Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Sidelining an overgrown grassy patch of land that serves as a very occasional parking lot - good enough for two cars - is a neighboring, covered garage that is often seen with a dinged up van or a stock car sitting next to it. The man of the house, with whom I've never had a conversation - though it's likely that his bed is no more than six or seven feet from my own through two walls - often has the garage down open into the night when the weather cooperates and he tinkers, fixes, all the while doing so to a soundtrack that bleeds 80s metal and classic rock.
The imagination pegs him as a guy who would take the old lady to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens played their last show, to see Tesla play during the summer of 2007 for $30 even when common sense tells everyone that those tickets were worth no more than $5. The would have shoehorned into the tightest rock and roll jeans they could find, put on those old concert tee-shirts that they still try and find reason to wear every other week anyway and tailgate in the parking lot for two hours prior to the show, just to make it feel like old times. He would get lockjaw if he ever had the opportunity to share a beer with Billy Gibbons or Dee Snider, just to shoot the shit with them. Obviously enough, that's about all we might ever dream to have in common - this possible derivation of enjoyment that could come of a chance meeting with ZZ Top, though crossing a line before Twisted Sister might be in order. This neighbor, who I don't know or know anything about other than his grease monkey/transistor radio and barbeque grilling tendencies, doesn't know it yet, but we'd be able to bond over Birds of Avalon.
This North Carolina group of acid washed rockers would be an appealing alternative to having to discuss Earnhardt or the Nextel Cup Series with the man man. You could almost picture the guy showing off for the band by popping bottle tops off with his teeth and chugging until he puked. He would be shocked to know that a guy like Jack White exists and that the Birds of Avalon (touring now with The Raconteurs) could in a perfect world introduce him to the Stripe. It would be a lively party smelling of charcoal and pot smoke and sounding like amber waves of barley pop and feeling like lamps covered in orange or cream-colored cloths for lighting that feels like the kind of endangered light that dinner meets every day. The guitar flourishes and flights that the Birds of Avalon peck out are mountainous and dexterous, smacking of all of the glories that the instrument can produce with a suitable dance partner and the very things that make players contort their faces into orgasmic scramblings in front of complete strangers like my neighbor here. Lead singer Craig Tilley writes on The Outer Upper Inner and last year's Bazaar Bazaar in such ways that would please those who head bang to Bad Company and Cheap Trick, who feel a closeness to the way Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo or Dave Grohl think about melodies. He gives off a sensation that he's writing songs about eagles with knives in their beaks, flying over the most spectral pieces of American land there are. It feels all-American and it feels wholesomely universal. Birds of Avalon give a reminder that huge guitars can never go out of style and that Thin Lizzy and Tom Petty used to be as big as it got. Going back to that wouldn't be such a bad thing. On our way, we'll have drinks and medium rare steaks with the surviving members of Queen just for the hell of it, for the entire 360.
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Birds of Avalon Official Site