Let’s face it, 2020 and COVID can collectively kiss all of our a$$es. Since I turned 21, live music has been a staple in my life and something that has been able to make my soul smile. Live music is my antidepressant. 2020 has largely robbed me of that peace. But on Sunday, it was time to return to the Mother Church of Kentucky Music, The Burl.
Make no mistake, COVID still had it’s hands in the experience, but The Burl has adapted quite well and won’t go down without a fight. Tables of six were sold for a show held in the parking lot of the Burl. Drinks and food could be ordered on your smartphone and you were allowed to be mask free, but only at your table. Social distancing was in full effect and thankfully the weather decided to be agreeable for once.
As for the parking lot show idea, The Burl is doing it right. Since they own the Arcade and now serve food, their corner of Lexington has once again reclaimed their undisputed title of the best venue to see a show. With tables of six spaced evenly on the parking lot, I felt safe from the dangers of COVID. Well, as safe as I could. I still had to sneak around folks to snag y’all some photos. Which, by the way, was something that I have missed way more than I ever dreamed.
But, I digress, let’s get to the show itself.
First up, were The Ox-Eyed Daisies. A Lexington based quartet led by the husband and wife team of Liz Frazier and Cody Penn. The band has drawn some comparisons to the Tedeschi Trucks Band, as has Magnolia Boulevard, but let’s not pigeon hole folks. The Ox-Eyed Daisies are The Ox-Eyed Daisies and that’s what matters.
Early in their set, the band delivered a wonderful rendition of the classic Dusty Springfield hit, “Son Of A Preacher Man”, and they really hit their stride with “Keep On Rolling”. Which was my favorite track of their set.
As for their performance, I’m a fan. If I may slide a little constructive criticism, I’d encourage a bit more energy or showmanship onstage, but that will come in time. Liz Frazier has great vocal tone and she knows her lane very well. Cody is a fantastic player and his playing really comes alive once he hits those strings with his slide. The solid rhythm section provided the groove as I watched many folks become fans right before my eyes. That’s a beautiful thing.
I love Kentucky music, hopefully that isn’t news to you, but if it is, let’s discuss the band that brought me out of my COVID hibernation, Magnolia Boulevard.
From the very first notes that I heard of Magnolia Boulevard, I knew I was witnessing a band that could become legendary someday. I say that with a straight face and in doing so, I relived the chicken skin that I experienced the first time hearing them. Hell, let’s be honest, they give me the ole chicken skin with every performance, but this performance, I knew was going to be special to me no matter what, because of COVID. Depression has lingered far too long and it was time to try and take life back from its grip.
Magnolia Boulevard has spent a large portion of the downtime honing their skills and working with Paul Reed Smith to finish up their recently released EP, ‘A New Illusion’. If you haven’t heard that yet, you can read our review here.
The band is now a very well-oiled machine. Their time off has helped them to polish off all the rough edges and as hard as it is to believe, they’re an even better band than before. Let’s use the term juggernaut here. That’s exactly what I witnessed, as the band had missed us as much as we missed them.
The show began with a new song written as a tribute to a fallen friend, affectionately known as Little Bear. Maggie took the stage with Ryan Allen, and together they harmonized and memorialized their friend before the band joined them on stage to finish the tribute. It was a heavy moment, poignant and beautiful.
R.I.P. Little Bear
There were several new songs on the night, but I think my favorite was “More.” Maggie recently became a Mother and “More” is a song written for her daughter. In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than that when a song is from such a personal and beautiful place.
“Loving Me” brought a new focus for me. I’ve always loved it when Maggie steps on the gas vocally but seeing this one live, the crooner side of Maggie has evolved into an equally engaging aspect and one that I really enjoyed on Sunday night.
“Planting Seeds” is a song the band debuted at Floydfest back in 2019. The song has really evolved and Gregg Erwin went the F off on Sunday night. He entered another dimension on the Burl porch. That is one of my favorite aspects about Magnolia Boulevard. Gregg is a show within the show when he closes his eyes and let’s the music flow. I’m not sure where he goes or where he took us, but I’m ecstatic that Gregg allows us all to go with him.
Magnolia Boulevard welcomed Cody Penn to the stage, where he sat in for an epic performance of “Statesboro Blues.” Obviously with two guitarists of their caliber, they chose to go the Allman Brothers route and y’all already know how amazing that was.
It had been nearly seven months since my last concert, so I did allow myself to enjoy Sunday a bit more than usual. So song order and a few details may be in the wrong sequence. Please forgive me if so.
I will say this, the Sunday night performance solidified what I love most about Maggie’s voice. The soul. The tone. The warmth. The kindness. The love that she has for mankind. When you hear Maggie’s voice, you know exactly who Maggie is, and based on her performance tonight, this young lady is a force to be reckoned with. She’s got a lot to say, so you’d be well advised to listen up and enjoy the ride!!
Magnolia Boulevard threw in a new cover this time around. Well, new to me at least. The band slowed it down and let the music simmer as they performed the Eric Clapton / Derek And The Dominos classic “Bell Bottom Blues”. The song felt so perfect that it could easily pass as an original and that’s saying something, but that’s more of a nod to the proficiency of Magnolia Boulevard than the song. They’ve got my vote for keeping this one in the setlist!
That was followed up with “Without You” (I think) which transitioned into Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” and eventually into “The Chain.”
Maggie soared magnificently as she was given the full spotlight as the band built up momentum behind her. You didn’t listen, you didn’t take your eyes off the stage, you experienced Magnolia Boulevard in all their glory. Holy $hit! I needed a beer after witnessing this one. Again, all caps, HOLY $HIT!! Y’all don’t even know how much I needed that one.
“Strong-Willed Women” was up next. I’ve seen this one performed several times, but much like “Lovin You”, Maggie has never sounded better. It probably doesn’t hurt that “Strong-Willed Women” also claims one of my favorite solos from Mr. Erwin. For me, on a personal level, this song was the highlight of the entire night. I listened intently and to my old ears, it was flawless.
The night was wrapped up with the very first song that introduced me to Magnolia Boulevard. “Ride” is one of those songs that immediately feels familiar. It’s beautiful. It’s energetic. It just feels timeless and I have a strong feeling that “Ride” will be in the setlist for a very long time.
Several folks had left by this point, it was a Sunday night after all, so many had to be at work on Monday morning. Those that stuck around began dancing at their tables. Now, if you aren’t from around here, you can almost always trace the dance party beginnings back to Mr. Roger Combs, and for me, seeing Roger and a boatload of friends enjoying life again was the cherry on top of this rock ‘n’ roll sundae…errrr Sunday.
There was a lot of adulation in this article, so you may be thinking that I’m full of it. If so, watch this video and get back to me, you’ll get it. Promise.
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience live music again, but I hope things return to normal as soon as possible. Not for any selfish reasons, but because the world seems to be hellbent on destroying itself and people are dying. We can’t become okay with that. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Check on your friends. Tell them you love them. I hope to hug y’all again sooner rather than later.