Justin Townes Earle at First Avenue


Tuesday night I got the word that I would be riding solo to see Justin Townes Earle and some amazing openers. Our writer fell ill, a casualty of 3 rain soaked day at Rock on the Range and an overload of Metallica, Aside from feeling bad for her being sick I felt twice as bad later that once I had digested the music I just witnessed. Sorry Langen, can’t deny everyone rocked it last night. A 16 year old artist, The Sadies shredding before my lens, and Justin Townes Earle providing musical and comedic relief on a grey Minneapolis night. Suffice it to say, it was fantastic.

Sammy Brue was the biggest mystery for me heading into this show. As always I tried to get some listening time in with all the artists music who were playing tonight but ran out of time with Sammy’s tracks. Ultimately it made no difference because I was floored by his skill.  Speaking to a couple other fans after photographing the start of Sammy’s set I learned he is 16. Which is fine, there’s been many other musicians that age, I know this. Watching Sammy play was a true treat. Seeing any artist lost in what they are doing, as if none of us existed through their performance, is always a treat. Sammy had me remembering long sessions of Ryan Adams while in the north woods and in a wonderful state of self reflection. All while standing in the middle of a crowd at First Ave.

Following Sammy’s acoustic session came The Sadies, a band who needs no introduction for those that have seen them live, and everyone should see or listen to if they have not yet had the chance. I grew up listening to what is now called Southern Rock I am told. Bands like the Doobie Brothers who were just as enjoyable to sing along with as listen to shred. The Sadies rocked the house there is no other way to put it.
Watching the guys walk onto stage and seeing the ole lap steel string would almost lead you to think you’re about to hear some good ole opry style music. Though a little accurate, the twangy style was blended into awesome classic rock sound and I was in awe of every solo they broke into. The last time I saw similar play which stopped me from shooting was Black Joe Lewis. If you enjoy the old classic rock sound but don’t want your ears to despise you, I insist you see The Sadies next opportunity.

After a little bit of a break from guitar solos and impressive fiddle playing came Justin Townes Earle, or JTE because typing that is going to kill me quick. Earle came on stage and like the musicians before him that night, might as well be walking into their own living room. Completely laid back and ready to share himself and his words with the audience. Starting off their set with Champagne Corolla was a solid choice, as if I am any expert on the intricacies of crafting a set list. I say that because it’s a solid mellow tune especially when JTE followed it up with One More Night in Brooklyn. The guys rolled through a few more jams which I sadly found myself unfamiliar with but JTE and The Sadies made every song a fun time. During the first group of songs was what Justin refers to as his “meanest song recorded so far”, with an emphasis on the recorded part. That song being Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, yes that’s one long title. But the song requires the title or one may not get it. I would give some absurd intellectual analysis of the song but I think it deserves a listen and everyone can relate to it so it’s in my check it out list below.

For JTE’s last few songs the pace picked up and I finally heard one of my recent favorites I discovered before the show, Harlem River Blues.  Its a great upbeat song and really got The Sadies into a jam session where yet again I stood in awe. The one song I wish I had heard though was Lone Pine Hill. Granted it didn’t fit the mood of the night or their previous songs in the setlist but it’s a song that captures JTE’s lyrical gift well and reminds me of Long Black Veil faintly. My overall reaction to the night was, without any other way to put it, a warm homey feeling. I got to witness an incredibly talented kid open for two widely respected groups and just soak it all in with people just wanting to listen. Which, I might add, were a crowd of music lovers that I saw perhaps a couple dozen phones out for a split second but otherwise nada.  It was refreshing and made the night all that much more enjoyable.

Setlist: Champagne Corolla/One More Night in Brooklyn/Wahts She Crying For/Move Over Mama/Black Eyed Susie/Nothings Gonna Change/15-25/ChristChurch Woman/Trouble/Rogers/Aint Waitin/What Do You Do When You’re Home/Shorthaired Woman/Faded Valentine/ Harlem River Blues/Am I That Lonely Tonight/Worried About the Weather/Farther From Me

My favorite Songs of the show: 

JTE – Who Am I To Say, Lone Pine Hill, Harlem River Blues

The Sadies – Hold On Hold On, The Good Years,

Sammy Brue – I Know, Once A Lover, I’m Free Disarray Me