I was hanging out at KOTO one Friday night this fall at The Luke Floyd Radio Hour, a show hosted by Larry Niehaus, where (retired Telluride postman) Jim Looney serves as the de facto cohost.
I requested a song, and Larry obliged and played my tune. The whole gang in the studio nodded their heads in approval as the song played. When the song finished, Jim turned to me and said, “I like that song Geoff, and I’d like to get a copy of that.”
Jim then called out the band’s P.O. Box number at the post office in Athens, Georgia, the band’s hometown. Jim is that good.
My request that night? “Rodeo” by Futurebirds, and if Jim Looney likes it, you know it’s got to be good.
The rest of Telluride will have a chance to discover how great Futurebirds are this winter, as there will be two chances to experience their music. The full band is booked at the Moon at O’Bannon’s in February and, on Dec. 12, lead singers Carter King (Cartezz) and Daniel Womack (Womz) will be playing at the Ah Haa School for the Arts as part of Telluride Foundation’s Telluride Gives festivities. The annual day of giving will conclude at Ah Haa with an acoustic performance by Womack and King.
And, like Greenbucks of old, you can’t just buy a ticket to the show. You have to make a donation of $20 or more to a local nonprofit during Telluride Gives. If you donate, you get into the show (until it sells out). You can also make your donation at the door.
The performance will be completely acoustic, no amplification whatsoever. It’s going to be rad. These guys’ harmonies are tighter than Mikaela Shiffrin’s spandex.
The first time I heard the song “Rodeo,” I was driving to Utah. I made it all the way from Moab to Green River as I listened to “Rodeo” five times consecutively. I’ve turned on dozens of people to “Rodeo,” and I hereby give it you. Trust me, go to Spotify or YouTube and dial up “Rodeo” by Futurebirds. There’s an 83 percent chance you will blurt out one of your favorite adjectives; maybe “sick,” or perhaps, “rad,” “dope” or possibly even “that’s radicchio and I’m not talking lettuce.”
Futurebirds are my favorite musical discovery of 2018. They played two shows at the Moon at O’Bannon’s as part The Night Ride. I knew absolutely nothing about them and settled into about the fifth row, and from the first note I heard it was musical instant karma. Their psychedelic, alt-country tone and my ear found love at first note and my jaw dropped as the band tickled my tympanums with their three guitarists who all sang beautifully and ripped on their instruments. I had not seen a triple threat that good since seeing Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell of the Drive by Truckers of the early aughts (who coincidentally also called Athens their adopted home).
And did I mention the pedal steel? I love the pedal steel.
I am a little late to the Futurebirds party. The band just celebrated their 10th anniversary earlier this month. But it has been fun catching up and getting familiar with the band’s oeuvre. If there was one group I would compare Futurebirds to, it would be The Band with some Ryan Adams and My Morning Jacket sprinkled in.
Futurebirds first album, “Hampton’s Lullaby,” was released on Autumn Tone Records in July 2010. The group issued a follow-up EP, “Via Flamina,” in 2012. The band’s sophomore outing, the eclectic “Baba Yoga” arrived in Spring 2013. Futurebirds’ signature record “Hotel Parties” followed in 2015. In 2017, Futurebirds released two EPS, “Portica 1” and “Portica 2.” Both are exceptionally strong and Futurebirds’ cover of ’Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” which appears on “Portica 2,” is a must-hear rework of the 1980s anthem.
Futurebirds got its name when King was sitting in a University of Georgia poultry science class and learned that Native Americans believed birds could read and tell the future — and the name Futurebirds was born.
When asked why so many bands have come out of Athens, bass player Brannen Miles had this to say.
“It could be the creativity of young creative college kids getting together for the first time away from home. What’s interesting is there really isn’t an Athens sound per se; it’s just that there are a lot of bands in a small town and you have to distinguish yourself and push the limits or do something that someone else hasn’t done. And there are good listeners in Athens so people actually pay attention and listen.”
Telluride Gives donors will have a unique chance to listen to Futurebirds lead singers Womack and King on Dec. 12 at the Ah Haa School. Give some money, and get some tunes. Christmas is coming early.