My Isbell Contest Story
On Friday afternoon, Brooklyn Roads Magazine reached out to let me know that I had won tickets to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit show at the Kings Theater. My first thought was “I love Amanda Shires voice and her fiddle!” For me, the best part of Isbell’s 400 Unit is Shires.
Our seats were great: box seats that came with free monogrammed M&M’s. For the first 6 songs, the mix was unbalanced and house right (where I was) heard mostly distorted bass. I wasn’t able to hear Shires’ fiddle, which was disappointing, until “Last of My Kind”, which featured Shires and Sadler Vaden dueling on fiddle and electric guitar.
Songs about being in recovery seemed to get the biggest hand and the huge orchestra section stood and many sang along for much of the night. In several songs Isbell is in a bar, talking to a woman who has cancer, hating the cover band who he says is faking it. The stories he tells are sad and relatable. He doesn’t want to die in a “Super 8” motel.
The best songs of the night were saved for the encore. “Anxiety” began with a raucous, heavy, instrumental intro-the noisiest, most suffering music played all evening. It is a plainly honest song that surprised me; its everydayness was refreshing and also surprising. I am long accustomed to hearing less honest, less naked songs. Who has ever put the word anxiety in a song? Unreal.
Lastly, “If We Were Vampires”, a song with a heart-wrenching look at the inevitability of death in a marriage. Again, Isbell’s blatant honesty and verbalization of realities that I almost never hear in songs, or in conversation, also rang true.
I left the beautiful theater feeling the sadness and pain in Isbell’s songs and at the same time singing the hook from “Anxiety” over and over, out loud.
Thanks Brooklyn Roads!