Bham Rocks
Bham Rocks

Local Color Says Goodbye

Published on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 by Tre Brannum with Lee Banks

On the final days of 2016, Central Alabama will be losing a hidden treasure. The cafe/venue, located in Springville, Alabama, will be hosting it's final performances before owners, Garry and Mearle begin retirement.

Local Color has seen many musical acts pass through their doors.  From the seasoned touring musician, to the singer songwriters taking their first stage, this gem has been a special place for many. Lee Banks, is just one of those musicians that entertained diners for years. He, and many of his past bandmates and musical peers, will be performing on Friday, December 30th.

"Local Color was the first place I ever played that wasn't church or the highshool talent show", says Banks.

"They opened in late 2002, and I started going to the Thursday night open mic in the spring of 2003. My friend Daniel and I would play the same five songs every week and then eat dumplings. All of our friends would drive over just to hear us play for twenty minutes.

Later that year, as Daniel got busy other stuff, Andrew (Cromer) and I started playing together. We would go to the open mic after that and do songs we had written that week or that day. Andrew had new songs every time I saw him and I was lucky to have one every two months.  The open mic was a challenge, and we'd answer the call by working to have better songs and more of them.

We really wanted to be a full band and we got my friend Jessica to come play drums.  Daniel came back on board later in 2004 and we decided to put together enough songs to play a weekend night at Local Color. We didn't know anyone downtown at the time and playing clubs wasn't something we thought was even realistic. Our whole focus was on booking a Saturday night at Local Color and filling the place. We spent almost a year writing and practicing in Andrew's basement before we finally played our show.  The place was packed and we played almost 30 original songs. We thought that's what everyone did. We had no idea that bar bands were playing covers. We thought you had to have four hours of original music.

We'd write songs in an afternoon and get to play them there that night. We always had Garry and Merle in mind when we were putting things together. We'd get so excited, knowing they were gonna love a new song we'd been working on. It drove us.  

That started everything for us as a band. Some people saw us, and started inviting us to play other area venues like The High Note, and Zydeco, opening up for some local groups.  

But Local Color was always our favorite place to play. We spent almost four years playing monthly, and we always had a crowd. They fed us, loved to hear our new songs, and always had plenty of things to say about the music and where they thought it was headed.  We'd get exhausted playing cover shows around town, and getting yelled at by drunk people. but, we'd get to come home to Local Color.  People there would listen to us, and appreciate what we were doing. 

When Jache broke up, the first thing I did was book a show there.  I didn't even have a band together yet, but they just never questioned it.  That was Oatmeal Bath, and we worked to get together our set for that show. We really became a band because of it.

When my friend from that band moved out of the country, I called and scheduled a show. They never asked any questions other than "What does this one sound like?"

When I met the guys from Timber & Tide, the first thing we did was schedule a show there.

A 'band' wasn't 'a band of mine', until we played there. It seemed to solidify everything, and give us a purpose when learning how to play and write together. 

When we needed a venue to throw a surprise party for our highschool drama teachers, they couldn't have been more welcoming.  

And when T&T started changing the lineup, and became Sea Of Names, they were there again.

We've done two Jache reunions in three years, and they've been so great every time.  All I had to do was call and tell them what I wanted to do, and they pulled out the books looking for open dates.

That place is the only reason I've had any sort of music career. From the first band, to the current one. No matter the lineup. No matter the genre. No matter the crowd. They've only been a phone call away.  

Seeing so many different acts come through that place really opens your eyes to how big music is, and how many different age groups and backgrounds can meet for it.   Bluegrass, jazz, blues, folk music, and always the Trio doing their classics with unbelievable harmonies. Big names have always passed through the place and the wall is covered with pictures of the performers who've been there. 

The walls are also covered in paintings done by the owners.  Merle sings in The Something Else Trio, while Garry is cooking and serving food. In the old days, Garry would walk out from the kitchen, and join in on upright bass while singing harmony. It's just an all around creative endeavor that doesn't exist anywhere else. Birmingham has nothing like it.  When the dinner service ends, the lights go down, it's time to be quiet.  There are signs on each table saying that there is no talking once the lights go down.

This show will be my last there.

I will have fifteen separate people joining me at different points through the night.  We'll be playing songs from Jache, Oatmeal Bath, Timber & Tide, Calls & Signals, and Sea Of Names.  Alexa Rankin, Shane Hopson (Calls & Signals), Daniel Watson (Jache), David Ramano (Timber & Tide), Adam Roberts, Adam Bradley, Amanda Miller, Joel Owen (Calls & Signals, The Arrangement, Promise the Ghost), Jesse Johnson, Dave Karr, and some surprise guests will all be making up A Sea Of Names to pay tribute to the owners, and the spirit of what they've done.  Both are retired art teachers who have spent all of their retirement time and money giving people a place to listen and perform, and eat good food. And, most importantly,  be appreciated. 

The only gift I could think to give them was the music that exists that I've been involved with. All because they let a shy kid right out of high school with a cheap guitar sing songs on Thursdays.

The closing has me too sad to even express my feelings. However, this night will be a celebration of them and not a time to be sad."


Dinner Service begins at 6:30, with The Something Else Trio beginning at 7:30. All ages, $5 cover.

Three on a String performs on New Year Eve. $30 cover.

Make your reservations at 205-467-0334.

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