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Friday, March 4, 2011

The Apache Relay-Live @ Exit/In

I’ve seen a lot of bands in Nashville. Like, a lot. I’ve seen a lot of bands from Nashville play in Nashville. Some of them are okay, some of them are pretty good, and some of them just suck. Rarely do I see one that I think is actually going to do something in the world. With the exception of The Apache Relay.

On Tuesday night I went to see The Apache Relay at Exit/In here in Nashville. Now, I’ve seen The Apache Relay in small spaces and big spaces and I’ve become pretty familiar with their sound. With Michael Ford’s mesmerizing stage presence, the incendiary guitar playing of Mike Harris, and the energy and musicianship from the rest of the band, it’s nearly impossible not to be entranced by Apache. Last night was no exception. In fact, this was the most energized and compelling performance I’ve seen from these guys yet.

Apache is everything you want to see out of a rock show: They are no frills and no conversation; the show is about the music, and it’s about how showing you how damn good it is. In fact, they have the ability to steal a show and captivate an audience that probably didn’t come to see them. Even with a short set, they will play their asses off to steal your hearts. On this opening slot for G Love, the guys played almost entirely from their newest record, American Nomad, to be released in April under Thirty Tiger—and picked one song to play from their more acoustic-based debut album, 1988 near the end of the set.

With so much of the band being multi-instrumentalists, it’s not surprising to see their virtuosic fiddle player doubling up on percussion and picking up a guitar for several songs with ease and passion. The guys are clearly having the time of their lives on stage, and it’s easy to see that Michael Ford belongs in front of an audience. His presence is natural and infectious—people want to watch him. And that’s the thing about The Apache Relay: they are so easy to love. Their newest stuff has catchy fiddle hooks, delicious guitar licks, and thoughtfully poignant lyrics weaving through every song.

My only complaint about this show is simply that the guys didn’t play more from their first album. While their newer stuff certainly shows growth and maturity (and perhaps even to some, almost a complete abandoning of their old sound), it is still great to hear a variety of both. I’m biased because I love the folky, bluegrassy, rootsy acoustic sounds of 1988 and will always want to hear it, but I do hope the crew continues to mix and match their songs.

If the energy, passion, and talent of this band continues to grow, I have no doubt in my mind that they will be Nashville’s next big thing. There’s no reason anyone in this town should beat them to this title.

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