Center Stage Theater in Midtown Atlanta played host to a five-band, nearly 5-hour rock and roll showcase on Saturday night, culminating in a headlining performance by Resist & Bite. Resist & Bite was supported by Velvet Willow, B.S.O.L. (Back Side of Life), Native Sons, and Seven Year Witch.
Built in 1966 to honor Atlanta’s performing arts community and to memorialize Helen Lee Cartlidge after she and 100 other arts patrons perished in the Orly plane crash of 1962, Center Stage Theater is an iconic live performance destination that has played host to Sir Elton John, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, just to name a few. With great acoustics and a choice between a general admission floor or auditorium-style seating, it was the perfect large-stage venue for concert goers to enjoy live music on a chilly, wintry Saturday evening in the South.
Early attendees were treated to a killer set by local band Velvet Willow, who started the evening off at about 6:45pm. As teased on their Facebook page, they came out “fast and heavy,” albeit short guitar player T.J. Hunt, who I heard may have been out sick. None-the-less, lead vocalist/guitarist Harley Dills, bassist Owen Dills, and drummer Zak Smith put on a no-nonsense performance, showcasing not only their immense stage presence, but also the maturity of their songwriting. Their latest single release “Heavy on the Heart” is a beautiful, hum-along song with a chorus that will get stuck in your head for hours. If you live in the area, check them out at their next scheduled gig on Wednesday, January 26 at Madlife Stage & Studios in Woodstock.
Harley Dills – Lead Vocals and Rhythm Guitar
T.J. Hunt – Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals
Owen Dills – Bass Guitar/Drums and Backing Vocals
Zak Smith – Drums/Bass Guitar and Backing Vocals
1.) Head in the Clouds
3.) Helping Hand
4.) Come Together
5.) Heavy on the Heart
6.) Here for You
Featuring former members of Skid Row, Bullet Boys, Every Mother’s Nightmare and Betty Blowtorch, B.S.O.L. (Back Side of Life) (also from Atlanta) took the stage second. Back in January 2020, they released their 4-song debut EP “Chucky Sessions Pt. 1,” along with their first single and video (No. 47). In contrast to Velvet Willow, B.S.O.L had a bit of a darker tone to their tunes, punctuated by their logo, which is a fist adorned with BSOL brass knuckles. While their socials are a bit light on more biographical information, I will say that crowd-favorite Davee G was having a lot of fun behind the kit (he stuck his tongue out at me a few times), and singer CC Spencer took the opportunity to bring out his son at the end of their set for a sing-along, which I thought was a nice touch.
3.) Devil in the Details
4.) Cold Black Water
6.) Mississippi Love Song
Next up after a quick stage turn was Native Sons from Louisville, Kentucky, a band I am still mad that I somehow missed at the Monsters on the Mountain festival back in October 2021. Lead by charismatic and every-moving lead singer Ashton Blake, Native Sons is a high-energy hard rock band with a bluesy, southern edge to them. Rounded out by Victor Adriel and JT Shae on guitar, Mike Little on drums, and Jim Quiggins on bass, Native Sons delighted the growing crowd with a number of new songs for an upcoming album they are currently in the studio recording as a follow-up to their early 2021 debut, “The Natives Are Restless.” One of the best compliments I overheard on Saturday night was when someone compared Blake to a young Robert Plant. Funny enough, I actually had a passing thought that he was a like young, southern-version of Sebastian Bach! No matter how you look at it, this is a band to watch in 2022!
SETLIST (*new songs)
1.) Here and Now
3.) Another day*
6.) Had Enough of me
7.) Shadow Head*
8.) Full Circle
11.) The Key
12.) Again Tomorrow*
13.) One Another
14.) Silver Lining
15.) Red Leather Woman*
16.) Too Late*
The penultimate performance of the night was slotted with Seven Year Witch, an energetic band from Pendleton, South Carolina, that once again impressed me with their self-described “electrifying hybrid of hard rock, blues-punk, and 70’s garage rock.” Seven Year Witch was the opening act for Resist & Bite’s record release party back in October 2021 (review here), and I remember coming away from that show blown away by their collective stage presence. The entire band, made up of brothers Seth and Spencer Burden (drummer and bass player, respectfully), along with vocalist Aaron Langford and guitarist Beau Anderson, are really blossoming into a well-oiled rock and roll machine. You can check out their latest single below, a cover of Akon’s “I Wanna Love you,” and they also recently announced that a new tune called “Cyanide” will be available on all major streaming services starting Friday, January 28.
With the crowd amped up from an already long night of great live music, Resist & Bite hit the stage around 10:30pm, opening with their song “Fate,” a tune that immediately highlights Tommy Skeoch’s distinctive (aggressive!) guitar sound. It is also clear that a song like “Fate” helped to garner Eddie Trunk‘s recognition for landing Resist & Bite’s self-titled debut on his 2021 list of top 10 rock records.
Formed in early 2019 by Skeoch (formerly of TESLA), David Parks (drums), Steve Stokes (guitar), Brian Powell (bass) and Nathan Utz (vocals, formerly of Lynch Mob) – all accomplished artists already in their own right – the band commands the stage like you would expect from a group of seasoned veterans. Their loyal and growing fan base was treated to a setlist covering the majority of their already-deep catalog of originals, including two of my favorites which could easily be in heavy rotation on SiriusXM’s Hair Nation, “I” and “The Myth I’m Livin’.” Lastly, similar to their album release show back in October, Resist & Bite covered a sprinkling of songs from Skeoch’s TESLA legacy, including “Action Talks,” “Heaven’s Trail,” and “Modern Day Cowboy.”
As the clock drew close to midnight and the lights came on following Resist & Bite’s encore rendition of AC/DC’s “Riff Raff,” it dawned on me what a special night this was, almost a “Battle of the Bands”-type atmosphere from my high school days. All five of these bands showcased their different styles, sounds and talents, and I am even more motivated now to seek out and support new music in 2022.
2.) Blood on Me
4.) A Soul for Mary
7.) Action Talks (TESLA cover)
8.) Heaven’s Trail (TESLA cover)
9.) Already Said
11.) Up in Flames
13.) Tommy’s Down Home Redneck Shit
14.) Modern Day Cowboy (TESLA cover)
15.) The Myth I’m Livin’
16.) Riff Raff (AC/DC cover)
Follow Velvet Willow Online
Follow B.S.O.L. Online
Follow Native Sons Online
Follow Seven Year Witch Online
Follow Resist & Bite Online