"Get Up" for the Alabama Shakes
The unofficial mayor of Tuscaloosa brings the Grammy-nominated band back to town for the second-annual Get Up benefit concert on December 19.
by Greg Houser
Bo Hicks is tired by the time he plops onto a barstool at the tasting room of Druid City Brewing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s a Friday night and Alabama will play LSU Saturday. The room, peppered with fans in Bama gear, is painted yellow and features a chalk drawing of Nick Saban and Bear Bryant touching the NCAA Championship trophy in homage to Michelangelo’s the “Creation of Adam” behind the bar – Saban is Adam and the Bear is God, naturally.
“I sprayed about 20 gallons of stout on myself today. Looked like I was trying to milk a hippo,” Hicks, 34, says as the bartender sets a beer in front of him. Hicks, who has been called the unofficial mayor of Tuscaloosa and came in second only to Saban in a poll of the city’s favorite local celebrities, co-owns the town’s only microbrewery with his partner, Elliott Roberts.
It takes Hicks (pictured cutting the ribbon at the brewery’s grand opening below) about 10 minutes, and one song, to forget that he’s tired. He finds the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” on Youtube and starts to dance as it pumps through overhead speakers.
A music lover and musician himself, Hicks will use the native sounds of the Alabama Shakes to bring some relief to tornado victims in Moore, Oklahoma, when he hosts the second Alabama Get Up benefit concert December 19 at The Bama theatre in Tuscaloosa. The first Get Up in 2012, also featuring the Shakes, raised $20,000 for Habitat for Humanity to rebuild a home flattened by the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa in April of 2011. Proceeds from this Tuscaloosa Get Up will go to the Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.
“Moore was an easy choice. It was a community that was roughly our size and had gone through roughly the same thing we had gone through,” Hicks says. “I approached the Alabama Shakes first, and they were really into it so we decided to give it one more go ‘round.”
Zac Cockerell, bass player for the Shakes, said via email that playing the show was a no brainer for the band. “We were happy to do another Get Up because it’s nice to play close to home and raise money for a good cause. Tuscaloosa has just always been good to us. Even really early on when we couldn’t get a lot of gigs we could always count on playing there.”
Hicks was an early advocate for the band, bringing them to town for a Brews Cruise on the Black Warrior River in 2011 before they were Grammy-nominated and showing up on national TV.
“They didn’t even get paid that night,” he says. “I wrote them a check for $300 a month later and they were like, wow. I think Tuscaloosa was the first place to embrace them outside their local market and that holds some sway with them. Also, they’re all just genuinely nice kids. They still care and you would never know that Brittany was singing Levon Helms songs with Elton John.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a soul band out of Birmingham, and Doc Daily and the Magnolia Devil from Muscle Shoals will open the benefit. The show will also benefit the Bama Theatre Renovation Fund.
Hicks hopes to raise about $45,000 with the show. “In the grand scheme of tornado recovery, that can seem like a drop in the bucket, but it can make a big difference,” he says. “One of the good things about going that route is that there’s something tangible. There’s something you could physically touch if you wouldn’t scare them by walking up and touching their house.”
The tangibility of good works is something Hicks talks about a lot. Whether it’s raising money, brewing beer or playing music – if you can score tickets to the show, you’ll probably see Hicks, a veteran of several Tuscaloosa bands, sitting in on a few songs with the Shakes on hand drums.
“Even if you’re playing in front of four people, if one of those people is just really into it it means so much to you,” he adds. “I get that same feeling a little bit now when I brew beer. When I see somebody enjoying something I’ve done, it provides that same region of my brain with pleasure.”
Tickets for the Get Up are sold out online, but there are still some floating around at Druid City Brewing, Guitar Gallery and OZ Music in town. Can’t make it to Tuscaloosa? The Shakes will be touring through Florida at the beginning of December and also have a sold-out show in Mobile on December 8 if you can manage to score tickets.
Band photo by Autumn de Wilde.
Greg Houser is a graduate student in creative writing at the University of Alabama. He has fiction forthcoming in Broken Pencil.