Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Rising fast, the Shakes hit the circuit

Rising fast, the Shakes hit the circuit

Bred out of the musically rich Muscle Shoals tradition found in Northern Alabama, a local 5-piece has launched themselves from playing small parties at Egan’s and being that band found at your local record store, to becoming big names on the bills for Bonnaroo, The Hangout and Lollapallooza. They place as No. 8 and No. 3 on US and UK music charts respectively.

The Alabama Shakes, from Athens, Ala., formed in 2009 and have been producing a bluesy style of southern rock since. Their four-song EP in September 2011 kicked off a rush of critical enthusiasm. In 2012, they proved critics right when their record “Boys & Girls” sold in high numbers, national and international tours quickly sold out, and the band made appearances on the late night circuit on “Conan” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Bo Hicks of recalled his first exposure to the Shakes being in the fall of 2010 when, on a whim, he went to Egan’s Bar. After being struck by this first show and seeing them again, his friend Lee Baines III of The Dexateens and Lee Baines III and the Glory Fires suggested the Shakes play the Wellthatscool Brews Cruise, a three-hour boat ride down the Black Warrior River featuring local bands on the ship’s deck.

Hicks was excited by the band’s energetic performance, and he remembered their potential managers at Red Light Management from New York state coming down to check out the band; not long after the show, they were signed.

Hicks later asked the group to come play his birthday party at Egan’s last October. The band, already beginning picking up heat from across the country, agreed. Then this March after becoming an internationally known group, the Shakes agreed to headline Wellthatscool’s Tuscaloosa Get Up tornado relief concert.

“It shows that they want to give back to one of the communities that gave to them first,” Hicks said. “We gave them that initial nourishment, and now, they’re making it and giving back.”

NPR music critic and University of Alabama New College adjunct faculty member Ann Powers followed the Shakes’ rise from an early suggestion from a friend that they were the “most Ann Powers band he’d ever heard.” Now, Powers works as the Shakes’ lawyer from Birmingham,

Upon finally catching the Shakes in concert last fall when they opened for the Shoals born Drive-By Truckers, she wasn’t let down.

“I was just astounded by the audience response,” Powers said. “I’ve seen so many bands and so many opening acts struggle to keep the attention of anyone in the crowd. They had the attention of everyone that night.”

Powers said their tendency to pick up passionate fans was not purely derived from their soulful sound, but also from the connections they form with their audiences and the visible interplay between the band’s growing talents.

“I think they’re the kind of band that you immediately root for,” Powers said. “There’s an immediacy about what they do, a strong emotion about what they do and a lot of joy in what they do.”

Powers listed their distinct sound and the rich fundamentals of their classic roots as keys to their success that up-and-coming bands should take note of. She also admitted, though, that the Shakes quick rise and wide fan-base is unusual.

“In 20 plus years of writing on music, there are very few stories I can compare to this one,” Powers said.

Olivia Hodge, a freshman majoring in journalism, first caught on to the Shakes through the AltNation station on Sirius/XM radio, which played the band’s single “Hold On” from their “Boys & Girls” album.

Intrigued by the group, Hodge hoped to catch them during their visit to Tuscaloosa during the Druid City Arts Festival but was pulled out of town. Later, while visiting a friend’s family in Atlanta over Easter weekend, Hodge drove out to Athens, Ga., to see the Shakes at a sold out show in the historic Georgia Theater.

“It was such a long drive but so worth it,” Hodge said. “They were incredible live.”

Blaine Duncan of Blaine Duncan & and the Lookers from Tuscaloosa and Doc Dailey of Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil from Muscle Shoals commented on the musical community which has supported them and given birth to rising bands like the Shakes.

“[Other bands] are extremely kind, welcoming, trying to do shows and working together in many ways,” Duncan said.

He added that the Internet and the growth of Facebook band pages have given the state’s community room to grow and communicate. Daily acknowledged that the overall scene has changed over the years.

“When I first started playing live shows, there just weren’t many places to do it,” Dailey said. “It’s a night and day difference from 10 year ago or even 5 years ago up until now.”

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