Spending time with the back-catalog of one’s favorite rock bands, you’ll find the live albums frequently stand out as some of the most exciting and memorable collections. Albums such as The Who’s Live at Leeds, Rush’s first live double-player All The World’s A Stage, At San Quentin by Johnny Cash, Live At Budokan by Cheap Trick, At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band, U2’s early-era Under A Blood Red Sky … the list goes on. The top live rock albums in any fan’s list usually sound raw, rough, and edgy — they capture the energy and spontaneity of the moment and spotlight the chemistry between the players and the response from their audience.
With this in mind, veteran Charleston rock band Live Oak hope to produce their own self-defining live album with a high-tech recording session at the Pour House. The engineers from Fusion 5 Studio will be there. Their local fans will be there. It might just happen.
Longtime players in the progressive rock/jam band scenes in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, Live Oak have established themselves as a technically-proficient group with bits of soul, blues, Southern rock, and explorative notions running through their material (as heard on their last studio effort, the 13-song Already Gone). The current lineup features longtime singer-guitarist Brian “BG” Graham, guitarist Campbell Brown, and keyboardist/organist/vocalist Stephen Stokes, along with relative newcomers — drummer Dan Logan and bassist Ryan “Ike” Griffin.
“This lineup has been together for about two and a half years, but Live Oak have been playing for eight years,” says Griffin. “The band hasn’t released an album since 2004. For the last year or so, we’ve been talking about possibly doing a double album with half of it recorded live and half of it recorded in the studio. It’s been in the works for the last six months.”
“We’ve done studio albums and a lot of taping from shows, but we’ve never done a real live album,” says Brown. “I’m really excited by the idea. In the studio, we’ll record the rough tracks and then polish things up. But we’ve always thought that we’re more of a live band …that’s where our sound is. We all grew up listening to live rock music, whether it was the Who, the Allmans, the Dead, Clapton, and all the old-school stuff, so something like this takes us back to our roots.”
Live Oak originally formed at The College of Charleston in 1998. Graham came to Charleston in 1997 from Washington, D.C. Brown came over from Chattanooga. Carolina man Stokes studied music at the Manhattan School of Music before returning to S.C. and playing with Flywater and Live Oak in the early 2000s. He joined the band as an official member in ’02. Griffin, a native of Winston Salem, N.C., played in the Charleston scene in a jam band called Creekside before joining the Oak. Virginia-born drummer Dan Logan tapped the skins with Flywater before signing on as Live Oak’s newest member in late 2004.
They hired engineers Jeff Leonard and Jordan Herschaft from Fusion 5 Studios to record this Friday’s performance straight off of the club’s main board onto a multi-track machine. They’ll mix with ProTools in the main studio with the band later on.
“It’s still up in the air as to whether we’ll get back in the studio and do more tracks or record an additional show,” the bassist says. “We’re open to the possibilities. If we get two great songs live, we’ll use them. If we get 10 great tracks, we’ll use them.”
“We’ll have a few special guests on stage at the Pour House,” he adds. “Kevin Hackler will be there on trumpet along with Ian Sanchez on alto sax. They’ve played with us a bunch of times and sat in for the entire show last New Year’s Eve at Cumberland’s. We might have them in the studio after this show as well. We’ll debut a couple of new originals and play some familiar songs, too. The latest material has kind of progressed from a more funky and jazzier feel to a more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll style. It’s still the same Live Oak sound, but the new originals are definitely more rock ‘n’ roll.”
Brown agrees: “Live Oak is more ‘rock’ now for sure. There’s always been a Southern influence. Early on, it was probably more jazzy and funky. Now, it’s more driving … more in the vein of the ’70s blues-rock bands. We often get tagged as a jam band, and that may have been true in the past … but I consider us to be simply a rock band.”