WES YOAKAM

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Catfish Jenkins was my first full on successful band. Based out of Athens, GA ,home to literally hundreds of great solo artists and bands, Catfish was founded in the early 90′s, a period that was sort of a second renaissance for the music scene there. REM, Guadcanal Diary, Pylon, and the B52′s had either become world famous or dissolved, and a new generation of musicians had come to seek the oasis of music and art in the middle of Georgia farmland.

Widespread Panic, the Allgood Music Company, and White Buffalo were packing the newly renovated and beautiful Georgia Theatre, on the alternative side the recently enlarged and world famous 40 Watt, boasted the occasional secret REM show, fantastic local, regional, and even international acts. Music was everwhere, in every bar; almost a requirement to have any people show up to your club. One in four people were in a band, everyone had a couple of local friends in a band or two, and the streets buzzed with musicians encouraged by the success of the local music giants.

Into this scene, I came from Atlanta, determined to form a great band and tackle the music world. Inspired by my future friend Nathan Sheppard, a fantastic acoustic solo performer, I picked up a cheap acoustic guitar and started hitting open mic nights at The Flying Buffalo, a great music bar in an old train station on the outskirts of downtown. Great musicians were always around, and there I met future bandmate, guitarist Ian Brown. After playing gigs with a number of different bands, and musicians, and while learning to play and write songs, I placed an ad in Flagpole, the local arts and music paper and got only one call from a bassist named Jason Cameron. I invited Ian and Jason to a rehearsal in the dank basement of the house I was living in, and we never looked back. A search for a drummer began which resulted in the group gaining Chuck Lockwood and percussion player Brian two fine musicians that occasionally switched instrumental roles. We all moved into a millhouse in the Normaltown area of Athens, that featured walls that moved with the wind, flaky grey paint, a hole in the far corner of the ceiling where occasionally pine straw from the squirrel nests in the attic would fall into my room (that was tricked out with green streamers, handmade painted fish and other aquatic life suspended from the ceiling, like a scene out of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), not to mention the downstairs neighbor Sam, drummer for Athens hard, punk, very dark rockers “Porn Orchard”, that lived in the subterrenean apartment below that certainly and understandably hated us and our boisterous latenight party slash rehearsal schedule.

After about of year of playing every house party, club, and street festival we could get into around town, we finally got a call from the Georgia Theatre to come play a Summer Thursday night. Summers were slow then in preHOPE (the statewide college scholarship program financed by State Lottery dollars that increased competition for admission exponentially)Athens, but mirculously 250+ people showed up! More gigs were booked resulting in sold out shows of over 1200 people, so it was time to hit the road. After a hundred adventures and misadventures, a demo cassette, 3 booking agents, an accountant, a lawyer, two soundmen, two road managers, 300 shows (or more), and a full length cd recorded by legendary Athens producer John Keane later, we were approached after a show by Kudzu Records an indie record label out of Birmingham, AL.

Kudzu really got us rolling and soon we were touring the country in support of our first cd. Over the years we played with countless acts including Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, Vertical Horizon, The Verve Pipe, the Samples, Hootie and the Blowfish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Cowboy Mouth, and played at major southeastern musical festivals including Birmingham’s City Stages and Atlanta’s Music Midtown. A featured appearance on the nationally successful AWARE 2 cd compilation of new acts garnered us some nationwide attention and AAA airplay, and we toured constantly, playing every club from Mississipi to Nantucket with occasional runs through the midwest and Colorado. Two years into touring we changed rythm sections and two of my high school classmates Bassist extrordinaire Brian Gillette and drummer Riley Smith took over. I wrote, and we recorded demos for a second album, but it wasn’t to be…at the beginning of a long contraction of the music industry that still hasn’t stopped, Kudzu Records went under. The band went on in pieces, adding and substituting members, underwent a name and direction change that resulted in a great demo under the name “PopCycle”, but ultimately we (and I) had run out of steam after a great run. We figured out that the four of us (plus roadies and soundmen) had spent 80% or more of the last few years within 50 feet of each other…and maybe that was enough!

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