Saturday, January 18, 2014

Alt-Country (and not Cntrl-Alt-Delete). Think Springsteen meets Nashville.

I hadn't heard of "alt-country" prior to this week, and apart from a few minutes touring websites and YouTube, had heard nothing of either Cody Canada and the Departed, nor of American Aquarium. I think most of Sacramento must have been in the same position--and maybe even less adventurous than I, because there were very few people who ventured to the show last night. And that's a real shame.

Cody Canada and The Departed at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento
The night started with American Aquarium, who come from Raleigh, North Carolina, but who--if websites and review sites are to be trusted--spend most of their days on the road, dodgy bar to dodgy bar, hotel room to hotel room, playing one venue after another... and while doing so, building up the material to write their latest album, Burn.Flicker.Die.  Hard talk about a hard life.

Whit Wright, American Aquarium

BJ Barham, American Aquarium

Think Springsteen's Nebraska with the plaintive, beautiful pedal/lap steel guitar of Whit Wright weaving its way through the night. BJ Barham is a strong frontman with a voice that is perfect for these songs. I really did enjoy American Aquarium's set; while they are not the most visually-active live show, the music is entrancing.

American Aquarium
Headline act was Cody Canada and The Departed. More rock than American Aquarium, with lively, old-school guitar solos and a frontman not afraid to make eye contact with his rapt audience, the show really rocked.

Cody Canada and The Departed

This is my kind of country. This is my kind of rock-and-roll. It's crossover and it's easy and it's fun. It's the sort of music a tourist expects to find playing in an American roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, where Patryk Swayze and Sam Elliot might be hanging out with Jeff Healey playing inside a cage because of the beer bottles being thrown.

Cody Canada
If you weren't there last night--I know you weren't, I would have seen you, but I only saw the guy-in-the-overcoat one-hand-dancing near the stage and a few other "interesting" Sacramento characters, not you--check out Cody Canada and The Departed's website, and also back catalog from Cross Canadian Ragweed.

(Can't explain it but Cody Canada reminded me of Steve Vai. Not the guitar style; more his presence and looks. That's not a bad thing, now is it.)

Cody Canada
I enjoyed the show, and yes, I'd very much like to see both bands again. Preferably with the bigger audience that they both deserve. But without BJ Barham's comments about wanting meth and/or cocaine or something to "make my eyes pop". I don't know if it was supposed to be amusing, or if he was soliciting speed. It didn't come across as funny. There were kids in the audience. While thoughts of addiction and getting high apparently fuel some of the band's lyrics, the only place where meth is funny is in Breaking Bad, and even there, sometimes it's a stretch. But heck, that's just my opinion. Oh but while I'm on a rant, can we up the light level next time please, and forget the pink??? Why does there seem to be a direct relationship between the number of people in the audience, and the amount and quality of light directed at the stage? Forgive me, the pictures are really grainy because there was little-to-zero light and most of it was PINK. If you want to know why pink's bad, ask me. It's got nothing to do with ribbons and bows.

For full sets of photos from both bands, follow these links to Cody Canada and The Departed photo gallery on and American Aquarium's photo gallery. The drummer pics are a little different. Yeah... ask me about the light again.

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