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Americana's sweet side

Band of Heathens with Lera Lynn
Shank Hall
Milwaukee, WI
April 25, 2012
Band of Heathens Band of Heathens Band of Heathens

Story and photos by Jennifer Bronenkant

The Band of Heathens are road warriors doing about 220 shows a year, but they had not made an appearance in Milwaukee since a 2009 Summerfest set until they showed up last Wednesday to give their signature live performance. This Austin, Texas based band is all about the live show. So much so that three of their six albums have been live recordings including their latest Double Down: Live in Denver which was recorded over two nights at Cervantes' Other Sides.

Lead by the rich vocal harmonies of lead singers Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, this band delivers a room filling sound mixing funky, soulful, jammy, hippie and folk rhythms into rock creating music that exemplifies the best of roots based Americana. The band is rounded out by drummer John Chipman, bassist Seth Whitney and keyboardist Trevor Nealon who all take over the lead singing at times. Every member of this band is vital to the music of the whole.

The band led the audience through their unique take on Americana with songs such as the bluesy "Joy," the upbeat almost pop "Polaroid," and the slow burning jams "Golden Calf" and "Jackson Station." To start the encore, Jurdi and Quist took the stage alone and sang "American Son." This touching song with the chorus "sing us one more song, sing me one more song," was written in tribute to the late Levon Helm on the day of his passing. The night ended with the full band doing a cover of Gillian Welch's "Look at Miss Ohio."

The Band of Heathens not only builds a strong rapport with the audience on stage but after the show they graciously hung out with fans, not simply signing autographs to a line at the merch table but mingling and really engaging with those who came to see them.

The music of the Heathens is strongly influenced by Americana greats such Helm and The Band, but it stands firmly on its own strength. This is a band that must be seen live to be fully appreciated but for a taste, listen to the mp3 below of "Jackson Station" and "Don't Call On Me" recorded by the Heathens at the Shank Hall show.

Opening act Lera Lynn of Athens, Georgia performed original folk music with a touch of country storytelling. A highlight of her performance was a slow, mournful and simmering rendition of Johnny Cash and June Carter's "Ring of Fire."

Click here for the MP3s "Jackson Station" & "Don't Call On Me" from the show.
Milwaukee Set list:
Talking Out Loud
Rehab Facility
Quarters and Dimes
No More Cane on the Brazos
Nine Steps Down
Brown Eyed Women
Golden Calf
Right Here With Me
Walking and Talking
I Got You (End of the Century)
King of Colorado
Jackson Station
Don't Call on Me

American Son
Look at Miss Ohio
Band of Heathens Lera Lynn
Lera Lynn
Band of Heathens Band of Heathens
Band of Heathens Lera Lynn
Lera Lynn

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