Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry needs no introduction, but the venue that I saw them in, definitely does. I have been wanting to attend a show at The Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns ever since I laid eyes on photos folks have posted. Now Cumberland Caverns isn’t in Kentucky, it is in Tennessee, so I simply waited until a Kentucky angle made sense for me to put over 8 hours behind the wheel in one day.
Finally ,the perfect show popped up! Black Stone Cherry, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, and Bowling Green, Kentucky’s own, The Josephines. I will admit that I have already seen all three bands, so I had a pretty good idea of the energy and performance that we were in for.
So back to the venue for a moment, the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns is located 333 feet below the surface. The room itself holds about 750 people and if you’re anything like myself, you’ll be blown away to learn that at the back of the venue, there is a concession stand, as well as bathrooms located just past the merch tables.
There are also several seating spots to sit, but the majority of folks are essentially standing for the night. One other neat part is that at the back of the venue, the tables have televisions above them and they stream what’s happening onstage. So if ya don’t like sweaty strangers, you have an option!
Getting to the room isn’t terribly difficult, but there are several inclines and the walking surface is a little difficult to judge in the low lighting. So if you have poor balance or climbing inclines is difficult for you, I suggest getting there early and simply take your time. Leaving the room is much more strenuous on the way out.
Now for me, my two favorite things about The Volcano Room. 1. The temperature is between 50 and 55 degrees year round. So when everyone starts sweating at a rock show, you can step back and cool down a bit rather quickly. 2. You’re in a flipping CAVE!! Duh!! Lol
Now let’s discuss the other reason that I made the trip, the music.
First up, our buds in The Josephines. These gentlemen have an undeniably unique sound and that’s a total compliment. I’ll take a unique band over a cookie cutter band any day of the week.
The Josephines are a smorgasbord of awesome musical influences and what comes out is this Kentucky fried rock and roll that’s soaked in bourbon and is as badass as a Corvette, but there’s thankfully no horse $hit. The band is one of the tightest you’ll ever witness and their harmonies are what will snag ya hook, line and sinker. Their set was brief as an opener, but tracks like “Coal Mine Gone”, a new track in “I’m Doing Fine”, “Cocaine”, and “Fireball” definitely won over several new fans.
Next up was Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. One quick note of importance, there is a Kentucky connection within the band and that’s drummer Caleb Crosby who hails from Winchester, Kentucky!
I’ve seen Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown (TB&TS) twice before Sunday. Once opening in their adopted hometown of Nashville opening for Rival Sons and the other at The Burl in Lexington. Their sound definitely approaches the classic rock era, but it is still fresh. A lot of that sound likely has to do with Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. Guitarist Graham Whitford happens to be Brad’s son.
Their show is a very energetic performance and the band is definitely a well-oiled machine, but the crowd was pretty mild during the beginning of their set. I’m not sure if they were tired from the walk-in or just conserving their energy for Black Stone Cherry.
Thankfully though, after a few times leading the overhead claps and fist pumps, folks bought in and seemingly rather enjoyed their set. Of the now three times that I’ve seen TB&TS, this was by far the best performance I’ve personally witnessed. Tyler was an absolute madman and my favorite performances were definitely when Tyler took to his Resonator and performed “Ramblin’ Bones,” and a rousing rework of Elvis Presley’s “That’s Alright Momma”. Graham was on what looked to be his Melody Maker and Tyler was on his Resonator and I just want to tell you that once you experience what I’m about to tell you, you’ll be making the trip here too.
You’ve heard folks use hyperbole like that was “Earth Shaking” and you’ve likely blown it off as silly. I normally do as well, but I’m here to tell you that you feel the music through your feet. You’re surrounded by rock, so the only place it can is in the ground. And that’s exactly why these performances were truly “Earth Shaking!”
Next up were some of my favorite Kentuckians in Black Stone Cherry. I’ve got a pretty long history with these fellas, and I KNEW they were going to hit that stage and run us over like a locomotive, or maybe it was a “Lonely Train.”
See that’s the thing, Black Stone Cherry (BSC) only has one throttle position and that’s wide open!! If you have ever seen them live, you will see them again because you know that they will leave every ounce of their effort on that stage.
Before taking the stage, Aerosmith was jamming over the speakers. I’m certain that having Graham on this tour helped them decide to play Aerosmith, but you may not know that outside of Elvis Presley, Aerosmith happens to be guitarist Ben Wells favorite band. So knowing that now, it was an awesome way to take the stage.
First up was “Devil’s Queen,” and just like I said, full throttle is all those fellas know. So they tore through “Like I Roll”, “Can’t You See” and “Burnin'” before we could even catch our breath!
One really, really cool moment happened during “In My Blood” and it was absolutely beautiful. Towards the end of the tune, the band dropped out completely and that’s when the acoustics in the room became the star of the show. With a near capacity crowd singing along in total silence felt as if you could hear every single voice and I have goosebumps just typing this now. WOW!
There are two BSC songs that are my favorites from a lyrical perspective. I was fortunate enough to hear both of them back in December. “Things My Father Said” and”My Last Breath” have no equals for me. The former reminds me of my Dad, who I lost a little over 10 years ago and the latter reminds me to be a Dad.
So when we were treated to “My Last Breath”, I simply closed my eyes and let the music be the soundtrack to my memories.
The guys pulled out a cover of the Bob Dylan penned, but Jimi Hendrix classic in “All Along The Watchtower.” This was the first song that I really focused on the newest addition to this tour. I do apologize for not knowing his name, I’ve had three friends refer to the young man as Yates, so we’re gonna go with that. Yates plays the keys and some Hammond organ. He really fills in the sonic gaps and makes Jon Lawhon’s bass sound absolutely MASSIVE.
If this tour is where BSC becomes a jam band like say Gov’t Mule or Derek Trucks and they keep expanding songs and splicing in different vibes, where it becomes a reinvention of the band…I can not wait to see where these fellas take us!
Also it was at this point that I retreated to the top ring of the venue. During this time, I removed my ear plugs and I think I peed a little the first time I heard John Fred hit his snare. If you haven’t seen Black Stone Cherry, then you may not know just how hard John Fred hits his drums, also I’m here to tell ya that his snare cracks like a .45 and in a room with amazing acoustics, John Fred’s snare can occassionally overpower the guitars. It was insanely cool though!
The band played “Ain’t Nobody” which eventually evolved into John Fred’s drum solo, just YouTube it, my words are insufficient here.
One added component was John Fred playing the harmonica…DURING his drum solo. His harmonica brought the band back onstage for what is always a welcomed performance of the ine and only, “Hoochie-Coochie Man.”
This eventually became similar to a scene from the Ralph Machio classic movie, “Crossroads.” Chris and Yates traded licks ala Ralph Machio and Steve Vai, thank goodness no one got their head cut in this one!
So, what could possibly top what we just witnessed? For me, nothing. BUT throwing the song that started all in “Lonely Train” out there sure didn’t hurt my feelings. Neither did “Blame It On The Boom Boom”, “White Trash Millionaire” or closing the night with “Family Tree.”
So there ya have it. Three separate bands, all three with a Kentucky connection inside a flippin cave in Tennessee. It simply doesn’t get anymore rock ‘n’ roll than that!