Concert Review: Little Feat With The Wood Brothers (Koka Booth Amphitheatre)

BY JERRY FRIEND My summer is getting an early kickstart this year with outdoor concerts and festivals happening all around us in the Pied...

BY JERRY FRIEND

My summer is getting an early kickstart this year with outdoor concerts and festivals happening all around us in the Piedmont of North Carolina and across the Mid-Atlantic. I took a short trip from the Triad area after work last week over to Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary to see the Wood Brothers open up for Little Feat. I had a great crew of friends travel with me to enjoy a beautiful evening outdoors at the lakeside venue that is surrounded by tall pine trees that offer some shade before the sunset.



The Wood Brothers warmed up the crowd with their funky and soulful version of American Roots music. Chris and Oliver Wood are the brothers and they’re joined by drummer percussionist Jano Rix. The trio has been together now for over two decades and have cultivated a loyal following as well as a diverse catalog of music. This year they are touring to promote their latest release Heart Is The Hero. It’s the band’s eighth record and they captivated the audience early on with their unique sound, and music that targeted not only the heart but also the head and the hips of their crowd.



The main attraction on this beautiful breezy night was Little Feat, one of the most underrated bands in Rock and Roll, formed in California in 1969. Author, historian, and music publicist Dennis McNally writes in the band’s bio,
“Little Feat is very possibly the last-man-standing example of what used to be the norm in American music, a fusion of a broad span of styles and genres into something utterly distinctive. They combined earthy, organic material with first-rate musicianship in a combination that transcends boundaries. Feat took California rock, funk, folk, jazz, country, rockabilly, and New Orleans swamp boogie and more, stirred it into a rich gumbo, and has been leading people in joyful dance ever since.”


The legendary band went on to release twelve records although the lineup went through various changes over the band’s storied history. Their first two records, Little Feat and Sailin Shoes, consisted of the original lineup of the band, Lowell George on guitar and vocals, Bill Payne, on keys, Richie Hayward, on drums and Ray Estrada on bass. The first self-titled record produced one of their first “instant classic” songs, “Willin’” and the follow-up record added “Easy to Slip,” “Trouble,” “Tripe Face Boogie,” “Cold Cold Cold” and the title track to their repertoire, as well as a new version of “Willin’” that took the song from the rawer Lowel George version, to a fully-developed band tune.



Before the band released their next record, Estrada departed and the band signed up Paul Barrere (guitar), Kenny Gradney (bass), and Sam Clayton (percussion), and the latter remain rock-solid members of Little Feat’s rhythm section.



Their 1973 release Dixie Chicken added the title track and “Fat Man in the Bathtub” to their ever-growing list of popular fan favorites. As the hits kept coming, Don’t Fail Me Now (1974) added more songs to that list: “Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Rock and Roll Doctor,” “Spanish Moon,” and “Oh, Atlanta.”



The band had continued success in 1975 with The Last Record Album and the song “All That You Dream.” The 1977 record Time Loves A Hero delivered another classic, the title song, which led up too their famous live record Waiting For Columbus, that has been hailed by fans as one of the best live albums that rock music has ever produced.



Tragically in 1979, Lowell George was struck down by a heart attack while working on some solo dates during the time the band was working on Down On The Farm. The unexpected loss took the wind out of the band’s sails and led to them disbanding shortly afterwards.

In 1986, Bill Payne and Paul Barrere met up during a chance jam session and felt a spark of the magic they had shared might still be alive which led to the decision in 1988 to reform the band and take it back out on the road where they have been touring ever since, except when the Covid 19 Pandemic shut everything down.



Currently, the members of Little Feat are: Bill Payne, Keyboards and Vocals; Sam Clayton, Percussion and Vocals; Fred Tackett, Guitars and Vocals; Kenny Gradney, Bass; Scott Sharrard, Guitars and Vocals; and Tony Leone, drums.

In 2023 for the anniversary of the record Dixie Chicken, the band launched a tour that celebrated the recording by playing the album in its entirety in front of live audiences, and the success of that tour has kept the band out on the road again this year.



The newest incarnation of the band sounds amazing, the audiences are filled with fans old and new who enjoy the old songs, sometimes played with new arrangements thrown in by a group of seasoned professionals who are masters of not only their instruments but of space and time and it shows in their live performances.

I was lucky to see them play last year on Memorial Day Weekend at the RoosterWalk Festival in Axton, VA, and happy to buy tickets to see them again this year with a group of friends that are long time fans. If you get a chance to catch them, don’t hesitate, you will be rewarded for getting up off the couch and getting out to see their world class show.
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    • JERRY FRIEND
      • Jerry Friend has spent most of his life chasing the joy that live music brings. Originally from Florida, he’s been in North Carolina the last 23 years after he settled in Burlington, NC. A systems administrator by day. In his free time, he enjoys photographing live performances by artists at clubs, concerts and festivals. His goal is to try to capture those experiences through his lens and be able to share these images with others. As a fan of artists that span diverse music genres, you might find him at shows that include Bluegrass to Jazz, Jam bands, Alternative Country to Electronic Dance Music, Rock and even Pop music. He loves to travel to festivals, in the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic. He also enjoys collecting show posters and vinyl records.

        Read Jerry's posts here.

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Strange Carolinas: The Travelogue Of The Offbeat: Concert Review: Little Feat With The Wood Brothers (Koka Booth Amphitheatre)
Concert Review: Little Feat With The Wood Brothers (Koka Booth Amphitheatre)
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Strange Carolinas: The Travelogue Of The Offbeat
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