The Attic; Ybor City, Florida • March 24, 2017
by Bob Pomeroy
The Attic is a cozy little performance space upstairs from the Rock Brothers Brewery in Ybor City. With its cabaret tables and intimate stage, it looks like what I imagine 1950’s jazz clubs to have been like (without the cigarette smoke of course, this is 2017). It’s a space with history. Many years ago, it was the home and gallery of the artist Theo Wujcik.
It feels like a privilege to catch Southern Avenue in such an intimate venue. This is a band that should break big. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re headlining at the New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival in a few years. Hailing from Memphis and named for the street that runs in front of the old Stax Records studio, the band channels the spirits of their hometown and projects them into the future. Their blend of soul, jazz, funk, and blues is so organic the quintet plays like one living being. Yeah. They’re tight like that.
Tierini Jackson is the visual fulcrum of the band. She’s a natural performer. Watching her work the stage tonight must be what it felt like to see Tina Turner before she was famous. Keyboardist Jeremy Powell is Tierini’s visual foil on stage. The man uses his entire body to bring on the funk. He’s a man possessed by the music. Powell’s instrumental foil is Israeli-born guitarist, Ori Naftaly. He’s the calm presence stage right letting his fingers do all the acrobatics. Drummer, Tikyra Jackson, looked like she was having a blast back on the drum kit. It was fun to watch her breaking out in a big grin when the music hit a peak. (Touring bassist, Eddie Gatewood literally stayed in the shadows).
It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know Southern Avenue’s songs going into the show. Their energy is captivating. They did an astounding rendition of The Beatles “Get Back” about mid way through the set. The band’s final two songs summed up their positive energy perfectly. “Don’t Give Up” closed the main set. It’s an anthem of hope for the bewildered. Tierini led a call and response with the audience, “When you feel there’s no hope / don’t give up. When you feel real bad / don’t give up.” The encore, “Peace Will Come”, is a call for spiritual renewal and a reminder that we’re all in this together.
Those last two songs sum up a band that uses their music to project hope and positivity into the world. That’s something we can all use. I know I was having a bad week and the Southern Avenue’s show at the Attic was something I really needed. We’re living in trying times. Southern Avenue reminds us not to give in to despair and that peace will come.