As I sipped a Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin and chatted with my friends by the bar at Lincoln Hall, I was already brainstorming witty opening lines for my review of the night’s main act, The Weeks. Then opener Southern Avenue started playing, and I spent the following half hour with my mouth agape and my eyes fixed on the stage.
The quintet said that they play “Memphis Music,” which perfectly describes their energetic mix of rock n’ roll, blues, and soul. Lead singer Tierinii Jackson was utterly captivating as she combined a strong voice with a confident and fluid stage presence. I wasn’t surprised to learn later that she and her sister Tikyra, the band’s drummer, grew up playing in church, as Tierinii’s stage presence and knack for holding the crowd’s attention is a clear callback to an era when rock n’ roll singers took inspiration from America’s gospel music tradition.
When she deffered to her bandmates in the form of mini jam sessions, the talent of the rest of the group became apparent as well. Guitarist Ori Natalya impressed me in particular, as he made the most of limited guitar solos, which took on a particularly bluesy feel. Southern Avenue only played for thirty minutes or so, and I was left wanting to hear more from this extremely talented group.
By the time The Weeks took the stage, I already felt that I’d gotten my money’s worth. Luckily, the main act did not disappoint either. They’re an indie rock band with clear classsic rock influences, and end up sounding like The Gaslight Anthem’s The 59 Sound, albeit with enough organ and horns to remind the listener that these are boys from Mississippi. Friday’s show only included the four core members: lead singer Cyle Barnes, guitarist Samuel Williams, drummer Cain Barnes (Cyle’s twin), and bassist Damien Bone, so it had a decidedly more garage rock feel than their more soulful studio albums.
The Weeks’ most endearing quality is their clear recognition that rock n’ roll music is supposed to be fun. The show was a well-executed balance of rowdy on-stage behavior and technically proficient playing. The stripped-down adaptations of their songs sounded great, while their rambunctious stage presence landed a couple of band members in the audience.
The last decade has seen a resurgence of roots rock, in which artists incorporate genres like blues, folk, and gospel from which rock n’ roll originally emerged. Not to be overlooked, however, is that throwback music can be just as much about style as substance, and the performances Southern Avenue and The Weeks put on were a great reminder that rock music started as simple, straightforward music for young people. On Friday night at Lincoln Hall, it was just that.
Southern Avenue will return to Chicago on January 18th, when they open for Buddy Guy at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased here. Their self-titled, debut album is available now.
The Weeks do not currently have any Chicago (or Midwest) tour dates on their schedule, but you can stream their 2017 album, Easy, on Spotify.