Tonight was a good night with friends at the Exit In. Ballhog was playing their second show in a week in Nashville, the other being at the 5 Spot on Halloween. That night was a lot of fun but the show sort of took a back seat to the festivities and the all out battle just to get a drink and move one step due to the huge crowd. Exit In was much more laid back and chilled out and that's really the way to enjoy Ballhog.
Being the opener, they started off with an undersized crowd, which thankfully grew as the show went on. Randy Russell's unique songs were right on tonight. The sound these guys have created straddles the line between bluegrass and country twang. The instrumentation suggests bluegrass with a banjo and mandolin and such but the songs go way beyond the usual three chord blueprint we all know, and with a horn section and a drummer, there's really nothing to compare them to. They even played some older more rare songs as they waited for their sax man, Patty D, to show up. Adam Livingston held down the horn parts pretty well without Patty, not bad for a guy who just joined the band a couple of weeks ago. They ran through the Ballhog standards, including a few of my favorites like "I Can't Hide Where I'm From", "What's This", and some others that I love but don't know the names of. Their ability to switch instruments between members is always fun to watch, you never know who's going to pick up what. This band definitely belongs at an outdoor festival in the woods more so than a super crowded bar in East Nashville, but Exit In was a happy medium.
The headliners were another oversized funk band called Sky High. These groups seem to be popping up more and more in Nashville. The formula seems to be a a large band with a horn section and keyboards and a singer with lots of soul and a huge voice. While this band's singer was really good at singing, his stage presence and overall performance were slightly lacking the energy I'd like to see from a funk party band. It just seemed like they were going through the motions. Granted, the crowd could have been bigger and more energetic, but if you're going to be that big of a band and play that kind of music, it needs to be all out and sadly these guys weren't.