Making my way to what I hope becomes an annual jaunt to 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville to see Rival Sons, I listened into a friend named Bratcher. He happens to be an FM dj in the Bowling Green/Glasgow area of Kentucky. While he spun today’s hits like Nothing More and Staind, mixed with a little Aerosmith and Billy Idol, I couldn’t help but think, what if? What if he were playing Rival Sons or Vintage Trouble or Leogun or Reignwolf? What if the world opened their eyes and ears to real musicians again? Those questions soon became why not? Why is he or any other DJ not playing those bands? It’s certainly not Bratcher’s fault or any DJ’s fault for that matter. They play what people want to hear. What they request. It’s up to the fans and apparently, we’ve all given up a bit.
Every revolution has a spark. A leader. What if Rival Sons led us back to the glory days of rock n roll? Seeing the line to get in the door at 3rd & Lindsley, why not was suddenly met with a surreal validity. Mind you 3rd & Lindsley isn’t Madison Square Garden, but when you see a line full of teenagers, thirty somethings, biker dudes, “hippie” chicks, businessmen/women and they’re all in line 45 minutes before the doors open, there for a show that starts 2 hours and 45 minutes later…You gotta think people are hungry for REAL music. Are we seeing a change? That question lingered all night for me.
Kicking off the night was a band that I had only heard briefly before the show. The Soft White Sixties (TSWS) brought their unique style all the way from San Francisco. Introducing a dancy vibe to a “sardine can like” packed crowd. Hot, sweaty and ready to have fun, the crowd, as did I, began rather timid in their attitude towards TSWS. If I’m honest, I just wasn’t feeling it after three or so songs. But, almost like an epiphany moment, something clicked. Suddenly, I got it. It all made sense and the party was then on. I’m pretty confident, after being asked by numerous fans at that point who the band was, I wasn’t the only one that had that reaction.
The moment happened when along came a song titled Don’t Lie To Me. I’ll dub it “Sabbath Soul”. There was a Tony Iommi/Black Sabbath vibe to the simple riff, that was taken over by vocalist Octavio Genera his soulful melody that totally made sense in a weird way. Now I’m not saying the song was heavy like Sabbath, it was just a great groove in a simplistic Iommi fashion. It was from that point until the end of their set, that the crowd and band alike were having a blast. The crowd was grooving. The band was happy and often times were seen dancing to their own music. Good times.
I do want to add that bass player Ryan Noble really held the band together for me. Similar in style to the old days of Motown, where the rhythm section is often times the main course, while the guitars are more of a garnishment, TSWS played a spirited set with great instrumentation and had plenty of new fans dancing along.
The Soft White Sixties:
Then it was time. Time for rising rock royalty Rival Sons to take the stage in the town that birthed their new album Great Western Valkyrie. (You can read my review of the album here) Scott Holiday and his NASTY tone tore into Electric Man and just like that, our destination was on course. (I know you Sons fans see what I did there.) The ride continued as the band treated us to some Good Luck just before they told us a Secret. Speaking of Secret…HOLY CRAP!! I knew I loved this song, but seeing it live is a whole new ballgame. That little repetitive guitar lick sounded like the starter on a big ole V8 engine and when those boys hit that throttle, we were pinned back in our seats and could do NOTHING but enjoy the ride. It’s kind of like seeing the drop at the top of the hill on a roller coaster, you know what’s coming, but you also know that fear and sheer awesomeness are about to overtake your very being. We had no say, as we were simply passengers on an 80,000 HP rocket that I like to call Rival Sons. That. Was. Fun.
Next came an incredibly fun version of Play the Fool, followed up by the current single Good Things. Good Things was the first song that slowed the pace a bit. After breaking the sound barrier for 15 minutes or so, the band brought things down a bit and showed us a groovy side. Yeah man, I said groovy. The sonic atmosphere was the perfect blanket for the sold out crowd. Vocalist Jay Buchanan was feeling it as well. After being a bit under the weather for a couple of days, he seemingly “sweated out” his sickness and gave possibly his smoothest vocal performance on the night during Good Things.
After playing the first five songs from the new album, I thought we may get treated to the album in it’s entirety, but sadly no. I say sadly, because…well I’m greedy. Ha! By the end of the night, we did end up with 7 of the 10 new songs, so I’m certainly not complaining. More on the other two songs later though.
Stomping back on the throttle, the band took us back to their self-titled EP with a performance of Torture. The twangy riff is perfect for the Nashville crowd, so it was a no-brainer on this night. Our next stop took us back to the album Pressure and Time. As one of my favorites from that album, Gypsy Heart, pulled the crowd in even closer. Which by this point, I didn’t think was possible. I was certainly having my issues fighting my way out of the crowd to get back to my spot, when Jay stepped even closer to the front of the stage and I literally felt the entire crowd tighten up and move towards the stage. It was a little surreal. I chuckled a bit as I thought to myself, “We’re all little metal pegs and Jay is Magneto.” It was a really cool moment, but a little scary with such pricey camera equipment in hand.
After Gypsy Heart, Jay took a moment to discuss the fact that the band had just released their new album. He spoke of all the success the band is currently having on the radio charts of other countries. But that didn’t satisfy him. As he stated, he’s not from those countries and there is a lot of work left to do here in the States. It was a bit of a call to arms for those in attendance and a nice insight into the drive for acceptance the band has here on their home turf.
That led into the biggest sing-a-long on the night. The absolutely stunning Jordan. If you’ve never heard this song, you should honestly be ashamed…kidding!! Sort of. Ha! It’s a song about loss and one that every single person can relate to. For me, this song has a very personal meaning. As I relive the loss of my Dad, each and every time I hear it. Knowing the peace that he had as he moved on, the lyric “I’ve never seen nothing as beautiful, as watching you slip away” rips me apart. Sometimes though, we need to pain to assure us that we are alive. I’m incredibly thankful for this song and especially that moment and the ability to feel that connection over and over. So Jay, if you happen to read this, I thank you dearly.
Jordan, in a live environment, is where you really notice what sets Jay Buchanan apart from most any other vocalist out there. You not only hear the pain in his voice, it’s palpable. Keeping his eyes closed in concentration for the majority of the song, he pulls every ounce of his being from within, audibly poring it over each and every person in the room. It’s a moment that I don’t think I can or ever will tire of. It’s honestly exhausting to watch, but it’s so incredibly powerful.
Returning us to Great Western Valkyrie for the last two songs of the main set, The Rich and the Poor was up next. With it’s sexy (Can I say sexy?) story and huge whooooaaa moments, I was stunned at just how well the song came off live. I’m certainly not taking anything away from the recording here, but live, the tones were heavier, and the dynamics were much more pronounced and the vibe was..well, epic. Wait, wait. I can’t use the word epic here, because that belongs with the last song of the main set, Open My Eyes. I had a nice, neat little description worked up for this song’s performance, then I summed it up even better as I spoke with Scott. I’ll just leave what I told him here, “I knew I loved Open My Eyes Scott, but I was not ready for just how THUNDEROUS it came off live. That song is gonna be in your setlist a looooooonnngggg time. It’s a classic my friend.” I really can’t add anything else, except maybe the word EPIC.
Here, see for yourself. Rival Sons – Open My Eyes in Nashville:
After a very brief break, the band returned to the stage for an encore. Most bands play a couple songs, say their goodbyes and disappear rather quickly. Not Rival Sons. Nope. They returned to perform FOUR more songs!! With such an awesome, draining performance of Open My Eyes ending the main set, they’re coming out to something slow to extend their break a bit. Right? Wrong! The band breaks into the 8:20 massive jam Manifest Destiny Part 1. Are you kidding me?? WOW!
By this time, I don’t think I had any fluids left in me to sweat out, so I know the band had to be completely drained. So NOW they’ll take a moment to slow it down and relax a bit before hitting with a big song to end the set. Right? I think you know the answer. Yep, wrong. They hit us with the MASSIVE Pressure and Time and then their hit Keep on Swingin. Again…Are you kidding me?
I’m in total shock by this point. So after fully expecting the band to go out with a bang for three songs, they finally do play a slower song, but in doing so, they play the one song that is the most personal to Jay. They finish the night with Face of Light. Which Jay always dedicates to his children. So, let’s recap for just a moment. After a physically demanding set full of songs that are torturous on his voice. Jay pulls off the most personal, emotionally challenging song of the night, all the while delivering his most beautiful vocal performance. Unbelievable. Un-Flipping-Believable.
Listen, this band doesn’t only deserve your attention, they demand it. You MUST go see this band. Support this band. (Click here for tour dates) Who cares what’s popular or what’s on the radio? Rival Sons are the flame that has relight the rock and roll fire. It’s now up to us to stoke that fire. Call your radio stations and request Rival Sons. Email them. Tell your friends about the band. Tell them to call the radio stations. Invite them to like the Rival Sons Facebook page. Buy their music and give it as birthday gifts. Whatever you can do. Nothing is too small. Let’s make a difference.