Stout | 03.07.04 | Jake's Toadhouse | Decatur, GA

Gardner, Kamm, Oliver (left to right)
Music is good. Live music is great! Live music on a beautiful sun-drenched spring day in Atlanta is amazing. Being invited to hear a new band play on a day like that is great if they were outside, but they weren't. Stout rolled into town sporting a gummy trailer drenched in fumes from an apparently wild evening in Chattanooga the previous night. Rumor has it that there were women marinated in cold beer and men bouncing off the walls, and there's film to prove it. But that's all a rumor. Maybe that's what Stout is all about: Stout-drenched Southern ladies. Women covered in Stout, Stout covered in ladies. An ironic pun on words and anatomy. So when the five-headed monster hopped on stage at Jake's Toadhouse (formerly Jake's Roadhouse) in Decatur, GA, no pressure was put on the boys. It was to be a laid-back Sunday of music and musicianship. Last night was for the freaks, today was for the music. It took a while to settle in--everyone including the soundman was up very early for a Sunday--but in the end things worked out.

Craig Schuster
In case you don't know who or what Stout is (and I didn't), then get out and go to see them (sorry everyone not in the Southeast or Texas). They are on a marathon tour throughout the South, and were even invited to the famous South by Southwest music conference. Stout has two lead men, each bringing a different style to the stage. Craig Schuster slams keys and sings, combining the soulful vocals of Van Morrison, Professor Longhair, a slight hint of Jimmy Smith, and maybe Rick Danko, although it is rumored that he is the offspring of Dr. John and Groucho Marx. He and Matthew Oliver share writing duties for the band. Matt plays lead guitar and brings his own vocal style. I thought that a young Ozzy Osborne/David Bowie was singing at times. Matt swore they were trying to keep it light for a Sunday afternoon, but his voice went to dark, deep, soulful places at times, and man it was good.

Robert Kamm & Craig Schuster (left to right)
The supporting cast is no loose back-up band--these guys are tight like a pop-top bottlecap. The backbone of the band is Robert Kamm, playing drums and acting as liaison for the band, changing rhythms with ease as the band explored several genres of music. Robert makes everyone in the room feel important. He came to play and wasn't concerned that his brain was pounding with remnants of Tennessee. Bassist Rory Gardner grew up with a guitar in his hands and has been playing bass for about three years. Somehow he found time to get a degree in magic, graduating Magna Cum Laude. None of that prevented him from being a bass player, which he is, and playing in a band, which he does. The final ingredient, making the brew taste just right, is percussionist Tony (aka "the married one" or Tony Two Times) Walsh, son of Eagles Joe Walsh (OK not really). You know how lots of times a band sounds like they are missing something? Well Stout isn't missing anything because of Tony. He fires back rounds of percussion to the mixture of jazz, gospel, rock, soul, and blues that are volleyed at him like bombardments by the rest of the band. Robert makes everyone in the room feel important, but Tony puts everybody at ease with his down to earth personality.

R. Gardner & M. Oliver
As I look back I see Stout as a band with good music and good times. The second I walked into the dungeon of Jake's, Rory came over to make sure that I was ready for what was to come. All the guys were in the audience mingling with the sold-out crowd, really appreciating the conversations and making time to answer everyone's questions. It's hard to keep grounded in the music business, and especially when you have such talented musicians. Things can become a blur. But the boys of Stout put together the music and the time to keep things in perspective. Now is the time to check these guys out. Getting that small crowd experience is the best part of the music scene and Stout is offering it at this very moment. I felt like school was in session. Here comes Tony out to chat right after sound check, and he's talking about the sound and what the band is influenced by and what they are going for, and then he gets up on stage and they play a set. It was like Stanton Moore on the Jam Cruise giving a drum clinic. He would talk and teach the crowd about beats and techniques and then play them, a real 101.

On with the show! To be honest I had never of, or seen Stout before this week so my knowledge was limited to mp3 snips and the bio section from their web site. So going in I had no idea what to expect. I don't want to give any expectations either. The live music scene is a personal experience that differs from one person to the next. Stout ran through their catalogue of songs changing pace from gospel, blues, and rock, to jazz, funk, and piano ballads like "Really." They also came with some solid covers of the Band and Paul Simon. And to really put it right, Stout played tight. They played like a band that has been putting in the necessary hours of work and effort. From the CD that I now own to this lazy Sunday show, Stout is putting together solid music for people to enjoy and pour all over themselves.

Words & Images by: Jeremy Jones
JamBase | Georgia
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[Published on: 3/22/04]

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