to go with (at that point I wasn’t too keen on going places by myself). So now I can finally fulfill those wishes.

Song recommendations:

1. Hold On

2.Don’t Wanna Fight

3. Hang Loose

4. Always Alright

5. You Ain’t Alone

6. Be Mine

7. I Found You

Little Black Submarines Operator Please

I know it’s been more than a week since I posted. I also know I promised myself I would post weekly. However, I planned to update after Saturday and in the interim between then and my last post I went through some technical difficulties. That and the fact that I wasn’t really sure what to post about just yet prevented a new blog. Anyway, I’m back and it’s finally time to get into music, my favorite subject.

Dan Auerbach melting my face.

Dan Auerbach melting my face.

So Saturday was a pretty big deal. I attended a Black Keys concert in Philly that had been in my plans since I got a ticket in May. At the time I had recently been at a festival where I had lawn tickets for an outdoor venue. As a result, it was difficult to see anything besides a video screen of the acts. Not as good as actually seeing the acts. I promised myself the next opportunity I had to see live music I would go all out and get as close as possible. That opportunity came a few days later and I “splurged” to get general admission tickets for the Keys. (Thanks of course to my little Beans who attended with me and also agreed to go all in on the tickets.)

The Black Keys are a solid band by my standards. Composed of guitarist, Dan Auerbach, and drummer, Patrick Carney, they’ve been around for quite a while but have recently gained more mainstream success. They play a blues rock style filled with catchy riffs and licks. They also have a few successful albums and grammy awards to their name.

I first heard of them/started listening to them about 2 1/2 years ago around the time of the release of their album El Camino (I know I’m late to the party…you can shun me). I downloaded some of their songs prior to the album release, but I was hooked by the song Lonely Boy. I ended up purchasing the album. I remember thinking around that time that I’d like to see them live so with the release of their new album this year and plans to tour for it, I had the chance to make that happen.

Fast forward to Saturday.

Somehow it worked out that we got a spot right behind some folks on the stage barrier on the right side of the stage so I had the best view of a show/concert I’ve had in a while. Cage the Elephant opened for the Black Keys on this particular tour date (St. Vincent and Jake Bugg will be opening some of their other dates). As an opening band, they were fun and full of high energy which got the crowd going. Plus most people around us seemed to know their music well.

The Black Keys began their set around 9:20 and played til about 11:00 p.m. which included a three song encore of Weight of Love, Turn Blue, and Little Black Submarines. They played straight from start to finish with not many breaks to talk or chit chat with the audience. The only major break came right before the encore (as expected). Some people might not like that as much. I tend to prefer a bit of audience intereaction as well, but for some reason what they did was fine with me. It was full on music the whole set. Between our view and the amount of music played, I really enjoyed the show. It also helped that I knew a vast majority of the songs played. Trust me, it sucks when you don’t. I worried initially because the Black Keys put out a decent number of records to which I knew a couple like the back of my hand and a song or two off the others. I had no reason to worry though. All the well known hits were played along with a few older songs. It was a great set, a killer evening, and I hope everyone else in attendance enjoyed it as much as me.

Lastly when it comes to any music posts, I’ll leave you with songs you need to check out by the bands I write about. So here’s my Black Keys top 3:

1. Sinister Kid – As I was doing my pre-show prep of constantly listening to the Keys this song caught me off guard and I really got into it. Unfortunately they did not play it at the show but it’s extremely catchy and worth a listen.

2. Tighten Up – This was arguably the track that started the Black Keys boost to the top off their album Brothers.

3. Lonely Boy – The song that hooked me on the Black Keys. My friend Justin and I did a pretty sick guitar duet cover of it too.