Sons of Bill
The Windjammer
Sept. 5

Halfway through their rollicking Labor Day weekend set at the Windjammer, Sons of Bill’s lead guitarist Sam Wilson ripped into an impromptu solo between songs. Drummer Todd Wellons and bassist Seth Green joined the spontaneous blast and rocked the house for a few moments. Lead singer James Wilson quipped, “This is why they hate us in Nashville.”

Nashville would have also hated that the Sons then dove into the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979.” Needless to say, Nashville is wrong. The packed crowd of devoted, screaming fans proved it.

After the rambunctious “The Rain,” from last year’s One Town Away, keyboardist Abe Wilson demonstrated his songwriting and vocal chops with his beautiful “Western Skies,” moving the audience to start a “sons-of-bill” chant.

The diehard fans, of which there are a growing number in Charleston, were out in force, jumping up and down to “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and singing every word of “Savannah Rain” and Green’s “Never Saw It Coming.” Sam, the oldest Wilson brother, kicked his fat, red Gibson guitar’s ass all night, never missing an opportunity to ramp up the energy even higher. After one of Sam’s solos, the rhythm section left the stage as James led the three brothers in a slowed-rolling singalong of “Broken Bottles,” which practically melted the place.

Toward the end of the night, the boisterous crowd sang along with the sweat-soaked James on their popular song “Charleston,” his story of alcoholic yearning for the Holy City. They’d been waiting for it all night. Then an amazing thing happened: The next song was even stronger. The crowd became wilder, and the energy level rose to new heights on a brand new, unreleased song that even most dedicated fans had never heard. Abe’s “Santa Ana Winds” — a tune about a desert rat starting a wildfire in California, “lighting the San Fernando with kerosene” — was the show’s high point (don’t worry fans, it will be on their next album).

An older man in the third row told me he’d been following rock acts throughout the Southeast for 30 years, and the Sons were the best he’d ever seen. He never missed a Charleston show, and he went wild when the boys capped off the night with his favorite, the 21st century Southern anthem “Joey’s Arm.” The buzz in the air and the collective high among the crowd never died; everyone got to carry a little bit of it home.

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