I often find myself stuck in a routine of listening to the same bands over and over till I grow tired of them. Then I end up in a rut thinking there’s just no good new music out there. I’ll search the internet for a bit but I admit after a few bands I don’t like I get discouraged. Sometimes these slumps will last for a while, other times are like this weekend. All of which are halted when I get ripped out of my rut by a new invigorating band. This is all thanks to a band called “Family and Friends” out of Athens, Georgia.
The band was playing a small venue in Atlanta called Terminal West, but they packed the place in. I just pushed my way to the front and buckled in for the ride. The members of the band make their way onto the stage and you can feel the crowd’s anticipation grow. Music starts to play and it sounds oddly familiar. Ryan Houchens, one of two percussionists in the band, comes forward and starts singing, “Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination.” Yeah that’s right, Family and Friends’ intro song is Willy Wonka. If you were in the venue and they didn’t have your attention yet, you were focused at that point. Then Ryan made his way back to the drum kit and BAM, the upbeat folk rock jam that I’ve been searching for starts playing. The only thing rushing through my mind at this point was, “Holly shit, they’re so good!”
Family and Friends is made up of a Bassist, Tuna Fortuna (awesome name), backup vocals from Casey Harper, the amazing double percussion tandem of Ryan Houchens and Jamie Rios, lead guitar from JP Mckenzie, and lead vocals and rhythm guitar from Mike Macdonald. Mike Macdonald is the liveliest and most entertaining frontman I’ve seen in a long time. Cracking jokes, speaking to the audience, and to himself. He kept you locked in during and between every song. On top of that, watching two drummers play can sometimes be a mess but Houchens and Rios accompany each other so well. Tuna Fortuna (again amazing name) switches between rocking on a bass guitar and getting real funky on a upright bass. The icing on the cakes is JP Mckenzie, an outstanding lead guitarist who can really shred for a folk rock band. As if their personal songs weren’t good enough, they also cover Arcade Fire, and took even bigger risk by covering Kendrick Lamar’s, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” The band crushed both.
Family and Friends is definitely a band to keep your eye on for the future. They have so many different things going for them. I expect to see them playing much bigger venues all over the country in the near future. Make sure to check their tour dates, you don’t want to miss them if they are in your city. And for anyone who finds themselves in a music slump like I was, make sure to check out their album, “Love You Mean it.” It’s been on repeat in my car since Friday, I’m truly hooked.