The Band tribute on tap and American Aquarium returns to Myrtle Beach area

For Weekly Surge For Weekly SurgeOctober 2, 2013 

When I was a teenager, many moons ago, I went into my local record store (remember those?) to inquire about some band I’d been hearing about. I asked the clerk “Who is this group called The Band?” The harsh look of incredulity from the clerk sent chills down my spine as the usually affable guy took great offense at my ignorance. “The Band?” he answered with a sneer. “They’re the only group in the world with balls big enough to call themselves “ Thee Band.” I meekly replied “Oh,” and was escorted to the Bs and told to purchase “The Band.” Also known as “The Brown Album,” the record, originally released in 1969, contains “Across the Great Divide,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Up on Cripple Creek, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” My musical leanings were forever changed with that one simple purchase.

Those songs, along with many others, will be performed in a loving homage by the Grand Strand Tribute to The Band, by no fewer than two dozen local singers and musicians on Oct. 13 at the Pawleys Island Tavern. Jonathan “Doc” Simons (Doc Simons Band), local psychologist and long-time blues guitarist, singer, harmonica player, and lover of The Band, had been toying with the idea for years, and finally began to put it all together last spring. The culmination of his efforts will allow fans of the defunct Canadian-American Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame group to enjoy an evening of The Band’s classics, and some deep cuts seldom heard performed live.

“The Band probably had the greatest influence on me musically, over all,” said Simons. “I love all their stuff, know all their stuff, but I can’t sing much of it. All three lead singers in The Band had great [vocal] ranges.” So Simons enlisted area musicians, and a few out-of-town guests.. In alphabetical order, scheduled to appear are: Gary Alexander (The Winchesters), Nick Andolora, Emerson Wells Barrett, Patterson Barrett, Dean Black, Damon Bradley, Ephraim Brown, Don Colton, Charles Freeman (Ten Toes Up), Drew Jacobs, Alex Lawson, Blair Mathis, Tony Mauldin, Conner Mills, Patrick O’Leary, PaperWork, Alex Robinson, Marc Serio, Daniel Simons, Doc Simons, Rob Steuer (Sawgrass), Jaynie Trudell, and Billy Wright.

“Daniel [Simons], my son, has put together a horn section for the show,” said Doc Simons, who also performs in a duo with his son. Two father-and-son teams will join forces, in an unusual show of genetic musical splendor as Patterson Barrett will perform with his son Emerson Wells Barrett.

“[At the Tribute] we plan to have a grand finale with everyone jamming and singing on “The Weight” as the show’s closer,” said Simons.

As American as Apple Pie

Raleigh N.C.-based indie band American Aquarium will make another sweep through the Grand Strand with two upcoming concerts. With five albums in six years, this roots-rock act tours incessantly across the U.S. (with 25 October dates alone) and just recently returned from Europe. Regulars at downtown Myrtle Beach festivals, including the upcoming Oct. 12 Oktoberfest, the band has performed numerous times at Plyler Park, the House of Blues, and at the Oceanfront Bar & Grill. American Aquarium will mark its debut along the South Strand at the Dead Dog Saloon 8:30 p.m. Friday.

John Campbell, co-owner of the Dead Dog Saloon, first found the band because of his love for Wilco. American Aquarium’s name is a reference to a line in a Wilco song “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” and it caught Campbell’s attention. “I was curious at first, and then found I really liked the music,” said Campbell, who books national acts at the venue in the off-season. “This will be the first of our 2013/2014 season,” he said. “We can’t wait to have them in.”

“We’re all still in our 20s, but we’re pushing 30,” laughed BJ Barahm, vocalist and rhythm guitarist for American Aquarium. “We do 250-300 shows per year – it’s insane.” In keeping with other Carolina-based acts, American Aquarium has an easily digested sound and style that focuses on songwriting and Americana instrumentation. The five-piece act also features Ryan Johnson on lead guitar, Whit Wright (pedal steel), Bill Corbin (bass), and Kevin McClain (drums). The band cites Ryan Adams, Wilco, Drive By Truckers, and others as influences.

The band released “Burn.Flicker.Die” almost one year ago, and has been touring in support of the project. “We’ve been coming to the Myrtle Beach area almost since we started. Every year we’ve done the House of Blues New Year’s Eve concert with Corey Smith, and that led to the downtown gigs. A lot of friends our friends have played the Dead Dog Saloon. We’re really looking forward to it.”

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