Review: Futurebirds @ The Earl, Atlanta, GA 2/19/11


Happy Sunday, folks. I’m hanging out indoors and finally getting into Futurebirds thanks to the recommendation from our newest contributor Taylor Gould. He saw the band last month in Atlanta and wanted to share his thoughts from the show, so he sent us this review. I’m liking what I’m hearing. The band plays tonight at Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans.

With the Futurebirds hailing from nearby Athens, GA (a few of them actually grew up in Atlanta), a packed-out house was no surprise last month when they rolled through Atlanta to hit the Earl. While the self-proclaimed psychedelic/alt-country/gospel rockers have played opening slots in front of larger crowds recently (including an opening stint for Drive-By Truckers), I’m willing to bet that crowd was one of the larger audiences the band has pulled as a headliner. It’s been said that with hometown shows, bands either “get too nervous with all the friends and family in the audience, or completely knock it out of the park.” I think most people in attendance on that Saturday would agree, the ‘Birds hit a grand slam (it certainly helps to get the Chop going).

With the rather limited catalogue that any young band usually possesses, the Futurebirds were able to get through almost all of it during their hour long set, a fact that everyone in attendance seemed to really appreciate. Every song, from both their self-titled EP and the more recent Hampton’s Lullaby, was met with howls of familiarity and the harsh vocal cords of more than a few weekend crooners (including myself) in the audience. While I’ll wager that the evening was fuzzy for many in attendance, some of the more memorable numbers of the main set included “There Is No Place For This To Go,” “Johnny Utah,” and “Battle for Rome.”

However, it was definitely the encore is that impressed me most. After a raucous tomahawk chop called the band back onstage, they finished off an already epic show with the rocker “Ski Chalet” and their newest addition, a cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart,” which has been deservedly circulating the blogosphere of late. The latter puts the band’s vocal harmonization up to the test, which they definitely passed. Much of their music is built on this type of harmony, so its no surprise that they can pull this cover off. Even so, its a beautiful thing to hear, and they do the original justice in their own, reverb’d out, in a twangy way that almost makes the tune all their own.

Futurebirds - Ski Chalet

By the end of the night, I certainly got the feeling that the Futurebirds are a very self-aware and confident group these days, translating into a powerful live show. Rather than a few unconnected individuals playing instruments on the same stage (as some young bands unfortunately come across), this group of Athenians is focused on achieving a certain sound and intensity, and they achieve it almost 100% of the time. The band collectively seems to understand that each member plays a different part in that equation, and they fill out those roles accordingly. Such a collective energy bred the uniquely awesome situation where a band is even better live as they are on record.

With the great buzz surrounding 2010’s Hampton’s Lullaby and the band picking up some steam on the road, 2011 should be a defining year for the Futurebirds, especially if they can put together another full album of new material. They plan to release Via Flamina, a 4 track EP of new and previously unreleased material, in early April, and look to be touring for the indefinite future. Get out there and see the Futurebirds, I highly recommend it. They’re one of the better live acts you’ll see, and its one of those rare chances to see a great band in a smaller venue.

Here’s a link to that cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart”, courtesy of Rollo Grady.

Futurebirds Spring 2011 Tour Dates

03/13/11 New Orleans, LA Hi Ho Lounge
03/25/11 Live Oak, Florida Suwannee Springfest
04/01/11 Athens, GA 40 Watt
04/04/11 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bowl
04/06/11 Charlottesville, VA Trinity
04/07/11 Charlotte, NC Evening Muse
04/29/11 Valdosta, GA Charley O’Corley’s