When you see a lot of live music, you know that you often come away with an appreciation for an opening act that exceeds the appreciation you thought you had for the headliner.
Without disparaging any of the headliners at Sunday’s K105 Country Fest, I think many attendees will come away with at least a mild crush on the Band Perry.
The Band Perry is ostensibly a band filled with people named Perry, but it’s a whole lot more as well.
The Perrys are 20-something siblings from Mobile, Ala., the eldest being lead singer Kimberly Perry, who is 27.
Kimberly says she joined her first band at 15, and her two adolescent brothers, Reid and Neil, wasted no time transforming their envy and curiosity into their own band.
The latter band opened for the former until the Perrys joined forces.
These days, the Band Perry is already a phenomenon even though its debut album isn’t scheduled to be released until October.
The band’s first single, the up-tempo “Hip to My Heart,” reached No. 20 on the Billboard country charts. But it’s the second track, “If I Die Young,” that is stopping listeners in their tracks.
“If I Die Young” is both a lament for a life cut short and a celebration of life lived well.
The song’s exquisite lyrics, harmonies and instrumentation are reminiscent of the work of such progressive bluegrass groups as Nickel Creek.
Hopefully, country radio will be kinder to the Band Perry than it is to most progressive bluegrass groups.
Visually, the trio comes across like Tanya Tucker in her heyday as accompanied by two reticent fellows from one of Seattle’s more cerebral grunge bands.
Or, perhaps a wiser and more substantive Taylor Swift as backed by two lesser-known Jonas Brothers: the quiet ones who actually know how to play musical instruments and are fond of vintage mod fashions.
Kimberly is in charge on stage and off stage as well.
“I am the boss,” she says, “and I admit that sometimes a y can be added to the end of that word. But that is my God-given role as the oldest sister, don’t you think?”
It would not occur to me to disagree.
In truth, Kimberly is a sweetheart who is more likely to tease her brothers than push them around.
As drummer Neil was in the midst of describing his admiration for Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, Kimberly cut in and said, “And now he plays the accordion, so he’s got this whole ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic thing going on.”
After I praised Neil for taking up the instrument, Kimberly said, “This is a nice guy. See, Neil, now you can come right out of the accordion closet.”
Kimberly says the Perrys bicker like any other siblings, but they mostly get along.
“Our parents taught us to be gracious to one another,” she says. “And we long ago came to the conclusion that what’s good for one is good for all.”
Asked to describe each other, the Perry siblings have nothing bad to say.
About Reid, Kimberly says, “He is the middle child, and he wears that role. He is a self-styled peacemaker. He is the quiet guy on stage and definitely the most mysterious. The ladies like that about him.”
She describes Neil as a “dramatic actor” and a “quintessential entertainer.”
When Neil was a toddler, Kimberly says, he climbed up on the kitchen table, struck an Elvis pose and said, “I was born to do this.”
Neil appeals to women of all ages, Kimberly says.
“Neil gets all the high school girls,” she says. “And younger than high school. I often hear Neil asking a fan, ‘So when do you graduate kindergarten?’ ”
Neil says Kimberly is “the spitfire of the group. She’s sassy and sweet at the same time.”
One trait all three members of the band share is gratefulness.
“If I Die Young” came about after the Perrys agreed that if they all died at that moment, they’d die happy.
Kimberly says there will never be any star trips, airs, inflated egos or haughtiness in the Band Perry.
“We want to take our cues from artists like Garth Brooks and George Strait,” she says. “Everyone only has wonderful things to say about those guys. That’s because they’re always gracious to their fans, and that’s what we aspire to as well.”