by Taylor Johnson
Desert Noises, a four man group fronted by Kyle Henderson, got the ball rolling at World Café Live on Tuesday night with an energy driven performance of soulful, psychedelic rock. By all means, Desert Noises is the kind of band that entertains. It was fun to watch them spark the stage and get the audience excited. The group’s debut album, 27 Ways, was recorded in Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas and produced by SQE Music, an LA-based indie label.
Next was The Apache Relay, a six member indie Southern rock group from Nashville, Tennessee. The band is fronted by lyricist Michael Ford Jr. and well-supported by the strong character of its remaining members. Setting up, front-man Michael Ford Jr. holds a Budweiser in his hand and takes the occasional sip. The rest of the band joins him and the crowd waits patiently, enjoying the intimacy of a bar band setting up right before your eyes. Mike Harris sets his guitar down in front of me and the band walks off stage. The image of a raccoon stares back at me from the backside of his guitar.
After some time, the band returns to their posts. The bass sounds, locks in with the drummer’s toms, and Harris picks his guitar back up and delicately slides his finger up the neck. It becomes evident that this is no ordinary bar band. The intimacy remains, but the group commands the stage with energy and authority. Michael Ford Jr. stands front and center, clean shaven, stomping his boots and strumming his guitar to the rhythm of his bearded bandmates in beat-up plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and denim jackets. The band has style; recognizable southern charm. Violinist Kellen Wenrich lets his red hair flow from his hat and it hangs halfway down his back. He looks like a Western movie star. Lead guitarist Mike Harris wears an impressive beard that says it all.
The band has a very interesting sound and it coincides with their style. Their music provides the pick-me-up feel of modern indie rock, but is at the same time accented by the subtle Southern influence of their hometown. In many ways, the band brought Nashville with them in their music. A great deal of this influence shines through the guitar work of both Ford Jr. and lead guitarist Mike Harris. Blues riffs, slide guitar, and the twang of the acoustic all add a little flavor to the mix.
The Apache Relay’s songs were brief, but effective and unique in their own ways. At one time we have Ford Jr. singing over a crunchy blues riff, while at other times we watch mesmerized by Harris’ licks, the grace of Kellen Wenrich’s violin, or the cadence of Brett Moore’s keys. The diversity of their instruments kept the audience entertained throughout. The experience carried with it the aura of a travelling band. Every new instrument felt like an introduction to a new and different side of the band.
The band’s sound and style were accessible and it didn’t take long for the audience to start bobbing their heads along with the songs. Harris is loveable, a clear crowd favorite. Everyone cheers loudest when he steps forward and wails a soulful solo out for us to hear. He smiles slightly, then retreats. This was really his only solo, which made it all the more meaningful.
At one point, the band broke out into Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” and Ford Jr. belted out the lyrics like they were his own. “Mister State Trooper, please don’t stop me!” he sings, and it just feels right.
The Wild Feathers headlined the show and kept the vibe going with some good ole fashion Southern American rock. The group hails from Oklahoma and Texas, but currently resides in Nashville. Every member of The Wild Feathers (Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly) are former lead singers who came together to create classic Southern rock together. The result is magic. The four of them form beautiful harmonies and compelling song structures. A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n rock. Not unlike famous acts such as Tom Petty or The Allman Brothers.
It was a treat to see Apache Relay and The Wild Feathers perform together. Both groups provide a fresh and contemporary way for Southern influence to remain in the picture. They were able to transform World Café Live into a little piece of the South. It came as a surprise when I walked back outside into the bitterness of early winter. Part of me expected to step out into the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.