Some bands get fuel from tension. Others thrive on friendship. Nashville band Lady Couch, including Roanoke Valley native Allen Thompson, relies on friendship vibes.
Thompson and singer Keshia Bailey have been best pals for going on a decade. Bailey had moved to Nashville from Kingston, Tennessee, to pursue a life in politics. Through mutual friends she met Thompson, a Northside High School and Radford University graduate, who had moved there to pursue music. Before long, the pair were singing together, and Bailey shifted her focus away from law school.
The result will be on stage at Martin’s Downtown on Saturday night, when Lady Couch celebrates the release of its debut full-length album, “Future Looks Fine.” Lady Couch, which has been together for about three years, is signed to Los Angeles-based indie Americana imprint Blackbird Record Label, and this will be the band’s first live show since the album’s release. The band played Martin’s over the summer, covering Jerry Garcia Band songs for the venue’s annual Garcia birthday bash street party.
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“She is my very best friend,” Thompson said of Bailey. “She’s my partner in all this, and honestly, I wouldn’t even bother doing it without her. I’ve got a couple of side projects I do … and that’s fun and all … but I wouldn’t be trying to get [Lady Couch] off the ground with anyone else. She’s such an inspiration. She’s so fun to write with. She’s so fun to write for. She’s so fun to sing with.”
One of the best things that friends do is encourage each other. Bailey, who started playing piano at 5 — and said that her extended family tree includes blues legend Bessie Smith — said that Thompson helped her remember that she was capable of creating and performing. Ultimately, Bailey decided that she could better fulfill a life of service as a singer and songwriter.
“He helped me remember that, holy s—-, Keesh, you can do this, too — you’re the only person who sounds like you, and you should really think about that,” Bailey said. She added: “I don’t see myself working on [political] campaigns anymore. My life is to tell my story through songs, to make people feel loved and feel good, and make sure that my vote’s counted and make sure that anybody that I know that has the opportunity to do goes and does it. I don’t care how they vote. I just want ‘em to do it.”
That translates to a desire to get all sorts of different people under the same roof, or on the same field, to celebrate things they have in common, particularly music, she said. She saw that in action recently, when the band played the “Future Looks Fine” title track at a festival in Indiana.
“When you look out and you get to see people listening to you and feeling what you’re feeling, there’s no way they can mistake the fun and the joy that exudes from all of us,” she said. “You can’t mistake that for any other type of emotion. We were in Evansville last weekend, playing Front Porch Music Fest, and this group of police officers, that had lined up on the street and were standing outside their vehicles, were jamming with their phones out and videoing, and we’re singing a song called the ‘Future Looks Fine’ — ‘Don’t give in to the trouble rolling through your racing mind/I can see the future, and the future looks fine’ — and I can see a group of cops standing there. … It just went to show, everyone feels these emotions, regardless of your gig, regardless of who you are, regardless of what city or what town.
“And when we are the catalysts for that, it’s a nutty feeling, and it gets weirder by the day.”
Another song you can expect to hear at Martin’s on Saturday is “Purple Rose and the Black Balloon,” an older Thompson number with subject matter that, unfortunately, still resonates. It’s about losing friends to drug overdoses, something that Thompson said he has been experiencing for two decades.
“It’s been really tough for me, losing so many friends and being so far from home,” Thompson said. “That song, 10 years ago, was about how every time we would come home for a show, or I would come home for Christmas, it would be like, ‘Did you hear about so-and-so? Did you hear about this girl? Did you hear about that person?’ And it was always the same story. It’s heartbreaking. I was trying to count the other day, and it averages about five friends a year. After 20 years, it’s a hundred people. Some of them were college roommates and bandmates and close friends. It’s heartbreaking to show up at Martin’s and not see those faces, not see those people dancing and not being able to hug them anymore.”
Hear those songs, along with the rest of the album, via smithmusic.ffm.to/ladycouch_thefuturelooksfine.
moe. members at Pop’s Farm
We try to get all the listings in Top Tickets every Thursday, but your columnist is far, far from perfect. The old ticker jumped and sank at the post-Top Tickets deadline realization that Rooster Walk venue Pop’s Farm, near Martinsville, is hosting two members of jamband moe., Al Schnier and Rob Derhak, for a night of what they’re calling “moe.stly Acoustic.”
Get details at roosterwalk.com/performers/al-rob-of-moe. I’ll try to do better next time.
Flying high with Todd Snider
If you are a performing musician, you have most likely received a drunken request to play the Lynyrd Skynyrd chestnut “Freebird.” Only very few bands take it seriously, and some get angry about it.
Todd Snider — who as coincidence would have it has had Thompson open shows for him in the past, including at Blacksburg’s Lyric Theatre — once fell into the latter category.
Snider told his Wednesday night audience at Rocky Mount’s Harvester Performance Center the tale of falling in with some rich guy who took to traveling with him. Snider was playing a big gig somewhere when someone in the audience started yelling for “Freebird.” Snider eventually told the person that he wasn’t going to take it anymore, and the guy yelled for it again. Snider, angry, stopped the show and left the stage, to a chorus of boos.
His rich friend came backstage and asked him what was going on, and Snider told him he was done. Rich guy walked out to tell the audience, which rained down boos. The rich guy loved it, Snider said.
On the way away from the scuttled show, rich guy asked Snider why he cut things short.
“Because some guy kept yelling for ‘Freebird.’”
Rich guy replied: “I was the one yelling for ‘Freebird.’”
Snider followed up the story the only possible way he could: Playing his own ragged version of that Southern rock classic.
He also used songs from his newly released album, “First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder,” to pay tribute to two of his departed friends, Neal Casal and John Prine.
For “Handsome John,” Snider took to a grand piano. “Bet you didn’t know I could play one of these things,” he said. Go to this column at roanoke.com/entertainment/music to watch a video of that performance.