Judah & the Lion spans genres: Band and new album bring energy


I’m addicted to going to concerts. Seeing bands live is, in my opinion, the best way to experience music. So, most of my free time is spent checking out all the different acts that pass through St. Louis. The bands that I won’t shut up about are the ones who are unordinary in the best way possible. Judah & the Lion is exactly that.

Last summer, at Sloss Fest in Birmingham, Alabama, I was front row to see Judah & the Lion. I had listened to their music, liked it, and was excited to see them live. However, that “like” turned into love once they took the stage. Not only did the band perfectly perform their songs, they brought this insane energy to the entire crowd that kept every single person dancing with huge smiles on their faces. Out of all the amazing acts I saw that weekend, they were my favorite, simply because I had the best damn time at their show. So, when I learned the group was headed to St. Louis on their first headlining tour, my expectations were high.

The band is currently on the road promoting their third album “Folk Hop N’ Roll.” Adding another reason to why Judah & the Lion is not your typical group, they make music that defies genre by bringing together some of the best elements of music in the most harmonious way possible. Drummer Spencer Cross says: “It comes from all of our different influences musically. We all have very distinct musical palates, and you know going into this record we didn’t want to be limited by anything creatively. So, we really just wanted to push ourselves and try and do something fresh…It felt very natural and true to who we are and the sound we wanted to go after.”

Cross even said this new sound of cross-genres brought about a different songwriting process: “For this album, one thing that is different is that we decided to write differently, and so a couple songs Judah would ask me to come up with a hip-hop beat. I had this old drum machine that I was using to make these beats. So, I would make a beat and Judah would write these lyrics on top of that, or Brian or Nate would come up with some melody…with this record we tried to continue to prove the point that there’s not one way to do it and to come up with different ideas.”

The band’s experiment of merging three types of music together is proven successful in “Folk Hop N’ Roll.” Some songs are more folk than others, which is understandable for a band that was originally rooted in folk. Yet, all three elements of the music styles the band are aiming for are present in every song.

However, an album needs to be more than unconventional these days to bring attention to a band. Judah & the Lion’s show on Tuesday, April 5 at Off Broadway proved why they are gaining more and more fans with every tour they go on: They know how to put on a show. From first timers to old fans, Judah & the Lion bring enough surprises and stage presence to leave their audience more than satisfied.

The group kicked off the night with “Folk Hop Sound,” introducing the crowd to the magic created on their newest album. Using instruments ranging from a mandolin, to a banjo, to a keyboard and electric guitar, the band showed how they created their new distinct sound. After that, Judah instructed the audience to do their best “hippie dance,” referencing their next song “Hold On,” a track that you cannot listen to without dancing. This set the tone for the rest of the night—dance, let loose and have a good time. If you’re standing still at a Judah & the Lion show, you’re doing it wrong.

The setlist at the show included tracks off their new album, as well as the best of all their older tunes. Judah & the Lion played “Kickin’ Da Leaves” and “Mason Dixon Line,” from their sophomore album “Kids These Days.” Both songs had the crowd happily singing along. However, their newer tracks from “Folk Hop N’ Roll” had the audience moving the most. From “Graffiti Dreams,” to “Insane” and “Reputation,” the crowd matched the band’s youthful, energetic vibe jamming to these new songs. Judah even joined the crowd and climbed onto the venue’s bar—showing that he is the king of fun and interactive performances.

My personal favorite from their new album and one of the last songs of the setlist, “Take It All Back,” was the best part of the night. The St. Louis crowd shouted out the chorus at a level that seemed to seriously impress Judah & the Lion. Together, audience and band, we all jumped and sang the song at the top of our lungs. It was no longer a concert; it was one big party.

Judah & the Lion somehow topped the first time I saw them perform. And I have no doubt that as long as they keep making rule-breaking albums that fuel their live shows, they will be one of the best bands you see live.

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