Kudzu Wishes: Benefit show brings packed house to the Blind Tiger

by Ryan Snyder

The oppressive heat inside the Blind Tiger didn’t discourage a packed house to show up for a good cause Friday night, as the standing room-only crowd left many potential concert goers waiting outside. Tim LaFollette is known around local music circles by his nickname “Often Awesome,” which still might not fully capture how affected his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has left his friends and much of the local music community. Many of them came together Friday at the Tiger to throw a benefit show on behalf of LaFollette that featured a reunited Kudzu Wish, a band that LaFollette co-founded in 1998, as the evening’s headliner. The initial lineup put out by the Blind Tiger listed both Kudzu Wish and Decoration Ghost, LaFollette’s band of record, as a double bill, but with the distinct possibility that LaFollette would only have the strength to perform a single set, both were listed in the faint likelihood that the Kudzu Wish reunion fell through. The show went on as planned, however, and they were joined by Eating the Invaders front man Matty Sheets (www., who opened the evening with one of his wonderfully bizarre solo sets, and indie-punk band Social Life ( sociallifenc. With all due respect to the prospects of the impending Kudzu Wish reunion show, it seemed that someone else was responsible for a large contingent. Fans started spilling out the front door just before Tiger Bear Wolf ( took the stage and they did nothing to disappoint. Loud and ferocious would be the most accurate descriptor, but beneath their bristling postpunk style lies hints of funk and avantgarde blues. They went on a little early and were electric from the outset, thoroughly jostling the crowd in preparation for the main event. LaFollette set his cane aside as he took the stage and the crowd pushed forward to compound the already miserable heat inside. He picked up his bass and sound checked what resembled the bass line to the Cranberries’ “Zombie” as a slowburning, complacent melody consumed the intro to the band’s initial offering “Disguise! Disguise!” The jagged howl of vocalist Adam Thorn cut through to remind the audience that there’s nothing mellow about Kudzu Wish; the band was notorious for unruly, full-tilt sets in their time and the same was true for this one. Thorn himself seemed completely recovered from the severe automobile accident that he suffered in 2008, staggering around the stage with brew in hand. Clad a bit like the Rogues’ leader Luther from The Warriors, it wasn’t clear whether he was actually on the edge of intoxication or if the drunken rants and wobbly gait where a part of his stage shtick. “This next song would be a classic if it were written by a band that actually made money,” Thorn said as he introduced “We’ve Got Big Hands.” He would later end “Unopened Things” with a powerful eructation directly into the microphone. Thorn was, however, unambiguously jacked for this show, just as his former bandmates all were. LaFollette poured every ounce of physical and emotional energy he had into this set, meeting all of Thorn’s howls and Eric Mann’s grumbling guitar with stabbing, potent bass licks that resigned him to a chair between songs. Each of their works almost transcend what we come to expect from a song; chorus, melody, bridge, etc. Instead, they come across as short, yet powerful declarative statements that arrive directly from the band’s collective stream of consciousness, as if what they are saying isn’t quite as important as how they say it. They wrapped up their 12-song set around 12:15 a.m., shortly before the intended cut-off time of 12:30 and LaFollette looked spent nonetheless. But it was the crowd who took the worst of it. Sweaty, enervated and completely worked over, a twenty-something fan who looked like a seasoned Kudzu Wish veteran remarked what surely applied to many in attendance — that seeing them perform was like being in high school all over again.

A benefit for TimLaFollette (left) was the occasion for a reunion of the classicGreensboro band Kudzu Wish. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

‘This next song would be a classic if it were written by a band thatactually made money,’ Kudzu Wish singer Adam Thorn said as heintroduced ‘We’ve Got Big Hands.’ He would later end ‘Unopened Things’with a powerful eructation directly into the microphone.