BHS alumni rule stage at Dirty Guv’s, Moon Taxi gig

Jack H. Evans

If you live in Knoxville, listen to music, and don’t know who The Dirty Guv’nahs are, you’d better have a pretty good excuse. That’s because the Dirty Guv’s might be Knoxville’s most popular band… Ever. They’ve been voted Knoxville’s Best Band in the Metro Pulse readers’ poll five years running. They constantly sell out shows here in town at venues like the Bijou Theater and historic Tennessee Theatre,and they’ve toured all across the U.S. It’s safe to say that they’re kind of a big deal – and it doesn’t hurt their Bearden cred that they have two alumni in the lineup. So, the fact that they decided to hold their release party for their new album Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies here,in the city’s heart at Market Square, and that they decided to bring in Nashville indie-prog-jam outfit Moon Taxi to open up, and most of all that they decided to make it a free show is also kind of a big deal,especially for a city that loves this band as much as any city has ever or could ever love a local band. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Moon Taxi is a strange beast. After meeting at Belmont University and forming as the backing band for a hip-hop group, the young musicians decided to go out on their own, adding keyboardist and Bearden High alum Wes Bailey to their lineup along the way. The 5-piece (which also includes guitarist/vocalist Trevor Terndrup, guitarist/keyboardist Spencer Thomson, drummer Tyler Ritter, and bassist Tommy Putnam) released their jam-tastic debut, Melodica , in2007. After five years of writing and touring, they finally released their sophomore studio album Cabaret earlier this year. Cabaret is a departure from Melodica : sure, it still has some of those jam band roots, but it focuses more on elements of indie and prog rock with a big splash of electronic flourishes and influences from folk and hip-hop (check out the guest vocal from rapper Matisyahu on “Square Circles”). 2012 has been a huge year for Moon Taxi, one that might see them break out later on. Other than the release of Cabaret , they’ve played festival dates including Firefly, Bonnaroo, and Lollapallooza. They’re currently in the midst of a tour with Matisyahu and The Dirty Heads, and later in September, they’ll perform at Bowling Green’s Starry Nights Festival, alongside Cage the Elephant, Manchester Orchestra, Mimosa, JEFF the Brotherhood, Portugal. The Man, and more. Conveniently, the songs from Cabaret fit more for the diverse crowd at the show: old and young, male and female, suits and hippies and hipsters all in one place. Moon Taxi culls most of Cabaret ’s great songs for their set, including wooshy, synth-and-guitar rockers like“Mercury,” the funky, catchy “All the Rage,” softer songs “Southern Trance” and“Whiskey Sunset” and, perhaps most memorably, an extended version of the title track, featuring blistering guitar work and an absolutely ridiculous keyboard solo by Bailey. Moon Taxi may be on the bill as the opener, but they’re anything but a slouch. The spotlight is of course on the Dirty Guv’nahs. The local legends are in the perfect setting for their instantly likable blend of rock,country, and blues. They’re all bombast and energy, Michael Jenkins and Cozmo Holloway trading guitar licks, big-voiced frontman James Trimble bouncing around the stage, howling on top of the drum riser, his voice soaring across the audience like a southern-rock Jim Morrison. Meanwhile, brothers (and BHS alumni) Aaron and Justin Hoskins lay down a tight groove on drums and bass, and Chris Doody bangs out luscious organ chords. Perhaps the Guv’s have learned some of their stage presence from the wide variety of acts they’ve shared the stage with: everyone from Wilco to the Zac Brown Band to even Train. Although energy is an important, it’s more important that the Guv’s mix in songs from their whole catalog to keep the show upbeat – and they do. They play rockers like “We’ll Be the Light” and “Child,” as well as ballads like “3000 Miles” – all told probably around two dozen songs. By the time they come to the end of their set, everything already seems to be going splendidly. But they’ve yet to even reach their high point. As they launch into their closer, their biggest “hit,”“Baby We Were Young,” the rain that’s been politely holding off all evening finally breaks into a steady drizzle. As the crowd grooves and the Guv’s play the song like it’s their last ever, Trimble tosses his jug of water into the audience, where it’s tossed around with a large portion of the water splashing all over yours truly (for you cynics, getting even a little drenched at a concert is a beautiful mix of refreshment and exhilaration). And then they leave. But after a minute of “One! More!Song!” chants, they inevitably return – and promptly blow the roof off the dark sky. For the first song of the encore, they destroy the audience with a soulful, mournful, guitar-shredding, bass-rumbling cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s classic “Whipping Post.” Then, to end the night, they bring the crowd back together with an epic rendition of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” appropriately with guest vocals by all 5 members of local rock group The Black Cadillacs. There’s a reason these guys are so important to Knoxville, and on this night, they display it in full force. If you haven’t seen the Dirty Guv’nahs yet, hurry up and do so – you don’t know what you’re missing. Jack H. Evans is the entertainment editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter@BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.