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Alabama Shakes Bring Musical Fireworks to Free NYC Show

Alabama Shakes
Heath Fogg, Zac Cockrell, Brittany Howard and Steve Johnson are the Alabama Shakes. 2012 has seen the release of their full length record "Boys & Girls" and a renounced presence on the live music scene. Photographer: Autumn de Wilde/The Fun Star via Bloomberg

Mild weather greeted fans on Sunday June 24 at the Central Park outdoor venue SummerStage, as the retro soul sound of the Alabama Shakes got rolling at 5:30 in the afternoon.

The free concert began with lead singer Brittany Howard delivering the opening words to “Going to the Party.”

Fans stood on bleachers in the back and kids rode parents’ shoulders, as the sizzling “Hang Loose” got the venue shaking. With barely a pause, the quintet from Athens, Alabama, offered the number that launched them last year, “Hold On.”

Steve Johnson’s steady drum beat, a catchy guitar riff from Heath Fogg and the passionate voice of Howard were all this tune needed to suck us in. Everyone sang along, wearing the smiles that attest to the power of live music and a timeless tune.

Howard, a dynamo of emotions, continued to grip the fans on the rollicking “I Found You.” The powerful and steaming “Rise to the Sun” ensued, as Ben Tanner’s organ and Johnson’s pounding had us all rocking.

For a band whose core formed in 2009 and who remained relatively unknown outside its home state until last year, the Alabama Shakes have been on a whirlwind ride, helped by the enthusiasm of blogger Aquarium Drunkard and Patterson Hood, frontman of the Drive-By Truckers.

‘Always Alright’

Howard got gritty-voiced, channeling Jack White, for the opening notes of the jiving “Always Alright.” The title track to their debut LP, “Boys & Girls” brings a chance to cool down. Howard snapped her fingers while emphasizing each word; Johnson’s tambourine shimmered along with Fogg’s gentle guitar.

The breather was brief. The quick ’60s soul rock of “Mama” was then met by the dirty bass line of Zac Cockrell that took us on to “Hurricane Strut.” The speediness continued on the diner rocking “Making Me Itch” and the chunky rocker “Heavy Chevy.”

The set came to an end on what might be the group’s most commanding song, “You Ain’t Alone.” Howard’s voice sent chills through the words “you ain’t alone, just let me be your ticket home.” The crowd roared.

The Alabama Shakes will be on the road most of this summer and autumn. Stops will include Rhode Island’s Newport Folk Festival, Chicago’s Lollapalooza, San Francisco’s Outside Lands and Texas’s Austin City Limits Festival.

Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in July. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets.

July 2
Fruit Bats/Yellowbirds at Knitting Factory
July 3
Bobby Womack at Music Hall of Williamsburg
July 4
Phish at Jones Beach Amphitheater (SO)
July 5
Craig Finn/The Baseball Project at City Winery
July 6
Patrick Watson/Loney Dear at South Street Seaport (Free)
July 7
Roger Waters at Yankee Stadium
July 8
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Beekman Beer Garden
July 9
The Dirty Projectors at Music Hall of Williamsburg (SO)
July 10
Lee Fields & The Expressions/Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang at Fort
Greene Park (SO)
July 11
Future Islands/Ed Schrader’s Music Beat/Darlings at Death By
July 12
Dan Deacon/John Maus at Pier 84 (Free)
July 13
Eleanor Friedberger/Ex Cops at South Street Seaport (Free)
July 14
Tycho at Webster Hall
July 15
Nick Waterhouse at Maxwell’s
July 16
Young the Giant at Central Park Summerstage (SO)
July 17
Best Coast/Those Darlins/DIIV at Terminal 5
July 18
Lotus Plaza/Ape School at Mercury Lounge (Late Show)
July 19
Lower Dens/No Joy at Bowery Ballroom
July 20
Hot Chip/Chromatics at Terminal 5
July 21
Dent May at Glasslands
July 22
Apache Relay at Mercury Lounge (Late Show)
July 23
Beach House at Central Park Summerstage (SO)
July 24
The Gaslight Anthem at Webster Hall (SO)
July 25
Wilco at Terminal 5
July 26
Oberhofer/The Soft Pack at Pier 84 (Free)
July 27
King Khan & the Shrines at Bowery Ballroom
July 28
Caveman at Brooklyn Bowl (Free)
July 29
Young Magic/Quilt at Glasslands
July 30
Bombay Bicycle Club/Plants and Animals at Webster Hall
July 31
Sigur Ros/Perfume Genius at Prospect Park Bandshell (SO)

(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Elin McCoy on wine and Warwick Thompson on theater.

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