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Saw The Dead South Last Night

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The Dead South is one of those newer bands that falls outside of rock and roll, so my familiarity with them was quite limited.  I barely listened to them until the opportunity to win tickets through Tunespeak came up.  Before entering to win tickets to a show there is usually a sampling on youtube that gets checked out.  Some bands are just too off from what I can listen to, meaning some rock bands just do nothing for me in addition to some of the bands we would never consider rock in any way. 
While operating on a strategy of try-to-win-first and then buy a ticket if I must, The Dead South sold out the shows in Asheville and Charlotte.  It is a good thing that I won tickets and meet and greets for Charlotte for last night's show.  I got my meet and greet instructions two days before the show.  Tickets are supposed to be available at the time the doors open if you win a Tunespeak contest. 
The drive up was not bad.  Only a little bit of rain and mist messed up part of the trip.  By the time I got to The Underground in Charlotte there was a very light drizzle.  Fortunately only a few people were under the somewhat short canopy at the entrance.  Two couple came down four hours from Virginia to see the show.  As we went in I found out that 12 people were expected.  Of course, of my two meet and greets only one was being used, making the total 11. 
The meet and greet was different than what I have experienced with the very few meet and greets I have attended.  When I walked in the tour manager had some stuff in her hands, but it was one of the band members handing out the VIP laminates and actually putting them on people.  The other band members came out within a couple of minutes, possibly already standing around somewhere on The Underground's floor.  For an hour everyone stood around talking.  The four band members moved from cluster to cluster to have conversations with everyone.  There was no table set up for everyone to be run past like a gauntlet-- say hello, get and autograph, now get lost.  There were real conversations.  While that went on the tour manager had all the band members signing the screen printed tour posters and gave them out to everyone their for the meet and greet.  Then we got the night's setlist.  Right before sound check the band posed for photos with everyone.  The sound check might have been a half hour to 45 minutes.  I was not watching the time.  I just enjoyed the music played at sound check.  After that we may have been allowed to stay inside, I dunno.  Most of us took our posters back to our cars.  It was 4:45 PM when I left.  An hour and 45 minute experience for what cost people $85 plus a fee was a lot better than what some people got a few years back when they paid $400 to meet Mötley Crüe.  A couple beside me at a Crüe show said the band just walked by doing fist bumps and that was it. 
During that meet and greet there was a very quiet guy next to me who talked a little.  I never shut up, so I got in a lot of conversation.  The band members still included everyone in the conversation.  They must have seen my kind before.  The cellist (Yup.  A cello.) is also a structural engineer who does engineering work during longer breaks in touring.  I discussed musical instruments and tours.  The whole band is a bunch of rockers.  It is the banjo player who is into the heaviest stuff.  We could talk about the upcoming Rammstein tour.  The quiet guy talked about having seen Rammstein in Atlanta years ago. 
The meet and greet pass would also get us early entry.  That was a good thing.  All I needed was a ticket to re-enter. 
No one ever asked for ID for the meet and greet. 
After getting that giant poster to the car through the drizzle it was time to look for a concert ticket and lunch.  The guest list with my ticket was not delivered yet.  It was worth a try to see if I could get it early since there was a long line expected when the doors opened.  Next, I tried the 820 pizza place first only to find out it would not open until 5:00 PM.  VBGB's was open.  Their menu was typical barroom food.  A $13 burger was not as tempting as a $6 slice of pizza.  I waited for 820 to open up.  It was OK.  The security staff from The Underground was eating there. 
The Dead South was sold out.  At the Fillmore next door Badfish was playing, and the concert list on the wall had a low ticket warning sticker next to that show.  There I was in a disposable rain poncho waiting on the guest list to arrive.  One of those guys with a "I need tickets" sign (professionally made, by the way) talked to me.  He did not know anything about The Dead South except how much tickets were.  Oddly, there was not much of a crowd outside for either show until very close to 7:00.  When I checked on the line at The Underground a little before 6:00 there were a couple of people there.  When I walked back up there again just after 6:00 the two people were getting wanded inside.  They bought a "crash the barricade" pass, something I had not heard of before.  Sometime between 6:00 and 7:00 there were a couple of girls who were at the ticket office a couple of times.  The first time was when they picked up their crash the barricade passes.  Then they came back to say that the door was locked and no one was answering when they knocked.  That was when one of the girls told me they paid $25 each for those passes.  That was more than the $10 fast lane I was used to, and fast lane passes are used when the doors open. 
The guest list that I saw had maybe four names on it.  I got my two tickets, did not bother with trying to sell one, and just got myself to the door right at 7:00 PM or a couple of minutes later.  People were going in, so I flashed my VIP laminate and got in line at the table where I was wanded again.  The barricade was kind of full, but I got a spot right in front of the mic stand where the celllist (bass player) would be.  I had no complaints.  I got all this for free...  except the food.  I had to pay for that.  Free pizza would have been nice, though.  My early arrival also got me out of having to pay for parking, too.  Indulging in cheapness feels good sometimes. 
The first act up was a guy named Danny Olliver who played an acoustic guitar and sang.  He had one of those trigger pedals on the floor that he played with his heel to get a kick drum sound.  Danny Olliver's playing is a lot of fast strumming with cool chord changes, some slapping and tapping, and getting a lot more out of a guitar than most people.  He had a sense of humor, too. His guitar was a Taylor.
Next up was The Hooten Hallers from St. Louis, MO.  The band is drums, guitar, and a bass... saxophone.  A bass saxophone was used part of the time.  Sometimes it was a baritone saxophone.  The guitar was run through an effect to drop it down an octave at times.  The singer uses a rough voice that matches the tone of the baritone sax.  They hit a groove on every song that was somewhere between rockabilly and a rocking blues band.  The singer played a Reverend guitar and a lap steel through what was either a Fender Blues Jr. or a Pro Jr. 
Next up was The Dead South.  Their stage had four lantern shaped lights in front of each mic stand.  In the back were four lighted panels that looked like stained glass church windows.  During the meet and greet I joked that they were a Gothgrass band.  Each of the windows had something to symbolize the band members and a lyric from a song.  There was also creative lighting on the stage.  What was not so great were the LED lights The Underground has above the stage.  Everyone that plays at The Underground is almost in the dark except for the light show they bring with them.  Two of the members play guitar or mandolin, and each instrument had its own set of pedals.  The center of the stage was like a garden of pedals, neat rows uniformly spaced. There never was a blast from a fog machine, but that stage was a little hazy.  The club does not allow smoking inside.  Maybe the cold and humidity outside have an effect on the air inside.  There was a rock show vibe to the stage. 
When The Dead South played it was acoustic music with a banjo blaring through it.  It felt like a rock concert.  It was certainly loud like a rock concert.  Lyrically the band is a rock band for the most part.  Bluegrass has songs about people dying, but not quite the same way.  A few profane words have made their way into the lyrics.  The song "Smootchin' In The Ditch" takes things a bit further than what is expected from a bluegrass band.  Singing about sex between cousins just crosses a line that only rockers blatantly cross.  The band's demeanor could be seen as a bluegrass band, but at the same time they could be a rock band.  No song can be mistaken for rock music if played by itself without seeing the band or reading the lyrics.  Maybe the song structure comes from a rock influence just enough to keep it from pleasing the bluegrass purists.  Whatever it is going one when The Dead South plays, I felt like I was watching a rock and roll band.  Maybe it was the show itself with some parts having the coordinated stage moves and lights that showcased different members during the show.  There is no need for improvement with the show. 
I could not make out the name on the mandolin, but the guitars were Martins.  The banjo had an open back. 
Next Saturday the tour of the USA ends in Atlanta.  It is tempting to buy a ticket to go again.  Buying a meet and greet to get early entry is a temptation.  Banjos are still rolling in my head.  Banjos... rolls...  If you played a banjo you would get the joke. 
I went to a show that technically did not have a bass player.  That is just odd. 

Here are the setlists.  Click the play buttons and sample the bands for yourself. 
Danny Oliver
The Hooten Hallers
The Dead South
If you are lazy just go check out the youtube video with 169 million views.  Yes, 169,000,000.


For those of you in the UK who want to try to win tickets here is where you enter:  Tunespeak

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