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Bloodkin's Exile On Lumpkin Street: Soul Survivors

Posted: Dec 18, 2011

Bloodkin's Exile On Lumpkin Street: Soul Survivors
By James Calemine
 

Bloodkin's Friday night show at the venerable Georgia Theatre lingers as one of my finest musical memories of the band in 20 years. Bloodkin's tribute to the Rolling Stones--Exile On Lumpkin Street--featured the legendary saxophonist Bobby Keys along with an amazing cast of the finest musicians in Athens, Georgia. 2012 marks Bloodkin's 25th year as a band...

Since December 18 stands as Bobby Keys and Keith Richards birthday I wanted to write this up today. Yet, so many memorable events transpired that it will be impossible to get it all down here, now.  Needless to say, it was a treasure trove of an evening as far as all the folks I ran into and the music I heard. This musical gathering ranked as an unforgettable evening for everyone in attendance--for their own reasons. This was a local celebration. This was no mainstream media-hyped super group coming to Athens to dazzle the locals. This was an evening of locals celebrating their own...and few bands can pull off the Rolling Stones like Bloodkin.

William Tonks told me at the Thursday rehearsal, "I've been playing these songs for 40 years...so I'm ready". Indeed, Mr. Tonks was ready. And so were the rest of them. Thursday's rehearsal was a scene I'll never forget. Lines of dialogue between the musicians are still floating around in my head. I must say, Bobby Keys lived up to my expectations of him. Besides the Rolling Stones, Keys also played with folks like George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and many others. To watch the band rehearse the songs together only verified my longtime admiration for their talent. I knew there was no question Friday's show would go down in as living-breathing rock & roll history.

At one point on Thursday evening, I was outside smoking a cigarette and Danny stepped out for air. We talked a bit. Then I heard the band starting to play "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", and I told Danny, 'Holy Shit, I've got to SEE Bobby play this." Lord knows, how many times I've heard him play it? Eight feet away there was the man blowing his sax in there here and now. It made me think of all the gigs he's played with the Rolling Stones. Now, here they all were rehearsing in Widespread Panic's practice space.

To have Daniel Hutchens, Eric Carter, William Tonks, Eric Martinez, Aaron Phillips, David Nickel, Todd Nance, Jon Mills, Jason Fuller and Scotty Nicholson serving as the core band playing Stones songs means high-grade rock & roll at its finest. To augment that line-up with Bobby Keys and various auxiliary players--you've got the next best thing to the Rolling Stones... 

On Friday, Bobby Keys suffered an allergic reaction to something he ate and required medical attention. Nonetheless, true to form, Mr. Keys showed up and delivered a memorable performance. Musical guests on this stellar evening included: Colonel Bruce Hampton, Widespread Panic's Todd Nance, Dave Barbe, Eric Culberson, Dodd Ferrell, Keith "Bear" Fowler, Jason Fuller, Betsy Franck, the HEAP, Todd McBride, Donna Hopkins, Clay Leverette, John Neff, Scotty Nicholson, Thayer Sarrano and Jack Logan. The atmosphere in the new Georgia Theatre emitted a laid-back, friendly vibe all night, but there was no doubt there was high anticipation for this show. Part of the proceeds from this evening were donated to Nuci's Space. 

Friday's show was an electric wash of classic Stones numbers. Each song served as a showcase for deft, gritty rock & roll musicianship. Everyone in that building was a Stones/Kin fan with their own memorable moments, but my favorites from the evening included: "Rip This Joint", "Shake Your Hips", "Stop Breaking Down", "Dead Flowers", "Honky Tonk Women", "Sway", "Wild Horses", "Monkey Man", "Live With Me" (Go Bobby!) "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", "Moonlight Mile", "Bitch", "I Got The Blues", "Sweet Virginia" and "Happy". Bloodkin also played three original tunes: the new single "Mark Fidrych & Evel Knievel", "Henry Parsons Died" and "End of the Show".

At that point, Bear came to me, and said, "James, you've got to come see this. Bobby Keys is on the side of the stage playing to "End of the Show". Bobby was playing along to the Bloodkin song in the hallway right of the stage, obscured from the audience, and it was an unforgettable sight and sound. I'll never forget it. I could go on and on here. The evening closed with a glorious version of "Loving Cup". Every person in the Georgia Theatre was proud of Bloodkin...they earned it...Soul Survivors...

I remembered this morning, when Thursday's rehearsal winded down, I had to shake Bobby's hand. I introduced myself to him. We chatted for several minutes and I told him I've been listening to his music all my life. He replied with a friendly grin, "I hope it was worth it." Oh, you bet--

Danny Hutchens told me Thursday at rehearsal: "The first time I talked to Bobby on the phone, he was returning my earlier call. 'Sorry I missed you,' he said. 'I was out walking my dog.'

'What kind of dog you have?'

'I don’t know. He’s a pound puppy. All I know is he’s 100% dog.'"

Yesterday Danny emailed me: "That observation, delivered in that no-nonsense good-old-boy drawl, told me all I needed to know about Mr. Keys. Straight forward, honest, funny. And when I met him in person, he proved to be every bit as charming, down-to-earth, laid-back but bad-assed, as I’d always pictured him to be, from reading and hearing Stones stories through the years. It was an honor sharing the stage with him. He blew as tough and cool as ever."

William Tonks sent in his message late this afternoon, which stated: "We were playing the songs well, and it sounded really good, but when Bobby arrived and joined in it sounded like paradise."

Eric Carter wrote this to me today regarding Bobby Keys and Exile On Lumpkin Street: "Even under the weather, it was still a pleasure...Mr Keys carries himself with a certain Style and Grace. What can I say? It was one for the Memory Banks! Happy Birthday, Sir!"

Hats off to Bloodkin. Hats off to Athens. Happy Birthday to Bobby and Keef. Happy Holidays to you all. See everyone in 2012...

James Calemine

(All Photos Taken December 16, 2011 By Ian Rawn)

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