Review by Max Stewart, Photos by Kelly Thompson Photography
Decatur GA’s Amplify Decatur Music Festival has been a staple to the greater Atlanta community for years, bringing authentic and inspired music in the heart of Decatur on the downtown square while supporting an important cause. The event donates their proceeds to the Decatur Cooperative Ministry (DCM), Decatur Education Foundation (DEF), and Giving Kitchen to assist their efforts in Decatur and DeKalb County. The 2022 festival weekend actually raised $50,000 for DCM!
What a concept: enjoying live music and support a noble cause. Cheers to that.
This year, local Atlanta band The Sundogs kicked things off in the early afternoon with a Tom Petty-inspired sound that was a perfect way to start the day of music. The local love continued with Jackson County Line playing a set of very impressive Americana-esque tunes for the crowd that was filtering in and getting settled for the full day festival. We could not help but notice how similar singer Kevin Jackson‘s voice was to Jason Isbell, but not in a way that he was trying to replicate his sound. It was just very similar in terms of melodic intent, and the band most certainly has quality songs and musicianship to back it up. We look forward to revisiting some of their music and seeing their show at Eddie’s Attic on 5/27.
Next up, Asheville bluegrass mainstays Town Mountain brought some elite level pickin’ to Decatur Square on a nice afternoon. Led by guitarist / singer Robert Greer, the entire band put on a clinic on bluegrass for the audience, with their latest album Lines on the Levee at the forefront. They also played a fantastic cover “I’m On Fire,” which also has nearly 18 Million streams on Spotify.
It was a pleasure seeing one of the most renowned Texas singer-songwriters to do it, James McMurtry, perform on Decatur Square. His songs have a way of captivating listeners like a great book, with amazing imagery and powerful underlying messages sprinkled throughout. Some highlights include “Childish Things” off of his renowned 2005 album Childish Things, and his 2021 song “Canola Fields” which proves he is continuing to thrive as a songwriter. Towards the end of the set he played rousing version of his staple “Choctaw Bingo,” with the crowd singing and cheering along (and McMurtry impressing with some lead guitar licks as well).
Houston’s The Suffers got folks out of their lawn chairs and moving thanks to their upbeat soulful set. Lead singer Kam Franklin most certainly has the charisma and talent to lead this full band through what they call a “Gulf Coast Soul,” a genre that the band has said is a mix of the varying cultures and musical stylings from around Houston and the Gulf Coast, which include Cajun, Mexican, African American, Caribbean, and many others. This was the most rousing set of the day, and a band that should not be missed live.
Singer songwriter Patty Griffin has won Grammys and Americana Music Association Awards, and for great reason. An excellent songwriter with conviction in the way she presents her songs. Her set was a perfect way to wind down the day, as she played songs that were equal parts introspective and joyful. Her performance of “Heavenly Day” saw the Decatur crowd fully drawn in and in awe.
Unfortunately a wave of heavy rain started right as St. Paul & the Broken Bones took the stage, but that did not stop the Birmingham eight-piece from bringing it. They still played with full energy as the audience was covered in ponchos and umbrellas, still managing to dance in the puddles of rain in the square. Their latest album Angels In Science Fiction feels like a step in to the Indie world, which perfectly suits singer / songwriter Paul Janeway.
Despite the rain at the end, once again Amplify Decatur brought a fantastic event together for such a vital mission in the community. We look forward to this being a continued tradition in Decatur for years to come!