While the world didn't end on Dec. 21, hell might have frozen over as Knoxville will see a rare Magpie Suite reunion show.
Active for five years, Magpie Suite played some large shows, including a Sundown in the City performance, but perhaps its biggest shows have taken place after the band's initial run. Since officially disbanding in 2003, Magpie Suite has played two reunion shows to overwhelming responses. The first was in 2005 to commemorate the closing of The Spot and the most recent was in spring of 2010 at Manhattan's. Both shows were played to a capacity crowd, with venues nearly running out of beer. Magpie Suite, so long out of the saddle, was surprised at being so well-remembered, but points out that its followers are more than just fans.
"Honestly, I think the turnout in 2010 caught all of us by surprise," admits Magpie guitarist Denny Myers. "We had no clue that many people actually remembered who we were. Manhattan's obviously wasn't prepared either. Rumor is that they were running out of beer. The 2005 show, in comparison, wasn't as much of a surprise. It was The Spot's last night, and they had hundreds of patrons wanting to be part of what was a bit of a West Knoxville nightlife landmark.
"Our fan base covers a wide demographic, but a majority tend to be of a blue collar background. I believe they were drawn to the down-to-earth, high-energy shows to blow off the anxieties of the 40-50 hours they just worked. We were real. We weren't — and aren't — slick, polished musicians. We have the same rough edges as everyone else, and we and the fans showed up for the same reason — to have a good time. And I believe that's what still draws us together every few years."
"I think of it as more than that," elaborates vocalist/guitarist Matt Woods. "We all became pals for the most part. We were at the bars and other shows around town hanging out with folks all the time. So when it was time for a Magpie show, people felt connected like we were all in it together ... because we were. If folks hadn't supported us that way, we never would have been able to have kept at it for so long. The reunion shows are more than a reunion for the band. It's a big family reunion for everyone."
Early indications suggest the upcoming reunion show will see similar success. With presale tickets for the show being bought up, Magpie Suite looks to pack the house once again, this time at The Well. This show, according to the band, will feature 95 percent of the Magpie Suite catalog, including material from all three of the act's releases. With bassist Daniel Brooks living in Washington, D.C., the group has been rehearsing individually for months, and recently as a trio with its on-hand members.
"We anticipate a pretty good turnout," says drummer Dave DeWitt. "The Well holds 160 and our presales are nearing 100 and counting. We have a lot of fans coming in from out of town as well. ... We have spent a lot of time practicing for this show. Over the past few months, we each have been rehearsing on our own to our previous tracks. Recently Denny, Matt and I have been practicing together. When Daniel comes into town we will hit it hard for three days of rehearsal. We are very familiar with our set list and years of playing the tunes makes them very engrained — back to normal after a couple of practices."
"We would rather be overly rehearsed than unprepared, so the rehearsal schedule has been underway for some time," Woods adds. "Of course, these songs were such a big part of my life for so long that once we started knocking the dust off, it kinda feels like we were playing shows just the other day. There are a couple of Magpie songs I still play in the solo sets, but with the amount of music I have been writing and being out there supporting (my) 'Manifesto' album, I play fewer of them these days, which makes the reunion even more special to me."
Before its 2010 reunion show, Magpie Suite explained that more reunions were possible depending on the success of that show. Their story hasn't changed much as they echo these conditional, uncertain plans in regard to the upcoming show, but the pattern shows a slight increase in their reunion frequency with less than three years between its most recent shows (in contrast to the five years separating its previous reunions). Though Magpie Suite will likely never fully return to active status, fans of the band can look to Matt Woods, who still carries the Magpie torch with his solo work. Woods will soon begin work on a new album at DeWitt's Shed 55 Studio. For material, visit www.therealmattwoods.com.
Saturday night, Magpie Suite reunites with a show at The Well. Daniel Miller kicks off the show at 9 p.m. Admission is $7 with advance tickets still available at the venue or through www.thewellknoxville.com.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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