Photos and Recap by Max Stewart
Coy Bowles of the Zac Brown Band has started a wonderful tradition for Atlanta residents who want a serving of tasty guitar licks and satisfying covers before Turkey Day. In its fourth year, Bowles brought his Friendsgiving show to Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse for the first time in 2019 after being at The Vista Room in Decatur previously. The event has continued to be a great excuse to get a bunch of talented local musicians and friends together to play some covers, a few originals, and whip up some good old Thanksgivin’ pickin’. This year raised the bar in a big way, as the lineup featured fellow ZBB member Clay Cook, Blackberry Smoke‘s Charlie Starr and Benji Shanks, Marcus King, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Tyler Greenwell, Jon Liebmann and the Electromatics, many others.
Bowles explained how this whole idea came together: “We’re all out touring and unfortunately it’s hard to keep in touch and get together in the name of music. Thankfully, a few years ago, we noticed we were all miraculously at home in Atlanta every year for Thanksgiving and would somehow wind up together to play music. And from that a tradition was born.”
The show itself is always a musical whirlwind, with a constantly revolving cast of singers, guitars, and musical styles. The night kicked off with a thunderous cover of George Harrison’s “Wah-Wah,” followed by Cook taking vocal duties on Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman.” Watching the guitar slingers Starr, Bowles, Cook, Shanks and the young blood phenom King pass the baton on guitar solos throughout the night was in itself worth the price of admission.
The unique covers kept the crowd engaged throughout the night with many highlights: Cook’s version of Marshall Tucker Band‘s “Take the Highway,” Starr’s stellar version of Allman Brothers Band‘s “Stand Back,” the crowd interaction on Coy Bowles and the Fellowship‘s “Give It One More Day,” and Marcus Kings’s cover of the soulful jazz Eddie Harris and Les McCann number “Compared to What.”
It would not be a show in Atlanta if there wasn’t some Col. Bruce Hampton spirit in the air. As Bowles reflected on his days in the Atlanta scene: “Finding my way in the Atlanta music scene wasn’t always easy. There’s so much talent everywhere you look, it can be intimidating. But once I found Colonel Bruce Hampton and started seeing shows at Variety Playhouse with all of these Atlanta music powerhouses, it clicked for me. I found my musical family and home.” Although not a local, Greenville’s Marcus King actually gave a shout out to the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton, a testament to the legacy of Hampton in the Atlanta music scene.
The Friendsgiving show featured a ton of high-energy jams, which were capped off by an all-hands-on-deck rendition of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.” It is a wonderful tradition that Bowles has put together with his friends in Atlanta, and we look forward to many more years of pre-turkey shredding!