Like most of us around Thanksgiving, the Stuffing has gotten fatter. This year, the fourth annual pre-Turkey Day musical extravaganza has grown to include a second night, highlighted by a handful of acoustic performances. It's a natural outgrowth of the original concept, which has become a guaranteed sell-out. "Everybody comes home the night before Thanksgiving and doesn't have anything to do," Manchester Orchestra's singer and guitarist Andy Hull says. "Would you rather hang around the house or go see a show?"
Adding an acoustic night was really just a matter of opportunity to change things up. Among the national acts anchoring the two-night bill include singer/songwriters Justin Townes Earle and Robert Ellis, anthemic Los Angeles dance-pop act Grouplove, and New Jersey punks the Front Bottoms. It's also a chance to showcase acts on Hull's Favorite Gentlemen label, such as Kevin Devine and All Get Out, as well as local acts Big Jesus and O'Brother.
Hull, however, is most excited to unveil Manchester Orchestra's new rhythm section, which includes bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very, both of whom he describes as "powerhouses." Expect muscular intensity, greater dynamics, and nuance from the bottom-end, as well as a sneak peek at some newer numbers from Manchester's forthcoming album due out in March.
After releasing two hyper-personal albums, Hull promises a return to the storytelling approach of Manchester's debut, 2006's I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, or Hull's Right Away, Great Captain! solo outing. It's also the band's most collaborative effort to date. The group made use of its home studio to write and record, and while there's still plenty of layering at work in each song, Hull took the success of his Bad Books collaboration with Kevin Devine to heart. "I spent three and a half months making sure every single thing on Simple Math was articulated. We spent nine days on Bad Books II," Hull says. "I realized that some of the stuff we were able to get from Bad Books was immediacy."
O'Brother brings its moody atmospherics to both nights of the Stuffing. The Atlanta quintet, whom Hull describes as having "graduated into a real band," has played the Stuffing every year. This year the group is celebrating the release of its second album, Disillusion, on Warner Brothers subsidiary Triple Crown Records.
The album was recorded in New York with producer Mike Sapone (Brand New, Straylight Run) over the course of a month. It's a meaty, churning album that vacillates between a slow-motion throb and a hazy but hard-edged shimmer. It's also the group's first time working with a high-profile producer. "We learned to be adventurous in our recording, and be willing to try anything," singer/guitarist Tanner Merritt says.
Joining the bill Big Jesus, a group that features ex-O'Brother members frontman Spencer Ussery and guitarist-turned-drummer Aaron Wamack. Following a heavy, somewhat sludgy self-titled EP, the group opened up its sound for its latest full-length, One, a peculiarly catchy psych-rock album that throbs and swirls like an automotive assembly line.
Hull sees the Stuffing as a chance to pay forward a community that helped him get his foothold. "If it weren't for some of those people I would never have had the opportunity to get better at my craft and continue to see more and more success," Hull says. "I realized if you put value into something or somebody, really believe in them and what they can do, and you help them, great things will happen."
That's what Hull's doing — reaching out to locals and giving them a home, exposure, and shepherding them onto bigger and better things, while creating a signature hometown event that just keeps getting fatter.
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