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The Open Bottle's Tunesgiving Helps Feed Over 900 in Huntsville Area November 28, 2018 14:42

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Roger Patteson: Type 2 Photography

@type2photography on Instagram

When the concept of Live & Listen was coming to life in 2014, one of our pillars was finding a way to leave a positive impact on the community. What better way to do so than through the power of music? Imagine if everyone in attendance at any show you attend would just donate one dollar at the door. Taking advantage of these social gatherings and finding a way to help others remains one of our core beliefs today.  

With that being said, last Wednesday presented our first opportunity to book and promote an event in Huntsville, Alabama. Our friends at The Open Bottle just recently opened, and their beautiful courtyard proved to be a fantastic option for live music. In the spirit of our annual Funksgiving Music & Food Festival on Black Friday in Montgomery, Wednesday was quickly dubbed as 'Tunesgiving'. The lineup ultimately fell in place with The Stolen FacesThe Pearl, and Them Boys. 

While it was a little colder than we would have liked, we could not have asked for a better night of music. "Them Boys," which is a moniker for another well known Birmingham act, kicked things off with 90-minutes of foot stompin' folk tunes. If you haven't heard this band, please make it a priority. The Pearl would perform next, and they certainly got the crowd moving. This trio brings a unique energy that very few are capable of. Their unique, instrumental spin on Toto's "Rosanna" is always entertaining. The Stolen Faces were the final act of the evening, and this band continues to impress. Touring as a Grateful Dead tribute is no easy task, yet they manage to leave every Deadhead speechless with every performance. 

It's called "Tunesgiving" for a reason, and the beneficiary for this event was local non-profit Manna House. Manna House is the food distribution center for the Huntsville Dream Center, a 501(c)3 public charity. Manna House provides food, clothing hygiene and baby items to individuals and families in need. 

Most of the families they serve are working but cannot fully provide for their family due to chemo, dialysis, or post surgery recovery. Some of the families have experienced job loss or work related injuries. They welcome anyone in need at our main location as well as our 5 distribution sites in the county. Manna House provides fresh produce through our outdoor garden and growing fields as well as our indoor hydroponic garden. 
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We caught up with Manna House Director Fran Fruhler to learn more about the impact of last weeks event:
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"Tunesgiving was amazing. Everyone was so generous. The dinner rolls and tea helped us provide over 900 people with a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. The generous donations will allow us to provide 12,000 baking hens to families for Christmas dinner. We are so grateful for Tunesgiving and all that Jamie, Allen, their team and the community did to help us!"
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We also caught up with Allen Williams, General Manager of The Open Bottle, to hear more about their vision for the multi-purpose business moving forward:
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"The Open Bottle and Liquor Express were extremely proud to host the first Tunesgiving. We had the opportunity to not only provide some great music, but we helped feed people who needed a warm meal during the holidays. Friends and family are very important during this time, and it's our duty to help the less fortunate. It can be very powerful when you collaborate with other homegrown organizations to make an impact in the community. We hope to make this an annual tradition and look at other events in the future."
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See below for a handful of photos via Roger Patteson of  Type 2 Photography, and stay tuned for future announcements on events in the Huntsville area. 
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CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography 
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If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to this website in the last three years, you're well aware of my affection for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival and Horse Pens 40. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with the Cuko team in early 2015, and it didn't take long to realize the impact that this festival would have on my life. What once started as a tiny, grassroots festival featuring predominantly Alabama-based bands has evolved into a bi-annual showcase of incredibly diverse talent from across the southeast and beyond.
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Each year, I leave that beautiful property thinking, "How can this weekend possibly be topped?" and the bar continues to be raised. I'll be the first to say that the team at Big Friendly Productions absolutely crushed it yet again, and their work never ceases to amaze me. And I would be remissed if I didn't mention that this festival would not be possible without the support of the title sponsor, Land Rover Birmingham, as well as Birmingham's Avondale Brewing CompanyTrimTab Brewing, and Cahaba Brewing Company.
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We should probably start off by talking a little history on Horse Pens 40HP40 is a privately owned outdoor nature park located in St. Clair County near Steele, Alabama. The park is situated atop Alabama's third-highest mountain, Chandler Mountain, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is known among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast
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The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the "Trail of Tears".  During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and "bushwhackers". Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
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It was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, "standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks." During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as "The Home of the South's Bluegrass Music".
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Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Those who were lucky enough to make the Thursday night pre-party witnessed something truly special. Winston Ramble and The Pearl each laid down powerful thirty-minute sets, before joining forces for a full hour of blazing hot Grateful Dead covers. The level of collaboration was borderline overwhelming, with special guests such as Davis Little (Little Raine Band), Desmond Sykes (Tragic City), and Connor Broome (The Broomestix) joining the party early and often. A tremendous amount of Alabama talent was on hand for the opening set, only to be followed by Doctor Ocular of Johnson City, Tennessee. I was shocked to learn this band formed in late 2016, as their combination of acid jazz, jamtronica, and roots rock had a very cohesive feel all night. 
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Watch Ramble On Pearl perform "Shakedown Street" here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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The Jauntee and Skydyed made the trek all the way from Colorado, and it's safe to say that they both left their mark on Alabama. Many of us had gotten our first taste of The Jauntee the previous weekend at Saturn Birmingham with Twiddle, and thankfully, we got 90-minutes this go round. A product of Berklee College of Music, it's clear that these guys will continue to climb the ladder of the festival scene.
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One of the most dynamic sets of the weekend came from The Fritz. This was just an all out dance party from start to finish. Frontman Jamar Woods straight up owns the stage and works a crowd about as well as anyone I've seen. It's rare to see the front man standing up behind the keys and synth, but these guys are far from you're average band. A combination of fresh originals, as well as covers of Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and "Don't Stop 'Til Ya Get Enough," and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" will certainly remembered for years to come.
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Watch video footage of The Fritz performing "Life During Wartime" here:
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Video by Isom Morgan Photoraphy
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Friday night was capped off with a surprise late night set from The Illuminators, a brand new band out of Birmingham. You wouldn't believe it if you were there, but this was the band's first official public performance. These spontaneous late night collaborations will be amongst my best memories of the weekend. Members of The Fritz, The Jauntee, and the Tragic City horns even joined in on what seemed like a three-hour dance party.
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Saturday began with Huntsville's Lamont Landers Band, a recent finalist on 'Showtime's Live at The Apollo'. I had heard a fair amount of hype about these guys, and festival attendees were buzzing about their performance all weekend. Early James & The Latest was one of the more intriguing acts on this lineup for me. I can't get enough of their sound, which has been described as "a mishmash of blues, country, folk, and jazz with crooner-esque styling." Whoever came up with that hit the nail on the head. You've got to hear the pipes on (Early) James Mullis. You won't forget him.
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After catching Steady Flow at the CukoRakko Fam Jam back in May, there was quite a bit of anticipation for this set. This band hits you with an onslaught of upbeat funk from start to finish, with some of the funkiest riffs you'll find. It would be impossible to make it through 90-minutes of Steady Flow without a little movin' and shakin'. Guitarist Tanner Brown's use of the talk box adds an especially fun element to the table, as seen during the band's creative spin on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Thankfully, this wouldn't be the last time we saw Brown on stage shredding. 
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Watch footage from Get Rhythm's drum circle here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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I try my best to stay in tune with as many bands as possible, but there are always going to be a few that slip through the cracks. The New Orleans Suspects were a perfect example for me...until Saturday night. They're easily one of the most seasoned, accomplished groups to play this festival, and I haven't stopped listening to their music since leaving. Specific highlights came in the form of songs such as "Let's Get It Started," "Cocaine Jane," and a cover of The Wild Magnolia's "Peace Pipe." Do yourselves a favor and give those tracks a whirl.
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Following the Suspects, Skydyed took the festival in an entirely new direction, and I couldn't have been more impressed. While one could classify this band as 'jamtronica', a simple term couldn't possibly do them justice. Their placement as the final band on Saturday night couldn't have been more fitting. As I stood in front of the stage and looked around the amphitheater, hundreds of people were getting down in ways I can't even describe. It was a perfect picture in many ways. 
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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came from The Talismen, the youngest band to ever hit the stage at CukoRakko. The Montgomery-natives are scattered across three different colleges, but you would never know it. The original plan was for two thirty-minute pop-up sets under the pavilion, between sets on the main stage. It didn't take long to decide that these guys deserved an additional late-night set. Word quickly spread across the festival grounds, and the band took full advantage of the opportunity.
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The level of improvisation displayed on The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and Phish's "Chalkdust Torture" was ridiculous. Tanner Brown, Wildman Steve, the Tragic City horns, and others joined in for Kool & The Gang's "Get Down Tonight," which was sandwiched perfectly with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." Equally as impressive were a few Talismen originals: "Strange Man" and "The Lawnchair Song." Get ready, because you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in the future. 
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Watch The Talismen performing "Chalkdust Torture" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Chalkdust Torture" here:
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Sunday started off with one of Birmingham's hottest acts, The Brook & The Bluff. This was a new band for me, but after hearing of their recent signing with The Paradigm Agency, I knew that we were in for a treat. This band's unique sound and beautiful harmony vocals made for a perfect early Sunday set. Another Birmingham act, Eat a Peach, would take the stage next and lay down a scorching 90-minutes of Allman Brothers Band classics. All five members of this band also perform with the Black Jacket Symphony, and I can't imagine there is a better ABB tribute out there. You can see for yourself with the video footage of "Melissa" below. 
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Watch footage of Eat a Peach performing "Melissa" here:
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The living legend Charlie Hunter would then close out the weekend with his amazing trio. I had been waiting to see Charlie perform live for many years, and he was even better than expected. Watching this guy essentially play bass and lead guitar simultaneously is nothing short of mind blowing. For this performance, Hunter was joined by Grammy Award winning drummer Derrick Phillips (Hank Williams Jr.) and Ms. Dara Tucker, whose vocals had all of Horse Pens 40 melting. This was yet another Sunday that we'll all be talking about for years to come. 
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At the end of the day, I just can't say enough about this festival and the team behind it. I consider it one of my greatest honors to be involved with CukoRakko. Having the ability to live out these magical experiences at Horse Pens 40 is something that I will never take for granted. I can say "thank you" enough to the Schultz family for their willingness to share this magical property with us. The CukoRakko family is beyond special, so I won't even try to cheapen it with words. You know who you are. And for everyone else, if you ever have the opportunity to witness live music at this incomparable venue, I advise you run, not walk, towards that opportunity. Until next time...
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