Who would show up to a show like this? Everyone, apparently.
Overwhelmed by the sold out show, Abe tells me on the phone the day before that he has had to arrange for two shows for the night. “I really didn’t expect this to happen,” Abe tells me. “We’re having to ask some of our friends and family to come to the first show, essentially our rehearsal, and then clear out to make room for everyone else. They are literally going to get in their car and leave after the first set.” Partridge and the group easily sold out the 80 tickets they posted online through social media to the Skate Mountain record label based event. “It’s a good problem to have, I guess,” Abe says. “It’s a learning experience but I’m so grateful people would be this interested.”
I caught up with Skate Mountain owner Scott Lumpkin on the front porch as a lite drizzle began to set in. He talked about the opening of his business and some of the artists the label had worked with. He and his wife, Kate, have always been huge fans of music and the ability to finally own the label they dreamed about for years was a new high point in their careers. The ability to operate out of the town they love is another plus for them. I ask him for food joint recommendations and he points along the not too distant highway in front of us just beyond a large church and some apartments. “They have just about any kind of food you could want down here. There’s all the usual fast food joints but then there are spots like Bangkok Thai, that place is great.”
Inside, I sit with TJ Scruggs and Dave Garrett, former members of Partridge’s side project The Psychedelic Peacocks” as Lumpkin begins pointing out different pieces in his studio collection. “That couch over there is from the movie Get Out.That one over there is from Hush.” A table, a mounted deer head, and easy chair in the corner, all with different stories. Stephen Anderson of the Southland Music Line enters and gives greetings to us as he moves to the front of the room. Already people are crowding in for the main show. My thoughts of getting dinner or even going to my car to retrieve a water bottle are dashed as I fear I will lose my seat. Robby Amonett is also among the crowd, setting up his work station near the front as he places a fresh canvas in front of him, his case of brushes and assorted colors by his side.
A young man wearing a dark plaid shirt, an army green jacket, and a black cap walks in. Abe comes over and introduces me to this musician who will be Abe’s opening act for the night. His name is Kyle Keller. “This kid is going to go places,” Abe whispers to me. “I mean that.” I shake hands with Keller and strike up a conversation with the former Nashville resident.
“That’s Nashville, Georgia,” he tells me, “not Tennessee.” The now Gainesville, Florida based songwriter has made the six hour drive just to perform his acoustic based opener, complete with harp and deep bass vocals that set the mood perfectly for the heart wrenching material that everyone is expecting from Abe. When asked what Keller does outside of music: “I give guided fossil tours,” he says with a grin. It’s no joke. He gives me a business card that I’m jealous of, complete with a cool fossilized logo. “It’s just me and my buddy who run the tours. We started up shortly after I moved to Gainesville. I love doing it and it works with my music aspirations.” We talk for a half hour about music, living out of vans, traveling, and show business from the view of independent artists who rely on the internet to make moves in the space. I like Keller even more after he performs his short opening set of forty-five minutes. The tears are already being primed among the crowd.
Partridge and his band went on to perform a strong set that lasted nearly two hours, stopping in the middle of the show to deliver a long, heartfelt speech about his work, his life, his wife, and the incredible support shown by the people who his music has made an impression on. So strong was the moment for him, he often had to close his eyes and talk into the microphone as if transmitting from another place, a characteristic he likely developed from his time as a preacher, channeling some otherworldly energy that he injects into the lyrics of his songs. As always, it’s hard not to be touched by the guy’s heart and honesty. He is a text book example of how to be humble and does nothing to inflate his abilities as a musician. There are some artists who create with theory and precision technique, Abe takes the path of raw emotion and feeling and is completely uncompromising on that. He knows not everyone will gravitate towards his painful tales, his dark and dreary life stories, but he continues to pack rooms and hear the cheers of people who come to see his work in action. If anyone ever told this guy that sad doesn’t sell, he doesn’t seem to care. Neither do the dozens of people who have filled the room and resort to standing in corners, sitting on the floor, or even listening patiently from a completely different room just to be a part of the event. And for an up and coming artist, that’s about all Abe Partridge needs to call this night a success.
Check out Partridge's latest album which is now available for download at his website.