When they get the sound right in the oddly-shaped rectangular venue at JJ’s–as each band did on Friday night–you get the makings of a magical night. While it may not be the premier spot for acts in Chattanooga that it once was, JJ’s Bohemia serves an important niche for the music scene. For Friday night’s line-up, each band shared the distinction of featuring a female lead vocalist. And I will say, in each case, the singers had such strong voices–and presences–they lifted the music to an even higher level of quality, especially when you consider that in a venue such as JJ’s, subtlety can be difficult to achieve.
Stagolee, a seasoned, indie-rock, blues-based band started off the night. They began as a duo in Starkville, Mississippi, but are currently based out of Nashville. They balance an eclectic mix of genres, at times sounding like an indie pop rock band, at others folk rock–and everything in between these apparent distances. As the opening act, they really laid down it down. We all knew this was not going to be amateur night.
Ashley and the Xs are a Chattanoooga-based band who’ve recently added my very own brother, John Prevost, as a bassist to their own distinctive mix. Actually, John brings a custom-made electric, eight-string guitar to the mix (three of the eight strings correlate to a standard bass, the A, D, and G strings). It brings all the bass you need, and more importantly also offers the possibilities of bass-like chordal structures, which give the music an extra dimension and natural sophistication. Besides the obvious strength of Ashley’s performance and vocal quality, in a lot of ways the band centers around the metronomic-precision of Dan Walker on the drums. In spite of this being the first time the band has played out in several months, and with the recent addition of a fifth member, they more than held their own between the two touring acts from Knoxville and Nashville between them.
It was my own loss that I was out back for most of Christabel and the Jons. When you have three bands, as JJ’s often does, and when the first act doesn’t begin until, what? 10:30? sometimes it can become an endurance race to hang in there. When I did come back in, I witnessed an especially distinctive, impressive act who look like they’re on a quest for greater things yet, and there’s not reason to think they won’t. If the upright bass and accordion aren’t enough to catch your attention, the semi-hollow Gibson guitar is sure to resonate. An original act, I hear they’ve already done a commercial for Apple.
What a night. If JJ’s can keep bringing in such seasoned talent, and perhaps shifting back the opening acts and pretending we’re on Central Time Zone, they’re sure to keep bringing the crowds.