The Covey Flies Again: The Damn Quails' Epic Return
Those lucky enough to have made it out to The Deli in Norman last Thursday got to experience something epic, and there were definitely quite a few of you. It was reminiscent of the glory days of the Monday night Deli Quails shows; people packed in and singing and dancing, red cups and other various spirits being filled and drained repeatedly, and high energy tunes being made by a set of brilliant musicians on stage for hours. It was only fitting to start back again at the place it all began in the first place, which offers a kind of full circle energy that only continues to feed itself. Granted it had only been a year since The Damn Quails split, but this reunion was highly anticipated and celebrated by the loyal fans of the covey, and celebrate we all did. The band trucked through nearly 4 hours of toe tapping, highly energized music without missing a beat, as if they hadn’t just taken a year off. If you know the Quails at all, you also know that this was the very first time they had played together in over a year, there wasn’t any rehearsals or practice going on. They just picked right back up where they left off and you wouldn’t even know the difference.
If you have ever seen a Quails show, you also know that it’s not just your run-of-the-mill live music performance. They make it a full on production, with the whole Philharmonic line up of phenomenal musicians, feeding off of one other’s energy as well as the crowd's, making it a hootenanny of epic proportions. They also have a knack for having a revolving array of musicians on hand making each show entirely different than the next. Last Thursday was no different, not only did they have the whole band there, but they had special guests jump up and join in like Buffalo Rogers and Kierston White. The stage was completely packed with action. There was Adam “Biggie” Rittenberry with his astounding harp skills, Blake Lennon rocking it on keys and guitar, Kevin “Haystack” Foster on fiddle and steel guitar, Dillon Sampson slapping the bass, Stephen Baker wailing on the saxophone as well as the accordion, Thomas Young keeping the beat on drums and of course Gabe Marshall and Bryon White adding their different and unique flair with their vocals and songs.
Although Gabe and Bryon’s songs are so vastly different, the combination of the two backed by this particular set of musicians teeming with talent, somehow makes it all come together like they go hand in hand despite the differences. Gabe tends to have a more soulful and straightforward approach to both his singing and songwriting styles, whereas Bryon takes a more manic and complex stance with his flailing wild hand gestures and madman facial expressions as he delivers his tunes that are full of double meanings and hidden secrets layered in lyrical prose. These differences woven together results in a combination that is pure magic, and magic was definitely what was happening on stage that night.
Their friend and videographer Scott Morgan of Riverman Productions was also on hand from Texas for the event, filming and recording the whole thing both on audio and video. The crowd of loyal fans that have been chomping on the bit for this day to happen didn’t disappoint either. The hoots and hollers as the band opened, everyone singing along with all their favorite songs and cheering the band on no doubt added to the performance in real and tangible ways. I’m quite sure seeing the level of exhilaration of the people who love their music was heartwarming as well as fulfilling to the band, and fueled their desire to put on the ultimate Quails experience that evening. Just being there to witness and take it all in gave me goose bumps over and over again. That’s how you really know just how magnificent the music and this band really are, when it can make you feel something that deeply to your core. The energy held within those walls that night was nothing short of electric and impressive. And this my friends is only the beginning.
There were many rumors and stories circling around the parting of the band last year, many people just made up their own assumptions and went with it. We are all aware of the massive mountain of problems the Quails have faced since the beginning, including the horrific parting of ways with their first manager and the tragedy of a lawsuit that followed where they had to fight tooth and nail just to have the rights to their own band name. To say that they were screwed out of the very things that they worked long and hard to get is a colossal understatement. Then there was the stabbing amongst a couple of band members one late night after a show in Texas that started over ridiculous bantering and ended with a blood soaked ambulance trip to the hospital and a near death experience. That ordeal got them labeled a “dangerous” band and probably cost them their fair share of opportunities. The Quails seemed to face problem after problem in their fight to just do what they loved doing and make a living doing it. Let’s not forget that also during those few years or so that they were fighting the lawsuit and were unable to put out a new album, they hit the road with a vengeance to stay afloat and relevant, spending much more time on the road than ever at home. Spending days and weeks and months cooped up in vehicles with all the same people, loading in and loading out and driving all night just to turn around to do it all over again takes its toll on everyone who does it. Not to say that they were complaining, but they needed a break before it all imploded in a way that they would all regret and never be able to come back from. Each of them had their own things going on in their personal lives as well that needed their attention. During the year off from the band there were babies being born and babies being conceived, and life being lived in a way that they hadn’t gotten to enjoy and experience for a few years, and it was well earned. Not a single one of them stopped playing music during that time, they just did it in different ways and with different people.
But now they are back. Roaring and ready to go, with all that pile of craziness well behind them and a fresh new path laid out in front of them. They have learned from their trials, they have gained invaluable experience, they have discovered what works and what doesn’t. The Quails are stronger and better than ever, and have everything that it takes to reach a level of success that they haven’t gotten to attain yet, though not for a lack of talent or effort. There’s definitely something different about this band that not a single band out there has, which comes from the distinct combination of their style and flair, their talent and sound. This band has something special, maybe slightly peculiar even. Every one that listens to them can tell this immediately, and that’s what keeps them all coming out show after show no matter what happens along the way. Quails fans are some of the most devoted and loyal music fans around. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on just what it is that draws these guys apart from the rest, it’s quite obvious that no one else out there can be mistaken for the Quails.
The unique combination of musicians and the immense talent that they bring to the table, along with the diversity of the songs of both Gabe and Bryon, creates an extraordinary vibe that no one can emulate. I fully believe that there are great things in store for this band on this second go round. The only thing that could possibly hold them back are themselves, and I would bet that not a single one of them have any desire to hold back. If you missed the magical first night of action, don’t despair, there will be more chances, including this Saturday July 29th at the Deli once again. Make sure you stay plugged into the Quails social media pages for up to date information on shows. And if you made it out to the show that night, leave a comment below and tell us about your experience and how you enjoyed it!
Welcome back fellas, the covey has missed you and are ready to fly in full formation again.