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Thursday, March 8

Review and Photos: Futurebirds - The Palace - Missoula, MT - 3/1/12

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Futurebirds Go Five instead of Six
A musical resume sells shows to people. It provides feats the band has accomplished, shows events they have been a part of, and most times opens the eyes of a fan not realizing this band has done so many big things already.  One resume in particular is quite eye opening with opening and touring with such acts as Widespread Panic, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Drive-By Truckers, and Gary Clark Jr. Then toss in a double set at what is considered the grand daddy of all festivals, Bonnarroo Music and Arts Festival, and also an appearance at Austin City Limits Music Festival and there you have it, you have yourself quite the musical resume to work with.  Futurebirds can now add played Missoula, MT at The Palace Lounge to the resume above to really round it out and fill in some gaps.
Futurebirds from Athens, GA made their way through the Rocky Mountains on a western swing tour that landed them in Missoula on a Thursday Night (3-1-12) at The Palace Lounge. The only problem is that the Rocky Mountains got the best of one of their band members, the bands bass player Brannen Miles, and he had to be sent back home to Georgia with a new acquired court date. This left the usual six member indie country new age rock group only five members and needing a way to play their set list without the always crucial element of the bass.  As Airstream Safari opened for them, you wondered as you watched the band take three straight shots together at the bar if they were drinking away the sorrows to the lost band member on a crucial Northwest tour or maybe these guys just like to party like old school rock stars. As they took the stage to play, Daniel Womack the acoustic guitar player, looked to be in control of the bass guitar for the first song, while the rest of the band held true to their personal instruments; Carter King (electric guitar/vocals), Payton Bradford (drums/vocals), Dennis Love (pedal steel), and Thomas Johnson (banjo/electric guitar/vocals). The band opened with playing a full song as their sound check then jumped into the set transitioning into their premier sound which is somewhat like a more countrified My Morning Jacket with dabs of 90s grunge party rock. The energy they brought on the first song set the mood for the whole show. This was going to be a rock n roll show with high energy, wild on stage presence, and drinking throughout.  One of their many hits “APO” off their first full length album Hamptons Lullaby was then played. The song was started with Payton singing the intro into the song from his seat in the back shadows on the drums, and right on the mark the rest of the band jumps in with most importantly Payton controlling the song with his drums, Thomas unplugging his banjo and strapping on the electric guitar, and the hidden gem of the band Dennis Love popping off great sounds from his lap steel in the back hidden corner. The song had great harmonies with all band members singing the lyrics, and once again just showing how much they party on stage jumping all around and moving all over in a controlled the music is making me stumble around fashion. You noticed during this song that Daniel playing the bass was turning around quite often maybe to look at sheet music or get his newly acquired bass guitar on the right track. “There is No Place for This” was then transitioned into which is a slower methodical type jam once again with all band members crushing the harmonies together. Dennis once again shines in this song on his pedal steel, while to end the song the band has a pure head banging together rock out with Carter King leading the way on the electric guitar and in old school fashion he dropped to his knees at the end of the song sticking the neck of the guitar into the stage and playing as if he was on stage with AC/DC. After a new song was once again rocked out in Futurebirds fashion, Carter took the bass from Daniel giving him his electric guitar, and proving that they were all open to taking the responsibility of playing the bass. Daniel also took over the lead vocals for the next song as the band played another catchy jam from Hampton Lullaby called “Sam Jones”.  With its way more southern country style and lyrics about a man’s life the band seemed to take a timeout from jumping around and give themselves a chance to get their legs back. As I watched them play this jam I noticed that Carter King looks exactly like a bearded long haired version of “Stainer” from She’s Out of My League also known as T.J. Miller. Then came the song people were calling “The Heat” which seemed to be pushed on by a few crowd members in the corner letting the band know what they wanted to hear. This song was pure electricity powered folk rock blowing the place up with loud electric guitar riffs, lap steel that pierced through the walls, and just lots more jumping up and down by Thomas Johnson with his most impressive beard that would make any man from Missoula jealous. The beard himself then took over vocals for the next song singing “Battle for Rome”, which reminded me more than anything of a song Neil Young would sing. The vocals seemed to almost match perfectly as this was in my mind the best sounding song of the night. The bass was then passed to Dennis leaving his lap steel post to give it a shot, while Carter took the banjo, Thomas prepared to shred on the electric guitar, Daniel held on to his usual acoustic guitar, and Payton stayed steady in the background watching as the musical instruments game continued. “Yur Not Dead”, which I consider their biggest party song, was then played. Carter seemed to be the most into this song with strumming the banjo more so as a prop giving him more space to jump around as well as lean over the speakers and into the crowd with the mic singing the “wooooooo” part of the song. Truly at this moment the band reminded me of a young pearl jam or nirvana getting their full on rock star status on. Instantly after this song the drummer Payton Bradford seemed to be done with it all and walked off stage, not knowing if it was set up for that or if he was truly mad about the situation, it was great to watch as they got him back on stage to end the set with a two song encore. Thomas then got his chance at the bass to end the show and they played by far the catchiest song they have created “Ski Chalet” to end the show.  They extended the song with a trippy drum solo by Payton in the middle of the song as well as dropping the song into complete silence before the whole band, which looked like they were all worn to the ground, would come back together to blow your ear drums with guitar explosives.
This show easily had to be one of the most drama filled shows I have ever watched, but maybe that is what they are all about. Futurebirds is a band that seems to contribute their on stage wildness to how much they party before the show as well as on stage. Throughout the set watching them rock the stage and sometimes lose control you end up enjoying every second of it. The music never falters and always makes you want to join them in this complete madness. Futurebirds proves it is ok to create new age indie rock as well as keep the on stage rock star party presence that bands seem to have gone away from. The versatility of the band goes beyond any explanation, and to see them put on the show they did being a man down was as impressive as it gets for musicians. Coming soon to Wakarusa 2012, a must see act!
Newest CD:  Hamptons Lullaby
Words/Review by: Zach Nelson of MissoulaLIVE

Zach Nelson and Kevin Kenly have been Phish and the Dead contributors since 2011.  Missoula-LIVE is by far the best website to find everything you need to know about live music in Missoula!