music It was the first time in a long time that felt like the presence of a “scene,” like Trax ’92 or The Hogwallers ’99. The Sons of Bill, who played their first ever gig one year ago opening for Monticello Road, used the holidays to their advantage for their anniversary show at Starr Hill December 22. College kids who were back in town for the break heard that the SOB show was the thing to do, and they came out to do it.
Richmond’s Wrinkle Neck Mules, frequent bill mates, opened with an affable set of Bottle Rockets meets Neil Young country rock. The energy of the openers kicked up considerably when Sons guitarist Sam Wilson joined them on stage.
Don’t let the frat boy following fool you: Sons of Bill has chops and a growing fan base.
When Sons came on at 11pm, the house was full (SOB is one of the few local bands that gets to play upstairs at Starr Hill these days). The boys are both smart about working a crowd and innately in touch with the style of music that they are playing. When they hit the stage, there was a very different vibe from other bands of young players. The three brothers plus rhythm section are believers, and their show is pro, polished and positive.
James Wilson is a natural front man whose songwriting and charisma are accented by his “aw shucks” good looks. Brother Sam provides plenty of tone and chops, and all three brothers sing, which keeps it interesting. The band plowed through a set of originals, with covers of Steve Earle and the Drive-By Truckers sprinkled in.
The original tunes were much more Nashville than Austin, and Sons had the Dixie t-shirt-wearing frat boys in the front row hugging, high-fiving and singing along with choruses, like “I got to get out of Texas because I am a Virginia boy”, which are catchier than the 24-hour flu. If there was any question that the band members just plain had 400 friends, the three guys next to me, who drove from Lynchburg to see the show, answered it—Sons of Bill is spreading the word.