Checkpoint: Royal Oak
DRB would've had an easier time sneaking into North Korea than getting into the first Arts, Beats, and Eats held in Royal Oak, Michigan. A furor was recently raised by pro-Gun supporters, over the open carry of weapons into the festival, culminating in a city commission meeting featuring some extremely public pro and against arguments by passionate members of the local community. Combine that minor PR debacle with the existing debate over Oakland County's most widely recognized public festival moving from cash-strapped Pontiac, and it's easy to understand a heightened emphasis on security.
The police and county sheriff were everywhere, and we mean EVERYWHERE.
Although we had been cleared at the entry gate through the AB&E Master Media List, one of the volunteers, unconvinced of our legitimacy, demanded we show further identification.
“Show me a anything. Show me a business card!!”
“Ma'am, with all due respect, we are rock journalists. We don't sell insurance.”
DRB gives a one time only, special thanks to the unnamed Royal Oak Police Department officer who kindly explained:
“Hey, it's OK. They're Press. Let them in.”
Unless you've been living in Mammoth Cave the last two years, you've heard Saving Abel's massive tearjerker '18 days', a single clearly in the same vein as Candlebox's grittier Far 'Behind'. Fans, particularly female fans, adored the sensitive side of Saving Abel, but based on the other radio releases 'Addicted' and 'Drowning', I didn't see the group exploring ground not already covered by Staind or Rise Against. Similar image: black clothes, tattoos, punk rock hair, and a few clever songs with some better than average album filler.
But after digging deeper into their self titled album, 2010's 'Miss America', and witnessing their energetic live performance at Arts, Beats, and Eats Main Stage, I've had a change of perspective.
Tonight the band would be playing to a crowd largely composed of aging Candlebox diehards, which is a tougher conversion than democrat to republican. So they decided to come out heavy opening with 'Tapout', the first song from their new album. The crowd was mainly drunken yuppies, aging hipsters, corporate VIPS, with only the sprinkled assortment of rabid fans being quick to respond to lead singer Jared Weeks infectious stage presence. Yet, song by song, the band managed to win over the listless crowd with high voltage performance after performance, including 'Stupid Girl' and 'Contagious'. Yet, it wasn't until an inspired rendition of 'Drowning' that the band's musicianship truly began to infiltrate the crowd. Forty-something housewives and their bored husbands began to throw up the devil horns and rock drunkenly back and forth. DRB watched in shock as a pair of drunk frat brothers managed to let go of their dates bra straps and actually began paying attention to the music.
A highlight ocurrend when Saving Abel acknowledgedtheir early influences by bringing a harder rock edge to a cover of Credence Clearwater Revival's 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?', and continued the somber rock vibe with the slower-paced, lyrical masterpiece 'Sex Is Good'.
Before launching into the closing song 'Miss America', in a show of patriotic class, Weeks proudly acknowledged those citizens serving in our armed forces. He touched, briefly, on the bands recent USO tour, which clearly made a resonant impact on SA's creative approach to songwriting and inspired the album title 'Miss America'.
By the time, the band reached the encore of '18 Days', followed by 'Addicted' nearly the entire crowd had been converted, standing up, singing along and cheering.
A impressive feat for any band.
Overall, there's no hiding their Corinth roots in these talented Mississippi rockers. It's refreshing to see fame hasn't changed Saving Abel for the worse as they evolve from deep south bar band to national touring act. Weeks, who grew up singing in church, before singing about a young lady 'going down on him' (see “Addicted”), was cordial enough to pose for pictures with his newborn daughter, and wife, talk with younger fans, and, impressively, thank two U.S. soldiers who came to see the band before deploying to Iraq.
Rhythm guitarist Scott Taylor was delighted to shake hands and discuss the band's near future.
But, bassist Eric Taylor, was patient enough to come right off the stage, despite an exhaustive set and grant DRB a interview (to be published at a later date!), in which we talked about life on the road, the pros and cons of rock stardom, and the differences in southern and northern culture. This despite being pestered by fans, parents, and assorted groupies, including a lovely young lady who demanded he simply touch her CD copy of SA's debut.
“Just touch it, Eric.” She begged, displaying the CD with eyes wide as glazed doughnuts. “It'll be like a dream come true for me.
Eric, being the southern gentleman that he is, politely complied.
Hell Of A Ride
Have Your Ever Seen The Rain?
Sex Is Good