Admittedly, I walked into the Blackberry Smoke show on Friday night only familiar with their “Essentials Playlist” on Apple Music. But I walked out of there certain that I needed to buy some bootcut jeans, a little turquoise and grow some chops.
J.D. Simo opened the show. For those that don’t know, J.D. is objectively one of the best living guitar players. He got his start playing nightly 4 hour honky-tonk sets with the Don Kelly Band in Nashville. So he’s got the most chicken pickin’ cred this side of Brent Mason. Now J.D. and his band play a little more straight ahead blues stuff—a little like Derek Trucks without the Indian influence. You need to brace yourself from the onslaught of guitar notes if you’re standing in the front row, but it’s incredible to see the guy just rip for like half an hour straight. No better way to open the show.
I’ve known Blackberry Smoke has been around for awhile now, and on the back of their last two releases Like an Arrow and Find a Light they’re starting to get the recognition they deserve. What I didn’t realize was the commitment of their fanbase. The first five rows from the stage were filled with folks from mostly the South making friends with other fans, going on and on about all the places they’ve seen the band, where they are going to see them next. These were extensive conversations detailing the logistics of following the band along the festival route summer to summer all the way from Florida to New York. There were quite a few Greg Allman look-a-likes scattered around the Brooklyn Bowl, and a lot of leather. But that’s what you want isn’t it?
Basically, I’m just pumped that a Southern Rock band, as good as these guys, exists. And that they’ve got a big enough loyal group of fans that they can keep doing their thing. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was around when Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers were in their prime. Watching Blackberry Smoke, I felt like I wasn’t too far from it.
What really got me though, was that obviously the hits were great that night: “Six Ways to Sunday”, “Let It Burn”, “One Horse Town”; but, their back catalogue is so strong, that every song was just as good as the last. I had a blast, I imagine the Brooklyn Bowl came close to selling out of beer, and I bought a ticket to come back and see them the following night. They called it the “Second Annual Big Apple Breakdown”, let’s hope there’ll be many more.