Dan Turner & the Agitators are coming through Tuscaloosa’s music scene the hard way, grinding it out at times like some of the best bands have done, and they’re certainly paying their dues.
Turner has been playing in bars in clubs since he was fifteen, and he proved a particular devotion to his craft even at an early age. “My mom had to take me,” he commented about his extremely early shows in his musical career. For the last three years, he has lived in Tuscaloosa, but he began showing up on my radar around the very end of last year when I began seeing his name around Egan’s and Green Bar for shows. His current line up includes Michael Ray and Ronnie Lee Gipson, both veterans at this point in Tuscaloosa music. It’s a lineup that had me interested although I had never seen or heard of Turner.
His shows are bluesy, down-to-earth rock, sometimes with a message. “[Politics] does effect some if my songwriting, but I don’t think it’s ever to overt,” says Turner. His ideas for his grounded songs come from various sources, including a song he wrote called “Real Real World” from his grandfather’s point of view, who was a coal miner and unionist. Turner states that the song has hints on where he stands, though. The title itself seems to be a nod to MTV’s The Real World, and Turner’s sly note that he realizes that is not what is reality.
He’s not finished writing by a long shot. “I just wrote a song recently about folks who are up to there knees in debt with a mortgage and a car payment and such,” said Turner, “yet try to act as if they are some authority on ‘success.’ Nothing is really apolitical, but I try to keep it more subtle and just part of a narrative in my songs.” He certainly does a good job of writing a solid rock song. Click here on his bandcamp for evidence of that. Having done it for several years at this point, he’s also had the practice.
It’s not always easy. A recent gig at the local bar Scooter’s was described by Turner as not being a good experience, claiming that “people didn’t seem to like it” and calling some of his more soulful songs and R&B covers some extremely negative things, including a racial slur. “I can’t stand fucking racist attitudes,” says Turner. To see such an experience show up in one of Dan Turner & the Agitators next song would not come as a surprise.
Dan Turner & the Agitators get a headlining spot this Friday night on an interesting bill: Birmingham’s The Dead Balloons and one of Tuscaloosa’s newest bands, Blood Drunk, are also scheduled to play.
The Dead Balloons bring a dreamy, atmospheric feeling to their version of rock. Listening to their songs makes me think of a low-fi, shoegaze version of the late Jay Reatard for some reason. They are definitely worth the time to check out.
Blood Drunk, perhaps one of the most unknown bands for me in Tuscaloosa (no Facebook page, Twitter account, website, or bandcamp), are made up of members of Blaine Duncan & the Lookers, though their sound is described by David Allen as “heavy Southern rock” as if Black Sabbath met the Dexateens. Okay. I’m totally in. Could be the best description of a band I’ve heard in a while.
It’s really not a bad weekend for Tuscaloosa music. Not only does Green Bar have this interesting line up for Friday, but on Saturday, they will feature a wonderful collaborative effort from The Crown Imperials, Tuscaloosa throw back garage band, and The High Fidelics, a fast-paced surf rock experience that also harkens back to the 60′s. I’ve seen both of them. That’s a good, fun Saturday show. Not only that, but for more options, Egan’s has heY!ALLigator from Atlanta back through its doors on Friday night. Their bio states that “we punch your pussy” and calls both band members “Reefer” and “Dookie,” both white girl rappers who feature their synth and beats in their live shows. Check out their song “Witches Brew” here, where the hook is “Witches brew/I’m into you/I made a potion.” It’s hilarious and actually kind of catchy on some levels. I’m not sure how anyone would want to miss that.
Go on out Tuscaloosa. Enjoy your summer while no one’s around to bother you. Soak in these bands that you may have never heard but will want to hear again. You will have seen them first.