All photos are of Apache Relay and are courtesy of David Simchock/David Simchock Photography.
If you’ve been to a G. Love show before, you have a pretty good idea of what took place last Thursday at the Orange Peel. Definite party music with a slight frat-house flavor. Blues, rock and hip-hop. G. Love is, as ever a consummate entertainer/guy you wouldn’t necessarily want to take home to mom. What was different this time around: He was performing songs from his new Fixin’ To Die album, recorded at Echo Mountain and produced by The Avett Brothers. Despite murmurs to the effect, no Avetts were seen on stage or in the audience. G. Love’s band Special Sauce was there, however — the rhythm section includes longtime G. Love collaborators, drummer Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens, and bassist Timo Shanko mostly on standup. In recent years, G. Love has toured less often with Special Sauce, so their appearance added a celebratory note to the evening.
But while G. Love’s show was exactly the good, high energy fun you’d expect (worth noting: The singer appeared on stage with a jar of Moonshine, wearing a “Welcome to the Cesspool of Sin” t-shirt), the real surprise of the evening was opener The Apache Relay.
Okay, the Nashville-based six-piece was in town not to long ago, playing Bele Chere. And front man Michael Ford, Jr. pointed out that the band’s first Asheville show was on the Mo Daddy’s stage two years ago. He also mentioned (probably a half-dozen times) how excited they all were to be on the Orange Peel stage — and that excitement showed. Throughout their 11-song set, the band held nothing back. They drenched their jean jackets and chambray shirts with sweat. They kicked and jumped and shouted out backup vocals. Multi-instrumentalist Kellen Wenrich shredded on fiddle and when he wasn’t fiddling he was strumming a guitar. While pulling off a crazy-awesome dance moves that involved lunges and lurches. When he wasn’t doing that, he was playing any number of shakers and auxiliary percussion instruments.
The success of recent album American Nomad propels the live show, but Apache Relay pulled off a new song on stage as well — a feat when playing the opening slot. But the crowd gave the band headliner treatment, going along with new material and a raucous count down to the band’s final song, their single “Home Is Not Places.”
Apache Relay’s sound is rooted in Americana but informed by indie rock with flavors of R&B thrown in for good measure. They’re fun to watch — especially Ford and Wenrich who are highly animated, possibly the hardest rockers on the road today. Possibly. They’re definite contenders.
Later, at the merch booth, Wenrich said they hope to be back in Asheville in the spring. Watch for them.