The Quest For Real Country Music

14. BJ Barham @ Revelry Room – Chattanooga, TN 09.14.16 – Part I

September 19th 2016 2:15 pm

A year old, The Revelry Room is Chattanooga’s newest five-hundred capacity venue. The south Station Street entrance advertises fellow venue, Track 29’s, upcoming performances. Both venues a part of the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, an epic brick structure once destined for destruction. The early 70’s saw a group of local businessmen, inspired by the building’s railway history, invest in a four-million dollar action plan. The renovations transformed the, then, Terminal Station into a new destination complex, naming it after the original wood-burning train that ran from Cincinnati, through Chattanooga and into the south. With another four-million plus dollars put into the building in ’89, a third development began in the summer of 2014 which included plans for a modest yet premiere venue.

I’m among the first to get into tonight’s show and go directly to the merchandise table. Hayes Carll has released 2016’s strongest collection of songs and having streamed the record consistently since it’s release, I’ve yet to buy the album. Matching the writing, the vinyl is weighty. In conversation about the record’s contents with the merch-boy we are interrupted by a woman pushing her way between us, throwing a five and grabbing a Hayes Carll Koozie, proceeding to stretch it around a Coors Banquet tall boy. A forceful fit much like her southern accent pushing its way into my head. I love the southern accent. The long vowels. But it’s the tone that either makes it or breaks it. Elizabeth Cook – makes it. Lucille Bluth look-a-like here – breaks it. The corners of her mouth are in a permanent scowl as she says ‘here’ for the money/koozie exchange.

At a time when I was spending one-hundred dollars per week on CD’s as my only means of mass music consumption I will forever be grateful for streaming. Now spending one-hundred dollars a month on vinyl, I’m allowed selectivity as well as affordable mass consumption. I accumulated years of neglected CD purchases and consolidated the works before leaving home. Replacing cracked cases, finding inserts, assessing damage, pitching the scratched. A selective process that left me with a collection of a couple hundred, donating off as many, and garbaging as many again. Immediate release day streaming has built me a beautiful tangible collection of music, allowed for a larger live music budget, and transformed me into a responsible consumer. It’s made my writers heroic and reintroduced the idea of song celebrity. This modern accessibility to artists via social media is convenient but it sure doesn’t help needing to see someone in the flesh.

My merch table hang has me picking up the opener’s new release. I move in and out of listening to and ignoring new artist suggestions. For the most part, prominent fellow twang-fighter, Saving Country Music, has me following his lead but somehow I missed this one. The cover art of BJ Barham’s Rockingham is what looks like a cherished photo. My parent’s doppelgängers look back at me. Mom with her short black hair. Dad with his shag and shirt off, moustache and cigarette. Leather belt. Arm around Mom’s waist. I almost buy the CD but unless it’s going to be for usage in the van – I’ll give it a stream and get the vinyl down the road. I set it down.

Rockingham

My ma and pa.

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom at Disneyworld

A year and a week to the day younger than me, BJ and I are both BJBs. I, a Blake John; He, a Bradley Justin. I’m named after my dad. BJ, a term of endearment that people in my life either always call me or never call me. My mother and younger sister Jody, do; father and younger siblings Jarid and Casey do not. Best buddy Travis does. Best buddy Jonas does not. Second cousin once removed Danielle does, all other extended family members do not. Melanie has through this whole trip – I battled a lack of confidence for three years thinking that she only did so when needing emotional space. I don’t think that’s the case.

Past the merchandise table is the more dimmly-lit concert room with a second bar on the left hand side. Its decor is a myriad of speakers stacked like Tetris blocks to the roof. A design that graced the cover of SaskMusic’s 2010 InTune compilation designed by my late friend Derek Bachman. My belief system continues to settle, change and evolve. Maybe D has been ripping across the country with me. At the very least come to check out Hayes and BJ tonight.

The Revelry Wall

InTune 2010

Blue LEDs colour the back draping and red LEDs will backlight Barham.

I’m singled out by a husband and wife from Corbin, KY that drove three hours pledging the allegiance to Barham. Kelly, a state-trooper and ex-meth lab buster has seen Carll fifteen or so times but came for Barham. It’s his stories and intensity, his wife Julie adds. Kelly worked with Sturgill Simpson’s dad on the highways. Growing their beards out and kicking ass. Kelly busted Meth labs for years, now the drug of choice in Kentucky is heroin. Good guy, that Sturgill is, he lets me know. Yeah, a good guy that lit the fire under my ass to accept this quest with his epic ripping of the ACM in a Facebook post weeks ago. I heard him. His words spoke to me like very else-few have. I’ll thank him someday and let him know what he got me into. This journey has been riddled with the unexplainable – strange synchronicity. I step back at times and wonder what I’m truly experiencing. Sturgill’s Metamodern album initiated this belief that it’s all just a dream. Sometimes, I have no other explanation than to whole-heartedly agree. Hey, D?