This weekend was something I was long looking forward to – going on a road trip to visit Decatur, Georgia, located minutes outside of Atlanta.
The city was quaint and eclectic, with various local shops and eateries lining the streets filled with rich history – statues, old buildings, and various historical signs were littered around the city. Situated among these buildings was Eddie’s Attic, a local music venue and bar which would be the home to the last shows of the PBJ Tour featuring Jason Manns, Briana Buckmaster, Billy Moran, Paul Carella and Hayden Lee.
It wasn’t my first time seeing Manns, Buckmaster or Moran, who I have seen previously at a Supernatural convention, but I was looking forward to seeing them in a more intimate, relaxed setting. It would, however, be my first time seeing Carella and Lee, who I have listened to before, but had yet to see them perform live.
There was originally only one show scheduled at the venue at 7 p.m. However, due to that show quickly selling out, a second show was added at 4 p.m. We arrived to the venue early, which is set back inside a brick building, on the second floor, above a Waffle House. Inside, the venue is lined with artist posters, giving it a really cool vibe and making it fun to look around and see who else has played there. Up the stairs there’s the stage room, but Eddie’s is also a fully operational food establishment, where there’s a full bar outside where you can order food.
Most of the crowd was starting to arrive around 2:30 p.m. to reserve their table. For the shows, you could sit at a table (which you had to purchase ahead of time) or there was a few stadium-seating benches towards the back of the room for general admission attendees.
Around 2:30 p.m., myself, and staff photographer Mandi, were able to go into the stage area to shoot photos of soundcheck. Lined up across the stage sat Billy Moran, Briana Buckmaster, Jason Manns, Paul Carella and Hayden Lee. We stood in the back, greeted by the five, who then jumped right into checking the sound of their instruments and microphones. It was a good behind-the-scenes look into the logistics of touring and showing us just how knowledgeable these five are. They each played a bit of a song, motioning or stopping to adjust different parts of the sound to their liking. Their complete professionalism and knowledge blew me away. This was them performing raw vocals, and it was a treat to watch them in their element.
After soundcheck, we mingled back with the growing crowd outside the stage room inside the lobby. The room was buzzing with excitement, as the audience was browsing the merch table which consisted of Dogwood Events shirts, stickers, tote bags, as well as tour posters and CDs for all of the musicians.
While people were waiting for the doors to open, Mandi and I went out on the back patio and were able to interview Moran, who spoke highly about the tour. He talked about his experience touring, working with Buckmaster, writing and more.
After the interview, we made our way back into the lobby where doors were opening. The tables were set up towards the front of the room, with names for those who reserved them on them. There were low tables and high tables scattered throughout the room and because the size of the space, there was not a bad seat in the room.
Soon, Manns, Buckmaster, Moran, Carella and Lee took the stage, sitting in a row similar to that of soundcheck. Manns explained that this was a different format than what they normally do, because the majority of the same fans were going to both shows, so they wanted to switch it up a bit.
Lee started first, singing a song from is new album, Crazy Little Secrets, as the rest of the crowd watched on. He started off the show strong, and there were many faces around me smiling. Next up was Carella, and before he started, the rest of the musicians bantered about a story that’s now becoming infamous on the tour – the five-pound meat sandwich. The previous day in Charlotte, Manns dared Carella to take the restaurant’s “Fatboy Challenge”, by eating a five-pound sandwich, ½ pound of coleslaw and ½ pound of macaroni and cheese. True to Manns, Lee and Moran’s character, the three of them had a blast taking photos and videos of the entire ordeal, which included Carella signing a waiver to not sue the restaurant.
The audience laughed wildly as they recounted the story before Carella went into his first song, “The Beast in Me”. Next up was Manns, followed by Buckmaster. The crowd’s excitement grew as they realized Moran was next. Moran, who’s the lead guitarist for indie rock band Louden Swain, is not just an amazing guitar player but a “musical genius”, as Buckmaster described to us, who really goes a bit underappreciated. His vocals are just as good and he often gets one of the loudest applauses when he sings.
After a bit of banter from Manns who talked about how he gets Moran to sing, Moran finally broke out singing a goosebump-inducing cover of “Green, Green Rocky Road”. The audience was so quiet during the performance, it was a stark difference to the end of the song when the applause was deafening.
During the set, you could order drinks and food from Eddie’s and they had waiters going around to serve. It was a great, relaxing setting where you could eat and drink while watching the musicians perform (the food was amazing, too.)
The line started over again, going back to Lee, who sang “Natural Phenomenon”. The comfort level of this show was enchanting. Each musician seemed comfortable and was joking around with the audience and each other, making everyone laugh and have a great time. Carella stunned the crowd next with “Caledonia”, which was a request from Buckmaster. Not to be outdone in emotion, Manns performed “I Shall Be Released” next. Buckmaster sang “In the Arms of the Angel”, which had many of the audience close to tears. It was time for Moran again, who opted to sing “Hallelujah” with all the rest of the musicians. It was a soulful rendition of the Leonard Cohen song, and each person took a different verse and were harmonizing beautifully.
The line went through one more time, this time Lee singing “The Traveler”, Carella singing “Whiskey and You”, Manns singing “Stand By Me”, Buckmaster and Moran performing “Home Sweet Home” and then all five rounding out with “Wagon Wheel”.
At the end of the first show, the five were gracious and the room was cleared for VIP to come back and start soon. I also had VIP tickets and was eager to see what that would be like as well. After the room was cleared, fans crowded around the lobby waiting for VIP, as more people arrived for the second show.
Soon, the VIP doors were opened and fans were allowed to sit close to the stage at the tables and the five of them came back out. It was really relaxed and definitely something you should do if you go to a show in the future. They asked for questions from the audience, which included some great banter for song requests and stories about the tour. The VIP session ended with group photos, where you could get your photo with the fab five.
Since quite a few people were in VIP, the venue let the VIP stay in the room and sit at their designated tables. Soon after, the rest of the doors were opened and fans began to trickle in, with the room quickly getting full.
For this second show, the format was different. Instead of all coming out at once, each musician, aside from Buckmaster and Moran who performed together, would each get about a twenty-minute set to perform on their own.
First up was Lee, who showed off his socks (they were peanut butter and jelly themed, just for the PBJTour!) and went into performing. Lee’s vocals are strong and are only complimented by his wildly funny humor. The songs were beautiful and many fans around the room were singing the songs back to him.
After Lee was Carella, who stunned the audience with his voice as fans clapped and sang along. Carella shines on stage, and has such a mesmerizing stage presence that you can’t take your eyes off of him.
After Carella was Manns, who was wildly applauded and had everyone ready with smiles on their faces. Manns has such a sweet demeanor, it’s hard not to smile watching him tell jokes and sing. His soulful voice rocked the room as he sang. Every audience member was swaying in their seats and laughing in between each song at Jason’s humor.
After Manns came Moran and Buckmaster, who finished the set out strong. They played songs off of Buckmaster’s album, as well as the fan-requested “Shallow” and a beautiful, tear-inducing rendition of “Carry On My Wayward Son”. These two musicians are incredible and not something to be missed. I was continually blown away by Buckmaster’s vocals and how well her and Moran blended together. Hopefully we’ll see an album from these two soon!
As the last song of the night, Manns, Carella and Lee joined Buckmaster and Moran to sing “Come Together” and there was a fun moment as each decided what verse they were singing. It was a raw look into them as musicians and made you realize just how incredibly talented they are, being able to pick up anywhere in the song to play instruments and sing.
As the show ended, thunderous applause arose and the show was over. After the room cleared out, the audience spilled back into the lobby where the merch tables were. We mingled for a bit, before the fab five came out and started taking pictures with people, having conversations. After a long day, it was astounding to see them still so appreciative to come out and take time to talk to the audience who was still in the venue.
I sat back, really thinking about how incredibly lucky we, as fans, are that these people share their talent with us. They’re not only amazing musicians, but unimaginably kind, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.