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News Section: Arts and Entertainment

The Applebutter Express is a Drunken Family Comedy

Published Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:01 am




It only takes one voice to start a movement,

and a mob usually gets its way—


It was along these lines I was thinking Saturday night when I started chanting “One More Song! One More Song!” at the end of The Applebutter Express’s set at McCabe’s Irish Pub. The last song the band had played was very good, and it was important they play more because I’d just arrived and decided to write this story. 


The Applebutter Express [ABX] is hot right now. The Tampa-based ukulele driven / Man&Wife-fronted Americana quartet has a new album coming out September 30, and on that album [titled “One For The Home Team] is a song that will be included in the upcoming Ron Howard film The Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon, which will hit theaters October 3.


The band is also embarking on a cool Southeast tour next month. They played Purple Hatters Ball in May, Bonnaroo in 2012, and now, looking up this page, I realize ABX has been steadily hot for a few years, but they have a lot of big things coming up this fall and it wasn’t until I saw Matt DeSear through the front window at McCabe’s, thumping and plucking and slapping his big standup bass, rocking and bopping and smiling, that I remembered all this and that they were playing here tonight and also that The Applebutter Express would make for a fine feature, which I’d been meaning to write for some time. 


The band’s popularity has been growing consistently since its formation. They deliver upbeat, extremely catchy tongue-in-cheek songs full of good-natured Southern revelry, with titles like “Hot Pussy”( originally recorded by David Allen Coe, is actually about a kitty-cat ...) and “Handguns And Hammocks” —And when The Applebutter Express plays “Hot Pussy” live, the grown-ups laugh but the kids don’t understand, like a good joke in a Family Comedy. In fact, The Applebutter Express is like a drunken family comedy. 


“One thing they have, that not every talented band can claim, is their fun-loving and crowd engaging performance style,” says Wade Hamilton of Realize Bradenton, who brought his wife to McCabe’s for the show Saturday night. Hamilton has booked The Applebutter Express for several Realize Bradenton events. “They seem to make the crowd feel their enjoyment of playing music,” he says, “and more importantly, playing together. They have great on stage chemistry.”


And they draw a big crowd—

Indeed, the place was packed. I saw Sean McInerny, bassist for A Gentlemen Army, at the end of the bar with two women. He digs The Applebutter Express. “They’re always a lot of fun,” says McInerny. “They get a crowd moving better than anyone else around here.”— And this seemed true: The dance floor was breathing. It was difficult to get in and make it to the bar for a drink. I managed to push through and bought a tall can of Pabst for $2.50. Then I struggled to find a good vantage point to watch the band. In a packed bar a man sometimes needs to forgo his preferences in order to remain courteous. As a rock journalist, I find this is rarely possible:


I swung through the dancefloor of dancing people and moved chairs and people as necessary, dancing my own weird tango through the mob, extending my arms christlike and making myself thin, weaving in-and-out and spinning 360s and I’d spilled a lot of Pabst before I finally found a good place to watch. The band was good as ever, but then it was over. And so I started shouting—


“One More Song! One More Song!”


And the band’s Tip-Jar Girl joined in almost immediately. She chanted loud with purpose—“One More Song! One More Song!”—the big tip-jar held up high over her head, she made her way through the crowd beckoning brazenly but there wasn’t anything Catholic about this donation, though it was probably religious. We were in it together, the Tip-Jar Girl and me. We needed more. And of course it was possible that she hadn’t heard my chanting, and’d started her own independently, but I don’t think so.


Either way, in no time our demand was reinforced by a rowdy chorus, from the shoulder-to-shoulder dancefloor dancing people. They too, it seemed, needed more Applebutter Express. 


Still up front by the stage, these people never bothered to unwind; and really, they never had a chance—they went from clapping and dancing and stomping along, stamping the floor with folky funky rhythm, jumping and stomping and stamping along and singing the lyrics to The Applebutter Express’s original number, and then there was just enough time to light a smoke before they all got behind the Push for One More Song—


One More Song!

One More Song!

One More Song!

Chocolate Salty Balls!

Chocolate Salty Balls! 

Chocolate Salty Balls!


—and The Applebutter Express re-donned their instruments, and delivered a smoking rendition of “Chocolate Salty Balls” by Chef, from South Park. 

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