Carbon Leaf’s Holiday Show, Rams Head On Stage


Carbon Leaf’s winter holiday shows at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD have been something of a tradition for my wife and I since well before we were married.  Though we had complications that prevented us from attending last year, we always make the attempt.  This was our third time seeing one of these concerts, of which there are several over the course of the weekend.  There’s the 21 plus Friday night show, followed by a Saturday matinee and concluding with a 21 plus evening concert, all of which sell out each and every time (usually in the first few hours).  While we normally opt for their final residency appearance, wouldn’t you know I didn’t buy tickets in time!  Instead we attended Friday night, which turned out to be a truly wonderful performance.

Opening up the whole weekend was Marie Miller, a remarkably talented singer-songwriter who, with just one album under her belt, has already accumulated quite a few accolades.  After a single album, her song, 6’2”, was featured on Dancing With The Stars, and she had the opportunity to perform her tune, “You’re Not Alone,” in front of 750,000 people, to include Pope Francis, at the Festival Of Families in 2015.  I suppose that was a good enough resume to have her open for Carbon Leaf that night.  But let’s say you were like me, and you didn’t know any of that prior to hearing this young woman play and sing.  Then, like me, you would truly be swept off your feet.  With a velvet voice she lifted us, and with her aggressive mandolin chop chords she had my heel bouncing off the floor.   Her set featured several cover songs, including Coldplay’s “Yellow,” the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” and in the spirit of the holidays, a unique rendition of “Silent Night,” which took on a novel texture with a new vocal melody.  Her obvious musical competence, coupled with her charming between song banter led to quite a few hearts being won over.  Mine included.

Marie Miller:  Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Like any great family get-together, time with the Carbon Leaf family during the holidays is filled with heartfelt moments and a bit of uncertainty.  Not long into their set we all raised our glasses to honor the passing of astronaut John Glenn.  On the other side of the spectrum, fast forward towards the end and you’d witness a waltz between vocalist Barry Privett and Gaelic Storm’s Patrick Murphy, with trepidatious moments where there was leaping and lifting of each other, sometimes which appeared more like a fireman’s carry than a dancing maneuver.  My wife and I were pretty sure someone was going to be seriously injured, which would have been icing on the cake for Privett, whose forehead had already received an after-hours stitch up by a local doctor after losing a battle with a door earlier in the evening.  But these were just some of those special in-between moments when we weren’t all being wooed by old and new tunes that warmed us to our cores.

Some of the highlights of the night, barring those stated above, were the explosive “Desperation Song,” the single-mic’d “Two Aging Truckers,” and the now traditional “Carter’s Christmas Beard” (an homage to Gravatt’s face-warmer) sung by bassist Jon Markel.  After over an hour and a half of music, the quintet closed out their set much to the disappointment of loyal fans.  But they stuck around afterwards to have a drink and share a laugh.  I, myself, had the opportunity to speak with the drummer subbing in for the regular percussionist, Jason Neal: Scott Devours, a supremely talented individual who normally plays with Roger Daltrey of The Who.  I also caught the ear of Carter for longer than I probably should have, discussing music and musicians at length, ranging from Paul Gilbert to Ricky Skaggs to Clutch.  It was a good evening indeed, and one that I hope you’ll all go out and find next time Carbon Leaf stops by your neck of the woods.  You deserve it.

Carbon Leaf:  Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For more photos of this evening, check out photographer Elmo Thamm’s album.

Older and Louder: Slayer at Birmingham’s Iron City April 24

Review by David Feltman, Photo Courtesy of Andrew Stuart

Being the most controversial and notorious member of the Big Four, Slayer shows have developed a reputation for violence and crazy fans. But Slayer is also the most battle worn of the Big Four, having been whittled down to just two of its original members over the course of its 30-something year career. So the announcement that Slayer was playing a fairly classy venue like Iron City and charging $53 a pop couldn’t help but raise the eyebrows of local metal fans. That sounds more like a Metallica show. Has Slayer mellowed out in their old age?

Iron City is a solid, medium-sized venue, but it’s not equipped to handle walls of amplifiers and big pyrotechnics. And while it has hosted some of the heaviest metal acts, it’s still a nice enough venue that old gimmicks like the raining blood would be off limits. What really made the billing for this show interesting, especially in the absence of any flashy stage show stunts, was the lack of an opening act. No blood, no explosions, no other bands, just Slayer.

So back to the question, “has Slayer mellowed out in there old age?” The answer is no. The audience had been milling around, drinking beer, buzzing with amicable chatter. But the very moment Slayer started up with “World Painted Blood,” bodies started flying like a bomb went off. Male and female alike, fans started throwing themselves into the pit, slamming, swinging swarming. Anyone that picked a spot anywhere near the stage got sucked into the vortex.

The band played for two hours straight, systematically working through every song a fan could hope to hear, “War Ensemble,” “Angel of Death,” “Dead Skin Mask,” and “Raining Blood.” In fact, the set list was so thorough that at the end of the show none of the audience members could think of a song to scream out to call for an encore. They still, of course, chanted “Slayer!”

The simplicity of the performance made it feel all the more raw. There was nothing to detract attention away from Tom Araya and Kerry King except for the overenthusiastic fans pounding away in the pit. Slayer felt as aggressive and abrasive as ever, but it would be a lie to say that guitarist Jeff Hanneman’s absence wasn’t felt. The older and diminished band is missing some of the weight it used to pack behind its sonic punch. Araya and King are holding the center, but their grip feels like it might be starting to slip.

Slayer is a stalwart metal band that has been around for a very long time, but its continued longevity may not be long lived. Every good metal fan should make the pilgrimage to see Slayer and tempt fate in the pit at least once, but if this is a pilgrimage you’ve yet to make, you should make it now. Araya and Kerry have staid heavy all the way into their 50s, but it’s hard to imagine seeing them perform at this level in their 60s.

Live Review: Hozier and George Ezra at Atlanta’s Tabernacle

Review by Katie Flint, Photography by Danielle Boise

Last Friday (Friday the 13th of all days!), Ireland and UK’s Hozier and George Ezra played together for a sold out crowd at Atlanta’s famous Tabernacle. This show has been sold out for months, so being able to review this show was probably the biggest treat for me this week. I knew the big songs by these two singer/songwriters, but it was the lesser known songs by each are what melted me. My friend Diane and I went together, and headed upstairs into the mezzanine of the Tabernacle. As much as we would like to be in the pit downstairs, we decided we wanted to sit down and enjoy the music, and we did just that.

George Ezra was up first. I was personally more excited for him than I was for Hozier. After watching his SNL performance, I wasn’t sure how he would be live. Anyway, George Ezra comes on and starts playing his first song “Cassy O” and immediately the women in the audience are in love. He can play a guitar very well, but the boy has some pipes. And normally a so-called “attractive singer” from my perspective has been a tenor/baritone when it comes to vocal section. I’m pretty sure George Ezra is a bass because he can hit those low notes.

He started playing “Listen to The Man” and he started to open up more the audience. He must have been nervous, but that’s okay; he was great anyway. What was really nice about his performance was that there wasn’t a lot of material, but there was a lot of context in his material. His first album was all about his travels in Europe, hence the namesakes “Barcelona” and “Budapest.” The story behind “Budapest” was pretty funny, and as a person he just seems like a good kid doing what he loves.

He ended is surprisingly short set with an extended version of “Did you Hear The Rain?” which started with a long a capella intro, showcasing that voice as golden as his hair. Everyone in the venue was about to bow down to that voice. We were definitely not worthy.

Hozier was up next. His set up was a lot bigger than George’s, which included also a cello, synths and two backup singers. I wish that we had just him, but knowing his inspiration from choral music, the backup singers of different octaves made sense.

He started his set with “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” which changed the atmosphere of the concert from upbeat acoustics to a passionate blues-rock show. With every song that Hozier played, everyone around me went nuts, which was good for him, but for me it was a little overwhelming. I wanted to just sit and relax to the beautiful music.

As he went through his set, one thing I noticed is that he didn’t talk much in between songs. He only really talked before “Someone New” and “In A Week” where it had to do with love. Which indicates where a good percentage of his music may be stemming from, but whose music isn’t?

He ended his initial set with his biggest hit, “Take Me to Church” and everyone stood up to give praise to Hozier. As he left, he got ready for a long four-song encore. The encore included an intimate performance of “Cherry Wine” paired with an homage to his cover from BBC One Radio, “Problem” by Ariana Grande. I felt like I was one of the few that noticed that he added a hint of “Regulate” by Warren G while singing “Problem.” Well played, Hozier.

The show as a whole was a perfect example on how successful these two gentlemen have become. If you didn’t get a chance to see Hozier last night, he’s coming back in May! He’ll be playing May 8 at Chastain Park Amphitheater a little further out from the city. You can get tickets here.

Full Photo Gallery of Hozier

Full Photo Gallery of George Ezra