The Band of Heathens
(The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI--March 13, 2010)
A line of people filed into Ann Arbor’s acoustic hotspot, The Ark, the rainy Saturday night--though whether or not they entered two-by-two is anyone’s guess. The intimate, 350 seat theatre was peppered with children, middle-aged folk, and the occasional college student. All had come to see The Band of Heathens.
Gordy Quist, Seth Whitney, Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdy, and John Chipman comprised the group, whose mellow, blues/country style belied their name. They played a set that lasted over two hours, with no intermission, and no opening act. That takes skill.
The small venue made it possible for the audience to interact with the band. “Where’re you from?” one fan shouted out during the early moments of the set. “We’re from Austin, Texas,” the keyboardist answered, “where’re you from?” But that statement was only partially true--band member Gordy Quist is a Michigan expatriate, having moved to Texas when he was ten.
The music began with ‘What’s This World’, a smooth jam reminiscent of The Grateful Dead, I heard one spectator say. Returning to The Ark after a stint here in January, The Heathens brought along a few shameless plugs of their newest record, ‘One Foot in the Ether,’ off of which they played the next few songs, including ‘Say’ and ‘Talking Out Loud.’
The three leading members of the band would switch instruments almost constantly, from acoustic and electric and slide guitars, to keys, and back again, sharing vocal duties. A spot of technical difficulties came and went, but did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, who joked with the musicians and shouted out requests; there was even the obligatory “Freebird!”
And when the equipment was finally repaired, they soldiered on with a song entitled ‘Hallelujah’, a tune rejoicing more about life on the open road than about working microphones or speakers. The harmonies carried on through my personal favorite number, ‘L.A. County Blues.’
There is a certain amount of mystique and expectation that comes with a name like The Band of Heathens. But some listeners might argue that they aren’t heathens at all. Rather, their music carries some Christian connotations. This is perhaps most prevalent in the Baptist church-inspired ‘Shine a Light’ and the ‘Judas ‘Scariot Blues’, a number which was dedicated to “the original goat and heathen.”
Indeed, the numerous references to God would make some listeners wonder if there is some other point to be sold other than the music. But religious allusions took something of a backseat to clever double-entendres and good Southern cookin’ with the end of the evening’s crowd-favorite, ‘Cornbread.’ And when the whole thing was over, the near sold-out room was brought to their feet.
The Band of Heathens has garnered a large following that snakes its way all across this great land of ours. And they’ve managed to add one more person to their fan base. I eagerly look forward to their return to Michigan.
Review by: Ashley Trombley
Looking to see a The Band of Heathens in concert in your neck of the woods? Check out www.razorgator.com to see if they have any available.