Saturday, March 21, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Black Oak Arkansas (Indialantic, FL - 3.8.15)

CONCERT REVIEW
Black Oak Arkansas
Lou’s Blues - Indialantic, FL (3.8.15)
____________________

Arguably the most
authentic band of the
southern rock era,
Black Oak Arkansas
has inspired generations
of platinum-selling artists.
And recently, they
performed (practically)
eight inches from my
house on Florida's
east coast. Ah,
ain't life grand?
____________________ 

A picture perfect spring afternoon on Florida’s Space Coast  78° and sunny skies. The surf was rolling out, as the Harleys were rolling in. Be sure, this was not gonna be your typical Sunday at the world-renown Lou’s Blues oceanside club and concert venue. In fact, the huge LED sign facing highway A1A at the edge of Lou’s property said it all: TONIGHT 7PM – BLACK OAK ARKANSAS.

This was the band I’d been waiting more than 40 years to see. As a wide-eyed church boy growing up “back thar” in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains during the early ‘70s, I felt somehow connected to them hell raisin’ fellas from “over yonder” in Arkansas. To me, Black Oak’s music seemed louder, their hair was longer and their pants fit tighter than any other band of the day. Jeepers, THIS is rock and roll! And whenever my elementary school friends would all gather around the cafeteria lunch table, swapping their (older brothers’ and sisters’) concert stories, the most outrageous tales always involved recounting the onstage fury and shenanigans of Black Oak Arkansas. 

Black Oak Arkansas - circa 1973
“Dude, c’mon  Jim Dandy’s inside, signing stuff!” Even through the clatter of eager concert early birds, the impassioned cry of my "hog"-lovin' baby brother, Greg, cut across Lou’s Blues crowded outdoor deck like a set of Serpentine pipes on a ’74 Sportster. “Oh, heck yeah,” was my knee-jerk response. “Let’s go!”

Through a sea of Lou's patrons, and a half dozen of his beefiest bouncers, Greg and I hustled our way into the club, in short order. And there he was  standing at a table near the bar, just ten feet away  one of classic rock’s all-time greatest icons  the one-and-only, Jim “Dandy” Mangrum. Sporting an impressive, patch-covered, knee-length, sleeveless, black leather jacket, the legendary blue-eyed and (still) blond-haired frontman sucked down a glass of ice water like he’d just come off a week in the desert. And as he finished signing a stack of Black Oak LPs for a middle-age woman who may or may not have been still wearing her Walmart smock, I went in for the kill. 

“Hey Jim,” I blurted, displaying all the street cred of a 12-year-old girl at a One Direction meet-and-greet. “Can we get a couple of pictures with you?” “Uh, yeah. I guess so,” the now 66-year-old Mangrum replied graciously, yet with noticeable trepidation. And immediately upon procuring our pics, Greg and I allowed our hero to escape and join his bandmates outside for what was morphing into a full-blown pre-show parking lot hoo-ha with the host of hometown “A-list” musicians who also were on-hand to experience the night’s big show.

One of the patches on the front of
Mangrum's jacket read, "Jesus Forever."
RIGHT ON, BROTHER!
Clearly, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum couldn't
have been happier about meeting me.
Accompanied by original guitarist, Rickie Lee Reynolds, Mangum led the current Black Oak line-up that also features lead guitarist Arthur Pearson, bassist George Hughen and drummer Johnnie Bolin to the stage at 7:30. And kicking off with “Plugged in and Wired,” a high-energy rocker from the band’s latest album, Back Thar N’ Over Yonder, the 16-song cavalcade of southern-fried classics ensued.

Front row just wasn't close enough 
for me. Hence, I created my own
VIP seat -- right on stage!
Black Oak Arkansas holding
court at Lou's Blues.
Mangrum proved to be an entertaining ringleader throughout the near-two-hour set sharing jokes, backwoods commentary and personal recollections, such as the engaging story of first meeting Frank Zappa, during the intro for the band’s longstanding concert staple, “Hot & Nasty.” Other show highlights included the washboard-driven “Uncle Lijiah,” the turbo-charged “Hot Rod,” the laid back “High ‘N’ Dry” and the down & dirty fan favorite, “Happy Hooker.”

Me (L) and my baby brother (R)
with Rickie Reynolds, (C) following
Black Oak's set at Lou's Blues.
Musically, the band was in fine form from start to finish. The onstage camaraderie between Mangrum and Reynolds seemed genuinely heartfelt and Pearson’s guitar work was particularly ball-busting. However, it was the tribute to former Black Oak back-up singer and “kissing cousin,” the late Ruby Starr, during a chilling remake of Grand Funk Railroad’s “Heartbreaker” that made for the show’s most powerful moment  matched only by the band’s raucous, show-closing anthem, “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.”

-Christopher Long
(March 2015)

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