Once again I was late to a party. I’d been keeping track of The Black Lillies for a couple of years via You Tube and Facebook and such, but I had never seen them. So on a moonless, rainy November night I ventured to Carrboro’s legendary Cat’s Cradle to rectify the situation. As I made the 45 minute drive I contemplated what the evening might bring. I like their music and the videos, but often these don’t relay the true measure of a band. I wondered if the evening’s gloom and rain would keep the crowd away. I needn’t have worried about either. When I arrived their fans were already in the house. Avid fans! I met Jason, who drove 2 hours in the rain from Eastern North Carolina to be there. He’s seen them “more than 14 times” and has been as far west as Knoxsville to do so. I talked to Beth and Sloane who have seen them multiple times as far north as Vermont. The more people I talked to, the more it seemed I was the only “first timer” in the room!
The Cradle soon filled and after a notable set by opening Asheville band River Whyless, The Black Lillies took the stage. As they assumed their positions they greeted and waved to familiar faces in the audience. It became clear that this band has more than fans – they fave a devoted following. When they kicked off their set it became apparent why. Cruz Contreras proved to be the consummate front man. He has the looks, the moves, the voice and the talent. Trisha Gene Brady’s vocals are a perfect compliment. It’s hard to believe they haven’t been singing together all their lives. Tom Pryor is a rock solid guitar play and is tremendous on the pedal steel! Bassist Robert Richard and drummer Bowman Townsend round out the band with a good solid foundation.
They opened the set with upbeat versions of “Midnight” and “Ramblin Boy,” mixed in some new tunes from an upcoming album and soared through their video hits “Two Hearts Down” and “Smokestack Lady.” It seemed though, that every song was a fan favorite. They finished strong with covers of “Shape I’m In” and a surprising (to me, anyway) version of “Love Train” with Trisha Gene leading a train of dancers through the audience!
I don’t know if this was a typical Black Lillies performance or not, but it sure was a good one. They played upwards of 20 songs and it was hard to believe that it was after midnight when they finished. Time flies, you know? Anyway, I’ve got some Black Lillies music to buy and some catching up to do. I think they’ll fit nicely in my playlist!
All photos courtesy of Dave Brainard – Grassicana
Get Out And See It Live!