Flashback to May 28th, 2011. I was 16 years old and had convinced my parents to take me to First Ave that night to see The Arctic Monkeys. As I walked out of that show covered in sweat my Dad turned to me and said that we were going to the Turf Club. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit was in town and we weren’t going to miss them. When we arrived at the door I found out that my Dad jumped through a bunch of hoop to get me into the 21+ venue. With x’s on both our hands we got in and I got right up to the stage. The openers were over and it was just The 400 Unit left. I remember sitting there and when that first note hit feeling like I was hit with a freight train. The band threw done hard with liquor bottles all over the stage. I remember them playing “Psycho Killer”, “Alabama Pines” and “Codeine”. That was my first Turf Club experience but more importantly that was my first Isbell experience. Getting hit by a train leaves its mark.
Jumping back into to present day I knew I couldn’t miss Isbell this time, especially when he is put smack dab in between Jade Bird and Father John Misty. So on Friday, June 14 I took to the city like a true weekender. As I walked into the already pack Armory, I kept thinking about that night in 2011 but my mind was cut short when Jade Bird took the stage.
I had listened to her self entitled album quite a bit while stocking the shelves at work in the morning. Her folkie, blues, Americana sound really pulled me in. As she started to play I realized she was by herself, no band just an acoustic guitar. She strummed the thing and went straight into her song “Uh huh”. I don’t think the crowd knew what hit them her personality was charming and had the crowd laughing with her in between song. When it came time to play her smash hit “Lottery” the crowd made sure she knew how much they liked the song. As she neared the end the end of her set she realized she had some extra time so instead of playing an original she opted for a Johnny Cash cover “I’ve Been Everywhere”. And of course she had us sold when she said “Minnesota” in the song. Bird left was a thunderous applause and got the crowd warmed up for the duel headliners.
About mid set I couldn’t believe my ears. I had looked up set lists of his last tour and didn’t think he played it anymore but as I heard the first few notes I knew it was “Alabama Pines”. It took me straight back to the Turf and I found myself belting every single word. His song “Cover Me Up” was a crowd pleaser as well. The reason I want to mention this one is because, Isbell went through a lot of treatment and got sober after years of drinking. During the song there is a line “But I sobered up and I swore off that stuff, forever this time”. You couldn’t hear the next line because the crowd became the loudest it was all night.
A few songs later Isbell starts playing something and this person behind me goes “It’s Outfit! He’s going to play Outfit!” His wife then turned turned to him and said “No, you said that about the last son…” She didn’t get to finish her sentence before Isbell started singing “You want to grow up to paint houses like me”. The OG fans were in shock he still plays it. I could hear the Drive-By Trucker fan behind me singing along, I’m sure he heard me singing as well. After that nostalgia bump from his Drive-By Trucker days, he explained that he wrote this next one for someone more attractive, Bradly Cooper. He wrote a song for “A Star is Born” but after watching he realized it was a science fiction film since the song he wrote in it was a hit. Before ending the show he played what may have been the best song of the night, another cover but a banger. The band took like a fish to water going into Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. I stood there completely blown away. The Unit closed the set with their biggest hit “If We Were Vampires” a turn from “Oh Well” but the crowd knew every word and cheered during every nook and cranny.
Through out the set I realized that Tillman is a master of the rambling joke. He can pull things out of no where and make the whole crowd go into a laughing frenzy. Through out his set he played a variety off of all four of his albums. FJM closed their set with the title track of their 2015 record “I Love You, Honeybear”. His George Harrison mixed with big band sound crashed through the room hitting everyone. The crowd gave the band all their energy before they stepped off with a roaring applause behind them. But of course that wasn’t the end of the night. FJM came back out and played their unknown rejected song from “A Star is Born”. For being a rejected song I think the people liked it just fine and they made that known. FJM closed the show with the best song of his set “I’m Writing a Novel” The up beat swing of the song had people dancing in the nearly sold out Armory. With people singing and dancing it is safe to say the band left all of us there on a high and just itching for these groups to come back and do it all again soon.