If you think that Southern Rock died with Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band, then you obviously have never been introduced to Blackberry Smoke. I have been enjoying the resurgence of the genre Southern Rock, so I make an attempt to go to a show every time that I hear that BBS is coming anywhere near my hometown.
On this trip, I not only got to see BBS play live again, but I got to attend a new venue. The Sand Mountain Amphitheater is a short drive at just over an hour. If you’re in the North Alabama area, this is a venue that you need to see. The amphitheater is well laid out with a friendly and helpful staff. And so, what if it was an outside concert in June in Alabama where the temp was around 98 that day. I knew it would be hot, but just wait for the band to hit the stage.
To know me is to know I love BBS. I have been listening to and attending their concerts for approximately 12 years. To know me is to also know that I love shooting concert pictures. With that said, it is difficult to explain the excitement that I had being able to photograph one of my favorite bands. I arrived at will call and was given my photo pass. I immediately took a selfie to send to my fiancé. She knew that I was as excited as a small child at Christmas.
The night began with a set that was on fire by The Read Southall Band followed by Drake White. I am a newcomer to Read’s band, but this will not be my last. Coincidentally, I got to see Drake play with BBS some 10 years ago. After these two fantastic bands, the crowd was ready to get serious with the headliner!
This concert was my first “in the pit”. Most of my pictures have been taken in venues without a proper photo-pit. You simply find you spot and shot and move again. I arrived at the pit 5 minutes prior to showtime. I’m thinking that I couldn’t be late for the band coming out. I was so glad I got in place early.
The lights lowered! The crowd begins to scream in anticipation, I could see the band walking out onto the unlit stage and my heart was running. My excitement was only fueled by the cheers from the audience, it was go time.
The lights come up to light the entire stage as Charlie Starr plays the opening chords to “Live It Down” from their newest release “You Hear Georgia”. The cheering of the crowd changes to everyone singing in unison along with Charlie. The feeling of being between the artists that everyone loves and the audience that loves them was memorable for certain. I knew at that point that this was going to be a good night.
The second song takes us back to 2012 as they go right into “Six Ways to Sunday”. This song comes from one of my favorite releases “The Whippoorwill”. Following up “Six Ways…” BBS plays a sure-fire crowd favorite “Good One Coming On”. This song is the one that was my introduction to the band and so began my fascination with everything Blackberry Smoke. That takes us way back to 2009 with their second full length release “Little Piece of Dixie”.
There are so many things that can go into what would be considered a good concert experience. It can be the venue. It can be the company that you attend with. In the case of outdoor festivals and concerts, the weather can play a big part. This was a rain or shine kind of show. Please, rock and roll gods, don’t let it rain!
One major factor in a good concert experience is the set list. I would have to say that the guys nailed it with this set list. They covered songs old and new including a song they dedicated to George Jones “Lonesome for A Livin”.
The two-hours plus show, which went past curfew, was infectious as the crowd sang the words to every song the band thru at them. The set list included several staple cuts, like “Waiting for The Thunder, “Pretty Little Lie, “Let It Burn,” and “Restless”. “Restless” came out in 2003 with the band’s first full length release. A true tribute to a band that has been around for 20 years.
As the set concluded, I would expect nothing more from a BBS crowd than to yell for more. After the band took a short break, they return with the encore. The encore were two songs “Ole Enough To Know” and “Ain’t Much Left Of Me.”
The icing on the cake for me came after the show when I managed to get myself in place to attempt to meet the band. The only band member I had previously met in the bass player Richard Turner. The first one to come by was Britt Turner, Richard’s brother. Next out comes Charlie Starr and Preston Holcomb. Preston is one of the new additions to the band on percussion. I have always heard from friends of mine that Charlie Starr is a very nice and humble person. After getting a few minutes to talk to him, and show him a picture I shot of him two months ago, I could see what everyone meant. The other band members were visiting with family that were in attendance. Next time Richard, Paul & Benji. Next time!
The hardest part of a night like this is the ending. After being outside at this festival for seven hours, three bands and an unbelievable hot sun it was time to go home. For the next hour and a half, I got to reflect on what I had just seen. Needless to say, I drove home with a smile!