It’s been just over a year since I (accidentally) stumbled upon Judah and The Lion in Birmingham, Alabama while they were opening for the incredible Mat Kearney. After leaving the show, I remember immediately downloading all of their music to my phone and playing it on repeat for the remainder of my family’s trip to Florida. A year later, my love for the guys has not faded. You can only imagine the excitement upon learning that their very first headlining tour was coming to my city!
Before telling you about how I loved this concert, I would like to first address my immense pleasure with the location of it. It was held at a venue called “Off Broadway” in St. Louis. The staff was friendly and the venue itself is a great concert location. There’s not a bad seat in the house! The floor is standing room only, though upstairs there were about 15 seats at a long bar-type setting.
A band called “The Saint Johns” opened up the show with strong acoustics, powerhouse vocals, and John-Mayer-esque bluesy electric guitar sounds. It was an expectation of mine that J&TL would choose crazy talent for their opening act, and boy did they prove me right. The Saint Johns caught the whole audience by surprise. I remember the delight in everyone standing next to me when the band hit their first note. “They’re really good, I like them!” seemed to echo through the crowd. Jordan and Louis’ voices blend well, and they are a likable duo. They made the night comfortable and talked to the crowd, making the room lighter. By the end of their set, people were making their way back to their merch table. I, too, bought their album and EP. (May I recommend the songs “Caught Me Dyin” and “Open Water” to you? P.S. – you’re welcome.)
Then, the lights blacked out and Judah and the Lion emerged from the darkness with some “Folk Hop Sound”, which morphed into some good ol’ KISS. Their performance of “I Wanna Rock N’ Roll All Night” gave the band a minute to explain how the “rock” portion of Folk Hop N’ Roll came from. “Folk Hop N’ Roll is an album we made mixing genres of music we love. We love folk, but we love hip-hop and rock, too,” clarified frontman Judah Akers.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the whole night was when the band performed “Reputation”. On their album, the song is not my favorite. In person, however, that changed. This may have had to do with Judah’s jump into the middle of the crowd so he could dance his way through. I remember two things about this: that Judah was already starting to sweat profusely, and that everyone around me was having the most fun I have ever seen anyone have.
One thing I liked about this show was the way the band played many other songs besides ones off the new record. In fact, just about half of their setlist was composed of songs from earlier albums. I do have to say – I like Folk Hop N’ Roll the album just as much as the next person, but listening to it live blew the album out of the water. Everything fit and songs connected to the next with ease. I do not feel this way about many of the tracks on the album.
When I think of this night, one word comes to mind: “fun”. This whole night proved to be a fun experience for everyone there. Hardly anyone was on their phone (except to take pictures), and people who did not know one another when they walked in the door were becoming friends throughout the evening. I liked the positive conversation around me and knowing that I got to come worship with many people I had never met while listening to mandolins and banjos. The band spent a few minutes talking about their new song “Insane”, and mentioned that they hoped that the night brought hope to everyone there. I have to say, I felt a rich presence of hope after walking out of the building at the end. I believe if the tour is coming anywhere near you that you need to get yourself some tickets. Oh – and bring some friends. “Folk Hop N’ Rolling” is even better when done with people you love.
(Quick note: I captured some little snippets of footage of some of their songs throughout the night. Editing them together soon for your viewing pleasure!)
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