I started listening to the Alabama Shakes late last year when a friend sent me a video clip of their single, "Hold On". I was instantly impressed, Brittany Howard's vocals were not only soulful but extremely passionate. The Shakes really had a unique sound different than most of the bands I've been listening to lately. I immediately started searching around the internet for anything I could find but it turned out that the only thing they had released was a four song EP on their bandcamp page (which has since been disabled). They signed to ATO Records late last year and I had a feeling that they were going to be in for some big things in 2012.
The main thing I thought was interesting after watching several live performances online was that not only was there a ton of buzz about this group, but everyone I know that had seen them live was absolutely RAVING about their show. I couldn't find a single person with a bad thing to say. This band has tremendous soul within their music, it comes off as soon as you hear it and it's not forced, absolutely authentic. I knew I had to try to catch them as soon as I could line a show up.
Luckily for me, I was able to catch the Alabama Shakes not only once, but twice on back-to-back nights last week in NYC. The first show was at the Webster Hall Studio, a tiny room beneath the main club, one level underground. I had only been in this room once before and it was after a show in the main club when I was just hanging out one night. The main thing I remembered coming into this show was just how small the room was, it maybe holds a few hundred people.... maybe. It's really more of a bar then a typical music club so you can imagine just how intimate it was. The band came on just after 9pm as MTV was filming/streaming the show live and the crowd was packed in and excited.
As I referenced earlier, I had been listening to the EP quite a bit over the last few months and I was looking forward to finally hearing these songs live, along with the other material from their full length release, "Boys & Girls". I have to say that I completely agree with the friends that had told me about their live shows, these guys were absolutely for real. One of my favorite things at a show is when a song strikes you that you either didn't love on the album or that you just hadn't heard before. For me, "Be Mine" was the song that stood out... unbelievable energy from the band, it seemed like Brittany was channelling Steven Tyler and James Brown at the same time! MTV Hive has posted some pictures and live clips from the show which you can watch HERE. Watch the end of the "Be Mine" video, that'll show you everything you need to know.
On Wednesday night, I went down to Bowery Ballroom to see the band. Even though this was a bigger venue, it's still a pretty small club and to be honest I thought the crowd was a lot better. I got a spot up on the balcony just next to the soundboard and maybe it was just the area I was in but I felt like there was a lot less talking in the crowd so I enjoyed this show even more than the first night. The band played with the same energy as the previous night (impressive considering they were playing three nights in a row) and the crowd really fed off that energy. The song that stood out to me on this night was "Boys & Girls", absolute fantastic rendition. It just so happened that one of the guys next to me was recording the show for NYCtaper and it actually got posted earlier today. You can download the whole show and they've got a couple clips streaming which you can grab HERE. I hung around for a bit after the show and met bassist Zac Cockrell who was a super nice guy. We spoke for a couple minutes and I told him how much I loved the shows. He was very gracious and seemed quite humbled by the attention the band has been getting.
Overall, a great couple nights out in NYC watching live music. The Alabama Shakes continue to garner a ton of buzz and have a bunch of festival slots lined up for the summer. If you get the chance, absolutely go see them live, this is a show that you will remember for a long time.
WEBSTER HALL STUDIO
ME & ZAC COCKRELL