For various reasons, three of Auburn, AL’s few music-friendly establishments went under in the past year. Mercifully, one of the vacated spaces has recently reopened after being rechristened The Bloodhound. I hit up the new venue for its third show, hosting The Packway Handle Band.
The venue itself is neat: separated completely from the bar and restaurant of the same name by a wall, it was essentially an enormous storage room before being converted to its current purpose. Its high ceiling, concrete walls and hall-style layout all are positives on the acoustic front. A vintage/rustic atmosphere greets patrons, as exposed brick, a wooden latticework ceiling and pensive yet cartoonish art on the walls make up the visual surroundings.
The stage itself is pretty wide and quite deep, with decent lighting for photographers. I’m told it will max at about 300 people once a sprinkler system is installed. It’s also five minutes from my house—by bike. I am thrilled about the venue.
The Packway Handle Band was a great first band to see at The Bloodhound. The five-piece bluegrass outfit set up a dual-head microphone stand in the middle of the stage, then crowded four of the five members around in a semi-circle so they could sing and play into it. The stand-up bassist stood slightly to the side; he didn’t contribute vocals, and his bass was the only instrument with its own amplification. Everything else ran through those two microphones.
This frequently resulted in the best part of the show: the members leaning in to croon four-part harmonies. The instrumental prowess that I’ve come to expect from bluegrass bands was certainly there, and the songwriting was quirky and fun. The band played two sets, but I only stayed for the first; it was clear that they were pulling from deep in their songbook for this show. It was fun to hear them play tunes that they clearly played less and enjoyed playing more because of that. Fans of Trampled by Turtles or Whiskey Shivers will love what they hear in The Packway Handle Band.
It was a fun show to watch in a great setting; I look forward to seeing many more shows at the Bloodhound.