For more than a decade, Moonshine Still was one of Georgia's proudest musical exports, under the sub-heading "Jam Bands."
The sinewy sextet out of Macon gigged everywhere and often, toured with Leftover Salmon, and left rock ‘n’ roll bloggers scrambling for the thesaurus to find new and improved superlatives.
Scott Baston wrote and sang an extremely large percentage of Moonshine Still’s songs, and after he left the band in 2007, it didn’t take long for the whole thing to collapse.
Now living in Athens, Baston’s back with a new band—and a new outlook on life, the result of making serious and important changes that, he says, had little to do with Moonshine Still.
Baston’s band is called Saint Francis, and they’ll headline the May 10 Will-a-Palooza event at Coach’s Corner. The all-day event is a fundraiser for cancer research, put together by Savannah CPA Will Gruver in a bid to be named Leukemia and Lymphoma Man of the Year.
In 2007, Baston explains, “the jam band scene was taking a turn—and in my opinion, a turn for the worst—it was becoming more electronica, more computer-based, not as many instrumentalists onstage. Then it was one guy with a computer and a light show.
“We were trying to keep up with the times, instead of staying true to the sound that helped us to create our grassroots following, we kind of lost our vision and our way. Not only as individuals, but as a band; we weren’t seeing things eye-to-eye any more.
“I’m a singer/songwriter. I can’t play electronic music.”
At the time, he was also addicted to alcohol and drugs. After a hospitalization and time in rehab, Baston—who was going through a nasty divorce, too—decided to pull the plug on everything.
He and his second wife have a 4-year-old at home in Athens.
As for Saint Francis, it’s an Americana-type band, thick with Colorado granola harmonies. A standout member is pedal steel player Mark van Allen, one of Georgia’s most outrageously good studio and stage musicians.
The band also rocks.
“I tell people, our band is like the weather in Georgia,” Baston laughs. “If you don’t like what you hear the first time, just wait a minute.”
At the center of it all, Baston knows not only how to write a song, and to play mean guitar, but how to charge up an audience. He’s been doing this a long time.
For him, it’s all about priorities. “The difference between this and what I was doing with Moonshine is that we put family first, before anything else. Without your core, without your foundation, you’ll never survive any business. But especially the entertainment business. The further you get away from your roots, the more brittle is the landscape.
“They’re unbelievably great musicians, these guys. To be onstage with them every single night is like going through spiritual release. Even though we’re not a religious band, there’s something very spiritual that happens with the music onstage.”
Held from noon till 10 p.m., the May 10 bill also includes Betsy Kingston & the Crowns, the Train Wrecks and the Eric Culberson Band. Not bad at all for $15 (and, icing on the cake, there’s to be a cornhole tournament). Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com.
Dancing with Jeffrey
New York DJ Jonathan Toubin returns to our town this week (May 10 at Dollhouse Productions) with his Soul Clap and Dance Off.
It’s a hell of a party, as Toubin—a fixture on the Lower East Side club scene, through his legendary Night Train bashes —spins old-school soul 45s for your dancing and sweating and dancing-some-more pleasure.
Here’s what Toubin told Connect just before his appearance at the 2013 Savannah Stopover: “The Dance Off is just a short contest in the middle of my Soul Clap Dance Party. But more than that, it’s a ritual that bonds the room together and gets everyone worked up, and creates a community with the shared experience of watching (or dancing with) their friends in a circle. I’m surprised about its power and it rarely fails in the good times department—because the people are the action.”
Local bands Sauna Heat and COEDS will open at 9. The dance contest begins at midnight, with a $100 cash prize going to whoever’s voted “Best Dancer in Savannah.” The judges are Jane and Clara Fishel, Kayne Lanahan, Wes Daniel, Roberto Leoci and Beth Vantosh, with Robyn Reeder serving as “Guest DJ Selector.” After the contest, the mighty Toubin will continue to spin.
“I was primarily a punk and rock ‘n’ roll DJ,” Toubin told us. “The R&B came about when I started trying to get people to dance. I didn’t want to play disco, house, electro, contemporary hip hop, ‘80s hits, and other subgenres of music people like dancing to —but I couldn’t relate to. So I started experimenting with music that had drums and guitars and rawness—but still a killer beat and groove—and took the long way to my current destination ... guess I should clarify that bar DJs aren’t expected to make people dance—so it didn’t become a concern until I started getting invited to do dance rooms and parties.”
Advance tickets are $5 at dhouseproductions.com; they’ll be $7 at the door.