The story of the Alabama Shakes begins in a high school psychology class in Athens, Alabama. Brittany Howard, who had started playing guitar a few years earlier, approached Zac Cockrell and asked if he wanted to try making music together. "I just knew that he played bass and that he wore shirts with cool bands on them that nobody had heard of," says Howard.

They started to meet up after school and write songs sitting on Howard's floor. "It had that rootsy feel, but there was some out-there stuff," says Cockrell. "David Bowie-style things, prog-rock, lots of different stuff. We started to come across our own sound a little bit, though it's evolved a lot since then."

Steve Johnson worked at the only music store in town, and Howard knew he played the drums. She invited him to a party where, she says, "he met everybody from our side of the tracks." The three young musicians began working together, further expanding their style and approach. "Steve is kind of a punk-metal drummer," says Howard, "so we embraced that edge he brings to everything he does."

The trio soon went into a studio in Decatur to record some of the songs they were working up, and this proto-demo found its way into the hands of Heath Fogg, with whom Howard had been familiar because he had been the lead guitarist in what she describes as "the best band in our high school." Fogg, who by now had graduated from college, asked them to open a show for his band, which they agreed to do—on the condition that he play with them. The response was immediate: "That first show was really explosive," says Howard."

Though they had been focusing on original material ("It's just more fun to write than to learn someone else's music," says Cockrell), as the band—newly christened the Shakes—began playing out, they added more cover songs. They played classics by James Brown and Otis Redding, but also by Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. "We had to find music we could all agree on and figure out how to play together," says Howard, "and that had a lot of influence on how we play now."

Attempting to record their songs with the honest sonic qualities they cherished, the Shakes bought a few microphones and a vintage Teac mixing board and set up in Howard's house—which didn't work, since she lived right next to some railroad tracks. They eventually found their way to a Nashville studio in early 2011, where the songs they cut included "You Ain't Alone" and "I Found You."

When they appeared at a Nashville record store, people started to take notice of the group's relentless, hard-charging live attack, and Howard's magnetic stage presence. One especially ardent fan raved about the band to his friends, which included Justin Gage, the founder of the Aquarium Drunkard blog. Gage wrote to Howard, asking if he could post one of the Shakes' songs. She sent back the yearning, intense "You Ain't Alone," which he put up in late July, calling it "a slice of the real." And, literally overnight, all hell broke loose.

"I woke up the next day to emails from record labels, managers, publishing companies," says Howard. "At first I thought, everybody's making a mistake!" Gage also emailed "You Ain't Alone" to the Drive-By Truckers' team. The band was immediately blown away and offered the Shakes an opening slot, sight unseen. (Patterson Hood of the Truckers later noted that the group "totally blew us off the stage in Winston-Salem.")

Yet even as the attention and the pressure were mounting, the band—who by now had changed their name to the Alabama Shakes—continued to break new ground musically. Their first single, the hypnotic, show-stopping plea "Hold On," grew out of an on-stage improvisation. "We threw out that riff," says Cockrell, "and Brittany started singing along, and the crowd started singing with her like it was a song they already knew."

In October, the Shakes gave a performance at the CMJ Festival in New York City that earned a glowing review from the New York Times. Jon Pareles described the band as "a thunderbolt dressed in bluejeans," with music that's "aching when it's slow and growling and whooping when it's fast." NPR named them one of the best bands of 2011, while MTV called them one of the top bands to look for in 2012.

As word of mouth spread, more offers to tour came in, and the band members were finally able to quit their day jobs; until this point, all the writing, recording, and touring had to be done around such responsibilities as Howard's work as a mail carrier and Johnson's hours toiling as a night watchman at a nuclear power plant.

Now, with expectations at fever pitch, the Alabama Shakes have delivered Boys & Girls—six of the songs from that initial Nashville session, and another five recorded during the rest of the year. From the heart-rending title song to such stomps as "Rise to the Sun," the album demonstrates the sense of groove and space the band learned from their idols, along with a blistering force and emotion that simply can't be learned.

Overwhelmed by the response they've already received, there is one perception of the band that they want to challenge. "A lot of people think we're a soul revival act," says Cockrell. "That's an honor to me, classic R&B is my favorite kind of music, but everybody has their own influences. Brittany is way more into rock and roll—she likes things pretty amped up most of the time."

"Retro soul is not what we're going for, though it's understandable why people say it," says Howard. "We take inspiration from that, but we all understand Black Sabbath, too. On the record, we left a lot of room for whatever we want to do in the future."

The release of Boys & Girls marks the arrival of a major new rock and roll band. To the members themselves, though, what's been most exciting has been the reaction they have felt on stage, whether tiny local dates or under the glare of the media.

"It seems like everyone can tell how into it we are," says Cockrell. "Every show, people say they can feel how much we love what we're doing."

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Hurray For The Riff Raff began when a teenage Alynda Lee Segarra started hopping freight trains across the USA to satisfy a yearning to explore its mythical small towns and backwaters and live a life on the road and the rail track. She left her native Bronx, New York at the age of 17, and while riding the rails she hooked up with The Dead Man Street Orchestra, a home-made family of young, itinerant music makers living on the edge of the American dream. When the roaming was done she stepped off the box car and settled in New Orleans, a magnet for the creatively dispossessed and allowed music to properly take hold of her life. She quickly embraced the city's own community of street musicians, who encouraged her to develop her voice by singing old Jazz
songs. Meanwhile she took up the banjo and was soon performing with many of the traditional bands that cluster the sidewalks of the French Quarter, playing and singing while learning from the music of the city she loves.

Influenced by the sounds of classic country, 1960's Rock 'n' Roll, and master singer/songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams and Neil Young - Hurray For The Riff Raff has deep roots in the landscape of America. As the critic, Gabe Soria, an early champion of the growing New Orleans scene, says in the album's liner notes: "make no mistake: this is folk music, but it's got nothing to do with the legions of Americana pretenders out there. Ms. Segarra's crafting something delightfully arcane and witchy with this recording here... these are hymns that channel the raw feelings and chronicle the lives of the fucked-up romantics of Hurray For The Riff Raff's home by the Mississippi."

Fly Golden Eagle

In their current state, Fly Golden Eagle has been going strong for over 3 years. Ben Trimble has spearheaded the band for over 5, first playing shows with a boombox and a tape behind him, and since evolving into a full-fledged band that has released 3 albums and an EP. Richard, Jitch Moans and Odin Comin flesh out the mostly foursome, but sometimes they grow other limbs.

They've traveled the Silk Highway to help in The Resistance of the Propagators of the Pinkest Floss, as well as the nation of Canada, where the people love their music, but the Government does not. Their songs are meant to be titillating, multilateral, and other fun, vintage buzz words. Fly Golden Eagle sincerely tries to find it's place in the cosmos and the sentient beings on earth, but sometimes have a hard time figuring out what that means.

Everyone in Fly Golden Eagle are a part of many other projects, most of which fall under the umbrella of the label they run and self-release everything on: Blacktooth Records, which has 9 releases to date, including records, a book of poetry and a cologne. Fly Golden Eagle is currently touting their latest, psych-funk release, "Swagger", wherever they go and are working on a follow-up record to be released soon. See them in the sun.

$36.50

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Alabama Shakes with Hurray For The Riff Raff, Fly Golden Eagle

Monday, July 15 · Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM at Popejoy Hall