Ear X-travaganza, the benefit concert for ear X-tacy, is now officially logged into the history book as another classic Louisville music show, but this time around, for more of a somber reason. Preservation. Everybody at Headliners didn't just come together on this night to only help keep a little record store we call ear X-tacy in business. It proved to be more than just that. Everyone at Headliners on this night also came because, in helping preserve ear X-tacy, they also help preserve their own cultural identity, which is shared to the rest of the world via our city's musicians, many whom would not be known if it weren't for ear X-tacy. Over the years, this little record store has became more of a Louisville-landmark and meeting spot than just another record store. It's living proof that Louisville is far different from other cities, and that originality thrives here in many forms. We're not just another city whose streets and way of life is 100% dictated by popular corporate culture and mass capitalism. No, Louisville is "weird" and musicians like Jim James, Patrick Hallahan, Ben Sollee, Scott Carney, The Watson Twins, and Cabin all in some way, shape or form, whether sung or spoken, reiterated that ideology throughout the night at ear X-travaganza.
Opening the night was Wax Fang's Scott Carney who gave a rowdy and raucous solo performance seated playing mainly a Gibson 335, I think. He never really introduced himself to the crowd and pretty much kept the focus on his voice through his music. He was gritty, greasy, and sounded damn near perfect for the relatively short time he was onstage.
Next up The Watson Twins, who literally are twins and Louisville-natives, gave a folky acoustic based performance that was filled with competing vocal abilities to ambient guitars. About mid-set they busted out a pretty good cover of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" to an appreciative crowd. I've never heard of them before and won't soon forget them now.
Ben Sollee was up next and came with much anticipation of who - if anyone - may join him onstage. After a few openers, Sollee took the opportunity to verse the crowd on the controversial mountain-top removal mining process which prompted Jim James to make his first appearance to the stage taking up bass guitar responsibilities for the next song. And although I don't recognize most of Sollee's songs, it's not hard to recognize that this boy can really rock a cello like no other and performs with a lot of passion while onstage.
Cabin, a band known for a changing line-up, brought the fullest sound of the night, being the only time more than two people were onstage during the performance. Unfortunately I was busy during their set and can't tell you much how they did, although I'm sure they were status quo for the evening.
And finally, Jim James and Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket closed out the night. James, opening up with "I'll Be Home For Christmas" to a dark stage, quickly built the song into a rock n' roll rendition of the christmas classic. He then transitioned into "Gideon" along with letting out a few other My Morning Jacket favorites like "One Big Holiday" and "Smokin From Shootin." James made good use of having essentially the entire stage to himself and staggered around the entire set while showing his mastery of his arsenal of guitars. He was in rare form. Had the show not been all ages, I'm sure James and Hallahan would have played for a lot longer. James & Hallahan may be onto something with this two-piece percussion and chords assault they dropped on the lucky few this night. They absolutely killed it in sort of a Black Keys/White Stripes-ish kinda way.
John Timmons, owner of ear X-tacy, also took the stage for a bit and thanked everyone in the crowd for their support and reiterated what the musicians had been doing in between songs about supporting the local business community before we automatically buy from large corporations. "Amazon.com doesn't need your business, but ear X-tacy does" he declared at one point.
Timmons also spent a few minutes with me to chat about Ear x-travaganza and what the future holds. When I asked him about the possibility of having another Ear X-travanganza benefit concert like this, he stated "Well I don't want to start a charity or benefit event or anything like that, but my staff planned this on their own. So I couldn't say 'No' once they had it all done all the work and the musicians had already agreed to play." Timmons continued by saying "This event is really speaking to me in a big way. It makes me feel like people still give a shit about what we do. Like the store can survive."
Jason Ashcraft is a freelance music writer who focuses on Kentucky's original music scene. Visit his blog at www.TheScuttlebuttHour.com