Celebrating the brand new release of their best, most experimental, personal, and uninhibited album yet, Pep Talks, local folk pop turned alternative/hip hop/pop rock genre-benders Judah & the Lion, still riding high on the buzz and acclaim from their massive past few years, are set to play their biggest hometown headliner to date tonight, Aug. 24 at Ascend Amphitheater! A band we’ve truly loved watching evolve creatively and grow from their humble Belmont beginnings to global musical sensations, Judah remain fiercely independent, and a shining example of the eclectic talent still coming out of Music City. Their homecoming promises to be one of the summer’s best bets, and we strongly urge you to snag tickets right here while they last, then read on for more about the show!
JUDAH & THE LION
Like many contemporary Nashville bands, breakout genre-bending alternative/folk pop trio Judah & the Lion met while attending Belmont in 2011, which attracted each of the group’s members, all with their own distinct musical backgrounds, to Music City. A self-proclaimed jock, frontman Judah Akers was something of a star baseball player at Belmont, and met mandolin player Brian Macdonald and banjo player Nate Zuercher through mutual friends, seeking initially to start a more conventionally folk or bluegrass outfit. And, in their early days, that’s exactly what Judah & the Lion were, as well as a Christian band (despite Akers’ name, the band’s moniker is, in fact, drawn from a bible passage), with their first EP, the since buried-to-history First Fruits, a more worship-focused endeavor. By 2013 EP Sweet Tennessee, Judah had pivoted to a more secular, generally upbeat and positive thematic focus, and had settled on a sound that felt akin to big-name acts in the contemporary popular folk scene like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, a trend which continued on their Dave Cobb produced debut full-length, Kids These Days, in 2014. Though fiercely independent (which they remain, impressively, to this day, after massive breakout milestones), the band found chart success, especially in the folk and bluegrass spheres, and plenty of online buzz, leading to tours with the likes of Drew Holcomb, Mat Kearney, and Ben Rector, as well as a growing, albeit still niche, worldwide following.
With 2016’s sonic pivot Folk Hop n’ Roll, however, Judah really came into their own musically, critically, and commercially, fully embracing what had been previously a gradual shift away from their stricter folk early days, and instead leaning heavily into electric instruments, synths, hip hop beats, rock and roll bite, and pop accessibility, spawning their breakout single “Take It All Back,” as well as a deluxe version of the LP with even more pop appeal. Throughout FHn’R‘s cycle, the band saw a huge ascent in popularity, selling out large venues around the world, and landing them onto the pop and rock scene on tours with acts like Twenty One Pilots, Incubus, and Jimmy Eat World, on a variety of late night TV shows, and at festivals like Bonnaroo, Forcastle, Governor’s Ball, Sloss Fest, and Firefly. After displaying their willingness to take creative risks, it’s no surprise that Judah & the Lion’s brand new third LP, Pep Talks, is an even more ambitious, synth-soaked, alternative, and personal affair, which explores darker and more challenging themes (though always seeming to filter through their signature positive outlook), and, for the first time, sounds like a band who’ve fully come into their own, morphing from the Mumford and Lumineers-esque shadows of folk pop and the Imagine Dragons and OneRepublic-esque shadows of alternative pop to, instead, take a cue from their tourmates Twenty One Pilots, and buck genre-convention altogether. With production help from Drew Long and Daniel James, features from the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Jon Bellion, and radio-primed bangers like “Over My Head,” “Why Did You Run?,” and “Pictures,” Pep Talks is, without a doubt, Judah & the Lion’s best and most uninhibited work to date, and feels like the surest sign yet that the massive past few years the band have experienced is merely the start of a long and prosperous career. Don’t miss their homecoming!
Judah & the Lion will perform tonight, Aug. 24 at Ascend Amphitheater. The show is all ages, begins at 8 p.m., and tickets are available to purchase for $25-75.