Arlo McKinley

Show Review: Arlo McKinley at PAC in Kentucky

Show Reviews

Arlo McKinley at PAC in Kentucky

April is National Donate Life Month, with state organ donor associations hosting events across the nation. The Kentucky Organ Donation Association (KODA/Donate Life Kentucky) held the LIVE! to Live event at the Paramount Arts Center (PAC) in Ashland on Friday, April 8, 2022. LIVE! to Live featured musical performances by headliner, Arlo McKinley with Jayce Turley and Hello June opening on the main stage and Corduroy Brown for the after party. This event’s focus is raising awareness for organ donation and throughout the evening, organ donors and recipients were recognized. The PAC was filled near its 1400 seat capacity for this free event.

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Jayce Turley started the night’s performances off, having won the right to do so by winning a statewide competition for high school musicians. The prize he won in addition to a scholarship for not just himself, but Greenup County High School, was getting to perform one song to open the show. Fortunately for the audience (and Turley) he was actually allowed to perform three songs instead of one. Turley performed songs from his forthcoming debut EP The Opening Act, available on digital platforms April 14, 2022, with physical CDs available early May 2022. While I was familiar with Turley’s music, this was my first time seeing him live. He didn’t disappoint! Starting off with “Whisper Goodnight,” he then played “Getting Out of Kentucky” before closing with “Cowboy Hats & Pearl Snaps.”  From the time he started singing, he held the crowd enthralled with just an acoustic guitar.

After the host and hostess (Michael Valentine and Leigh Pennington) spoke of the importance of organ donation and recognized organ donors and recipients in the crowd, they introduced Gaby Thomas, the granddaughter of organ recipient Joy Bryant Harris, who delivered an emotionally charged performance of an original song based on her grandmother’s experience.

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Indie rockers Hello June took the stage next for a twelve song set that included a mix of new/unreleased songs and songs from their 2018 self-titled album. A bit different sounding than Jayce Turley or Arlo McKinley, their melodic, heavily 90’s guitar laden college rock influenced songs, were a change of pace. They played a total of nine unreleased songs, so maybe there is an album release in their future.

Hello June started off their set with “Sometimes,” one of their unreleased songs. Hello June front woman, Sarah Rudy’s vocals brings to mind Linda Perry to me, more than The Cranberries (who I have seen comparisons). As they progressed through their set which included “Candy Rain,” “Handshake” and “Mars” from their self-titled release, they continued to hold the crowd. Some of the new/unreleased songs that were highlights for me were “Interstate,” “Faded Blue,” and “No Easy Answer.” Hello June is definitely worth checking out if they are playing near you!

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With the announcement of Arlo McKinley’s forthcoming new album This Mess We’re In coming two days before the show, I fully expected to hear new songs from the album. Surprisingly, he only played three songs off This Mess We’re In, opening the show with his new single “Stealing Dark from the Night Sky.” This was my first time seeing him with the new guys backing him along with long time pedal steel player, Chad Light, they did not disappoint!

“We Were Alright” and “I Don’t Need to Know” followed the opener, and then a song off the new album, “Where You Want Me.”  I can see “Where You Want Me” becoming a crowd favorite and the new ‘our’ song for couples everywhere once This Mess We’re In is released (maybe before).

Arlo followed “Where You Want Me” with a couple more crowd favorites in “Waiting for Wild Horses” and “Suicidal Saturday Night” before playing another new one, “City Lights.”

Following ‘City Lights,” Arlo announced, “We’re going to do someone else’s songs for you all, alright?”. “Are there any old Grateful Dead fans?” McKinley asked before starting into the Dead’s “Black Muddy River,” hands down the best version of the song I have heard since the last time I saw the Grateful Dead play it.

From there the covers continued with just Arlo and Chad Light performing “Falling” (Harry Styles) and “September” (Ryan Adams). The last cover was just Arlo solo belting out an amazing cover of the Prince penned, Sinead O’Connor hit “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  Having seen Arlo a few times before, I knew how strong he is vocally, but neither I nor anyone else in the audience was prepared for this one.

The full band rejoined Arlo to perform “Once Again” and “Time in Bars” before launching into a blistering cover of the Allman Brother’s “Ain’t Wasting Time No More.” About three and a half minutes into the song, McKinley added the lyrics, “Hey, the boys are going to play” and let the band play on while he left the stage briefly. After he returned to the stage, he explained to the crowd how to handle the set break which was coming after the next song, “We are going to play one more, then we are going to walk off over there. And you are going to chant ARLO, ARLO, and we will come back and play a couple more songs.”

“I’ve Got Her” was that next song. When Arlo and the band returned to the stage for the encore, Chad Light traded his seat behind the pedal steel for a six string as the band launched into “Die Midwestern.” Crowd participation? During “Die Midwestern” a lady in the audience accompanied Arlo and the band on harmonica. Arlo remarked to the band, “Make it dirty, boys” and they launched into a brief jam before closing out the show with “Bag of Pills.”

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The after party event was held in a conference room downstairs in the PAC. Alan Brown (of Corduroy Brown) performed solo acoustic, playing a couple of original songs, “Familiar Faces” and “Leave It to Me,”  before being joined by Jayce Turley. Turley performed a verse of John R Miller’s “Coming Down” before disappearing back into the crowd. Brown continued with a couple more covers of regional artists, performing Cole Chaney’s “Another Day in the Life” and John R Miller’s “Looking Over My Shoulder.”

As Brown launched into a cover of “Penitentiary” (Houndmouth) he was joined by the harmonica player from the audience during Arlo’s set. Brown then played his current single “Who I Am For Now” which was a crowd pleaser. Closing out his set with “To My Younger Self.”

This was an amazing show and event promoting National Donate Life month. If you are fortunate enough to have any of the artists who performed at the main event or after party performing near you, they are all acts that you should take the time to see. Arlo McKinley especially, as I doubt he will be playing smaller, intimate venues much longer.


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