Out of 12 bands that competed in three regional contests, six will take to the stage on Thursday during the Toadlick Music Festival’s Battle of the Bands. They’re coming from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
It’s an opportunity that many musicians never get – the chance to open a music festival that features groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd, 3 Doors Down, Thompson Square, Gretchen Wilson, Luke Bryan and Kellie Pickler.
And nobody realizes more than the bands themselves what the exposure could mean.
Brandon Self and the Outlaw Revival Band
Two years ago, Brandon Self and the Outlaw Revival Band began playing together around Montgomery. But the members – Brandon Self, Luke “Blind Cat” Bond, Richie Hudson and Buddy Tillery – have been working musicians for years.
“We’d love to make a living at music,” Self said. “Most musicians do want to do that, and I have made a lot of my living doing music. We all have jobs that we kind of piddle at, but music is our mainstay.”
The band, as the name implies, thinks of themselves as outlaws – musical mavericks just trying to play what they enjoy playing.
“We’re very independent, and we’re very big into the promotion of original music,” Self said. “We support other original acts that are local. We do kind of go against the grain, and we don’t conform to what other people’s ideas are of what should be played and what shouldn’t be played. We just try to make them enjoy what we play.”
Self said he’s excited to play at the Dothan music festival.
“It’s definitely good exposure, and we’re down for any kind of music,” Self said. “So we’re real excited to have this chance.”
When you watch RTFO perform, you may wonder about the guy slapping his hands on a wooden box. That box is actually a Peruvian instrument called a cajon, and it’s an example of the mix of musical styles in this Dothan band.
“The five members of the band come from such different musical backgrounds,” vocalist and guitar player Kevin Thompson said. “Each person brings a different aspect to the table. And because the songs are original, that gives us the freedom to express our own style and contribute to the songs. So, some of the songs have evolved over time.”
The band includes Thompson, Andrew Head, Diego Rojas, Zachary Cook and Scotty Henderson. Their eclectic musical style stems from the members’ love of a variety of music – Latin, heavy metal, grunge rock from the ‘90s, and classical music.
In its current makeup, RTFO has not been together very long, but the band has been a personal project for Thompson for about 10 years.
“It’s just been recently that all the pieces of the puzzle have been put together for it to come to full fruition,” he said.
Caylee Anna Hammack began singing when she was 13. At 16, the Ellaville, Ga., native began to experience pain in her back, hips and legs. The pain became more debilitating with time, and in December 2010, a specialist discovered a tumor in the perospinal muscles of her back. In January 2011, she underwent surgery to have the tumor removed.
The tumor turned out to be benign. But the health crisis taught Caylee Anna, as she’s known on stage, an important life lesson.
“Obviously, life isn’t as long as you expect; it can be taken away at any time,” the 19-year-old said.
After her recovery, she started playing again. She began working with her mentor, singer John Berry. She travels to Nashville, Tenn., regularly to work with songwriters and hopes to eventually move up there. She appeared on ABC’s “Duets” with the show’s judge Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. She auditioned for “American Idol” and “X-Factor” but was told she was too “country” sounding.
She feels good about the Toadlick Battle of the Bands and the level of competition, however. And no matter the outcome, she’s excited about the opportunity.
“You can’t lose,” Hammack said. “I know if I lose, at least I lost honorably. I lost against somebody who really did deserve to win.”
There’s just something about a guitar.
When his friends were at ballgames or hanging out on weekends, Travis Denning would play his guitar.
“This is all I want to do,” he said.
Denning has been playing with band members Josh Graff, Jake Johnson and Brad Sorrell since May of last year. But the 20-year-old who lives in Warner Robins, Ga., has been playing guitar since he was 15.
The country band is not afraid to take a step out and go different places, Denning said. The band’s lead guitar player is a blues fan, while the bass player and drummer love jam music. And Denning was heavily influenced by the Allman Brothers Band but loves country music from every era.
“Even when we sometimes might disagree with what someone else is bringing to the table, it always ends up being good and eventually melds into something we can all be proud of,” he said.
Denning said making it to Toadlick reinforces that they’re headed down the right path. Winning one of the additional slots will mean even more.
“I think what we’re doing now is finally right,” he said. “Something’s feeling good about what we’ve been doing for the last month. And when stuff like this happens, it’s just that little extra stomp on the gas that makes you want to just keep busting it, working it.”
The Nashville-based rock group Favorite Sons has Wiregrass roots. Members Brian Redahan and James Beck are from Enterprise and moved to Nashville to pursue their music with another band.
“We were one of those bands that we would be in a bunch of different bands and change our names mostly because that was the fun thing to do,” Redahan said. “I don’t know if it was out of boredom or what.”
Less than a year ago, Redahan and Beck joined with Eric Melvin – who lived in Crestview, Fla. – and Justin Pasquale as Favorite Sons. It’s often difficult for musicians to label their music, and Redahan said Favorite Sons is definitely a rock band but with some very country music roots.
“We’re a rock band with a very Southern drawl – a lot of Southern influences,” Redahan said. “We don’t forget where we’re from and we like to play that kind of music.”
The band, he said, is excited for the opportunity to play their original music at the Toadlick Music Festival and to see family and friends still in the area.
“I don’t think a lot of people can get the chance to say that they played at the same festival as Lynyrd Skynyrd and a lot of these other bands that I’ve listened to and taken a lot of influence out of also,” Redahan said. “I think that’s amazing.”
Barbed Wire Creek
Playing music and working full-time jobs is difficult.
So much so that Barbed Wire Creek will be playing with a fill-in bass player when the band performs during Thursday’s Toadlick Battle of the Bands competition. The band’s regular bass player is a sheriff’s deputy around the band’s Panama City, Fla., home base and is on duty that day.
“We’re going to pull it off anyway,” said lead singer Cody Bennett. “If we just play with the intensity and the drive and the soul that we usually play with, I think we’ll be OK.”
This country and southern rock band from Northwest Florida consists of Bennett, Jamie Skipper, Scott Fryer and Caleb Todd. Bennett said the band is like a family. Even the band’s manager and booking agent are Bennett’s parents.
With influences in blues, metal, country and southern rock, Bennett said he thinks of the band as “country rock.”
Bennett said the band typically performs a mix of their original music and covers of other songs (with their own twist). Bennett said he wants an audience to have fun with the music, and sometimes that means playing songs they know.
“I like to do original songs and interpretations of what you can do,” Bennett said. “At the same time … people want to sing along to stuff and people don’t want to hear just originals.”