It’s hard to believe it’s been a year and a half since the first and only time I saw Welcome To Ashley perform. It was one of my first assignments as a writer, and the show just blew me away. Coley Kennedy and company were so much more than I imagined they would be on stage. The only thing I had to go on was their most recent record, Beyond The Pale. The release is one that I thought a great deal of at the time. It ended up making my list of top Chicago music for 2010. Then, as quickly as they entered my life, they vanished. I got a email from Coley saying that the band was taking a indefinite hiatus due to personal matters, but he was continuing with another project, The Buddies.
The Buddies, basically, is Welcome To Ashley minus drummer Sherrlia Bailey. Add in three Collins’, Scott and Justin on guitar and Scott’s wife Kim on drums. Their sound is definitely more country/southern rock-influenced, but they bring the same energy. Now, through a cruel twist of fate, Kim Collins is the one with a need for time away. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and the band immediately rallied around her. They’ve set up a fundraising website where you can donate money (they reached their goal of $10,000 but that’s no reason to stop giving) to help with medical bills/living expenses. And Friday night, with the fundraiser coming to a close, Welcome To Ashley will take the stage once more.
Revisiting the album in preparation for their return, I find it interesting that I enjoy the songs more now than I did 18 months ago. Instead of focusing on this or that trying to write a review of it, I can allow it to just wash over me. The music is better than I remembered, and the lyrics are still strong. There are a lot of highlights and no excess synths or musical interludes to get in the way. It is very much the album Morrissey might have made if he were a punk rocker.
The album doesn’t really do them justice, though. The live show is where they really explode. Coley is a frontman’s frontman. He’s all attitude and spastic movement up there. As far as straight up performers to watch, he’s definitely one of my favorites. Guitarist Pete Javier is also a joy to see doing his thing. His guitar work doesn’t always stand out on record, but in front of a crowd he really comes alive. Check out the song “These Dreams Of Mine” off Beyond The Pale, then watch the video that I captured that night at Empty Bottle to see what I mean.
So Friday night, do yourself a favor and come support a great cause. Tickets are only $5, and the show is at Township (which used to be Pancho’s). I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend an evening. Also playing is Fly Over State and Pistols At Dawn.