Home   /   Reviews  /  What's New  /  Features  /   Exile at The Caverns and Musings from Under the Earth
Exile at The Caverns and Musings from Under the Earth

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

So many people tell me I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.  I agree, I am lucky, but in the words of Annette Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Think Country, “I work very hard to be this lucky.”  A perfect example of that was being invited to cover Exile’s The Garage Tapes album release show at The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee.  That was luck I can say both Bill and I have worked very hard for, and the appreciation level was off the charts the minute we approached this magnificent venue.

Image courtesy of TownMapsUSA.com

The drive from Nashville to Pelham is about 90 minutes.  At least that’s what the GPS says. Factor in traffic and it’s a little more, but the entire way, the outside temperature was reading 98 degrees.  It was excruciatingly hot, oh, and our air conditioning was on the fritz too. It was a long ride. By the time we arrived at The Caverns, we looked like we’d been doing landscaping all day.  We were literally hot messes. I did my best to try and restructure my face from the “glow” and we headed in. We went through all the check-in requirements and worked our way toward the actual cavern.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

It isn’t a far walk, but you know it’s coming once you get closer.  The air gets a little bit cooler with every step. I wanted to sing or dance or something.  After two hours in a truck that doubled as a sauna, I was approaching nirvana. Upon entering the actual cavern, I could have cried I was so happy.  The air felt delicious, I wanted to eat it. Then I just took in the natural beauty. This was my scene.  

We arrived just after soundcheck and the band was doing a meet and greet with fans, so I kind of wandered around just drinking in every aspect of the cavern.  I mean, it really is a cavern. This isn’t a Disney-fied version of a cave, this is the real deal. Touch any surface, the floor, the walls, even the seats inside, and there’s a dampness to them.  The tagline on ads for The Caverns is “The Greatest Show Under Earth”. It’s cool. It actually is cool, and it gets cooler as the night goes on. It also gets more damp. You can’t be too careful walking in there, as the floor gets visibly wet.  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

If you have something that you truly don’t want getting damp, you’d be well-advised to bring something like a plastic bag to put it in.  The air alone has a dampness that creates a sort of wet, clammy feel to it. If you go, even on the hottest day ever, bring a warm jacket and if I were you, wear long pants.  I’m not saying it’s miserable, just be prepared and you’ll be fine.

After I’d explored the main seating area and the stage, I ventured into the restroom.  Even that was impressive! It had an ample amount of stalls and it was really clean and well-appointed.  Even the decor was nice. I’ve seen worse restrooms in hotels and restaurants and this was an underground cavern.  I must say, it’s the little things that often amuse me, but restrooms are sort of important and they absolutely hit the mark at The Caverns.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

I emerged from my restroom field trip just as the band was wrapping up their meet and greet session.  That gave me a chance to get my own signed CD and poster and even a photo with the band. I’ve met up with a few of these guys before a couple of times and they are always the cream of the crop.  Friendly and funny and never standoffish. No wonder their fans love them so much, but I’ll get into that a little bit more shortly.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

After that, I had time to sit down, work out some social media things and just inhale my surroundings.  I was scribbling down random thoughts about what I was seeing and thinking. I didn’t think I’d forget, but I wanted to be sure the words that were immediately popping into my head were the ones I used when I wrote this.  As I looked up, directly over my head, I thought to myself, “If this building flipped upside down, it would be like walking on the moon.” That’s exactly what the ceiling looked like. It looked like every picture I’ve ever seen of the moon’s surface.  I just kept staring at it. The way the white lights softly laid across it, it really looked like the moon. In a word, it was “trippy”.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Pulling myself away from my non-drug induced lunar experience, I scanned the rest of the room.  Different portions of the cavern’s walls were lit up with colored lights. There were areas of darkness and then there would be a splash of purple, red or yellow.  The way those colors shone against the earthy backdrops, to me, looked “hippyish”. Like a throwback to the days of getting back to nature and music from artists like Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and pretty much anything from the Summer of Love.  That cavern held a vibe even cooler than the air that’s in it. I was so in my element.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

People started to file in and I forced myself out of my daytrip.  I took notice of the crowd. It was more mixed up than I expected.  There were people there from every age group, from preschoolers to senior citizens, but I would say the bulk of the audience were middle aged.  I was curious to see how this mixed bag of concert goers was going to respond to Exile’s show. It wouldn’t be long before I found out, not only how the crowd in attendance would react, but I was also going to get a crash course in Exile’s fan base as well.

Video courtesy of Patti McClintic, Think Country and YouTube

When Exile took the stage, and I won’t use the tired old phrase and say, “the crowd went wild”, because that would be a bit of an exaggeration, but they did get excited.  These were their guys. I should also mention there may have been a reason they didn’t get too wild. There were signs posted all over the place reminding us to keep our voices to a whisper inside the cavern.  It’s a cavern, and the louder you speak, the more your voice carries and that can be a problem if everyone is talking. Maybe everyone really took those rules seriously, who knows? I mean, they weren’t dead silent, but they weren’t as loud as your average crowd for the band’s first number.  They were politely enthusiastic. I didn’t see any problem with it, maybe this was how all Exile shows went.

The band opened with 1983’s “Take Me to the River”, written by JP Pennington.  It was a rip roaring way to start the show, country music with a lively gospel feel. If there were any doubts about the acoustics in a cavern (not that I had any doubts), they were gone in a flash.  I wish I could listen to all of my music underground now. 

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country 

That polite audience I mentioned?  They were happier with things now. The applause got a little louder.  Or maybe they just gave up on following the “whisper” rule. This was a concert after all, and if the band could make noise, maybe they could too.  

It might be good to stop right here and talk about this band for a minute.  The five members of Exile are JP Pennington (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric piano, lead and background vocals), Sonny LeMaire (bass, lead and background vocals), Les Taylor (acoustic guitar, lead and background vocals), Marlon Hargis (piano, organ, synthesizer, background vocals) and Steve Goetzman (drums, percussion).  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Exile has been together for 56 years.  That’s 56 years as one self-contained unit. No hired guns. They play all their own instruments and they are the band Exile.  That’s it. They should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for this astounding achievement. They are the only band in history that has garnered so many awards, crossed over from rock to pop to country and played together for that length of time and yet, they are not in the Guinness Book of World Records because Guinness says they don’t have a category for them.  Certainly they need to create a category, wouldn’t you say?  

Exile began playing together in a garage in Kentucky in 1963.  Back then they called themselves, The Exiles. Some members have come and gone throughout the years, but founding member, JP Pennington is still around, and aside from a few breaks and replacements, this configuration of the band has been the same since 1980.  You can read up on why they chose the name Exile if you want to know more, and the best way to learn all kinds of interesting trivia about the band is to buy the physical copy of their new album, The Garage Tapes.  The liner notes with this project are superb.  Forget Wikipedia. Leave Google alone. This is far better.  These are words coming straight from the source. Some of the best liner notes I’ve seen in recent years.  I’d love to keep telling you more fun factoids about Exile, but just buy the album. It’s 30 tracks of listening luxury.  That’s not something you get everyday anymore.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Over those 56 years, Exile has done a lot of traveling.  They’ve played just about everywhere, but July 13, 2019 was the first time they had ever played at The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee, and they told the fans in the audience they were loving it.  They also thanked people who came from some far away places for coming to the show. Even when we walked out to the gravel parking lot, we saw vehicles with license plates from Virginia, Ohio and Georgia right near our own truck.  This was kind of a big deal. The release of an album full of music never heard before with a concert attached to it. Put all of that in a cavern and it amounts to a seriously unique experience. If you’re a diehard Exile fan, and you weren’t there, I guess I feel bad for you, but I tried to help.  More on that in a minute.

Despite the fact that this was a celebration of a brand new album with 30 songs never heard before, Exile came armed with their hits and they covered a whole lot of territory.  In the interest of time and space, I’ll give you a rundown of some of the highlights.  

They blasted out a bunch of their number ones, including “I Can’t Get Close Enough”, “Woke Up in Love”, “Give Me One More Chance”, “She’s a Miracle” and “She’s Too Good to Be True”.  The fans were singing along to every one of those.  

Video courtesy of Patti McClintic, Think Country and YouTube

While it never made it to the top of the charts, 1986’s “Super Love” somehow became a fan favorite over the years anyway.  I’ve seen these guys perform this at a couple different events and it never fails to take the party up a notch. It was no different at The Caverns.  

Video courtesy of Patti McClintic, Think Country and YouTube

There was a short break in the music when Sonny LeMaire stopped to explain how The Garage Tapes came to be and the process the songs went through to actually get them on an album.  This band is proud of this record and they should be. There are some things only time and a shared history can create.  This album could never have become a reality without both of those factors coming together. Exile can lay claim to both and they can wave that flag as high as they want.  They’ve earned this. I’ll say it again. Buy the record.  

Video courtesy of Patti McClintic, Think Country and YouTube

I would guess it was about the final 30 minutes or so that put the icing on the cake.  It started off with Les Taylor singing “It’ll Be Me”. Taylor then sang “Heart and Soul” which Exile recorded in 1981, but it didn’t go anywhere for the band.  In 1983, along came some cat named Huey Lewis who took a crack at it with his band The News, and had better luck. The song hit number one on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.  Needless to say, I think Taylor does a damned good job on the vocals and the band backs him up equally well.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

As cool as that was, next the guys played a medley of songs they had written that were recorded by other artists.  Without giving them all away (watch the video below), I’ll just say that “Beautiful Mess”, recorded by Diamond Rio and “The Closer You Get” that became a hit for Alabama, are among the five songs in that medley.

Video courtesy of Patti McClintic, Think Country and YouTube

Remember when I said that I got a crash course in Exile’s fan base?  I really did. I did a few Facebook Live video streams for our followers at home, and the Exile fans came out in droves to view those videos!  Not only were they watching the live streams, they were commenting and chatting with one another in the comments. These people know each other.  Exile fans are like one huge family. Prior to this, I have always said that in my experience, the two largest and most loyal fan bases were those of Scotty McCreery and Travis Tritt.  I think Exile’s fans may have just jumped right over both of them. They were a total force. I now wonder which artist’s fans will be able to top this army. It’s going to be difficult.

“People Get Ready”, a song Exile said they do at every show, was really something to hear.  The harmonies were exquisite. Honestly, the harmonies were excellent on most of the songs they did, but this one was simply brilliant.  These guys have been together for 56 years and they were giving me chills. Those chills were not due to the cool air in the cavern either.  I suppose it shouldn’t amaze me that much. To have the band longevity that they do, they must know each other’s voices as well as their own.  That has to help keep those harmonies right in place. It’s still beautiful to listen to, whatever the magic formula may be.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

No Exile concert could end without “Kiss You All Over”.  I don’t know if the band knows how many times they’ve played that song since it first released in 1978, but like the band itself, it has done it all.  It went Gold, it hit number one, it’s been covered multiple times, it’s been used in movies and TV, and even for the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s easily one of the most recognizable songs ever recorded, and no matter how many times it gets covered, let’s face it, “Kiss You All Over” belongs to Exile.  It always will. They saved the best for last and the fans got on their feet and danced and sang. Just before the band played it, LeMaire told those fans that Exile truly appreciated all the love they’ve shown the band over the years and in return, they were going to play them an Exile love song. Even after all the heartfelt ballads we’d heard earlier in the show, every person in that room knew that an Exile love song could only mean one thing.  I think I can speak for just about everybody in that audience when I say that we all felt that love coming back at us. That cavern was cool, but those Exile guys were way cooler.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Exile can be found:

Website:  https://www.exile.biz

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ExileOfficial/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/exileofficial

Instagram:  exileofficialband

Publicist:  https://www.bnoticedpr.com

 

  

Tags

Patti McClintic
I’m Patti. Rock music is my first love. My daughter, who was a country fan as a teenager, dragged me in when I'd drive her to school and we would have radio wars in the car. I'd have on my rock station and she would switch it to the country station. Guess who always won? As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I did. patti@thinkcountrymusic.com First it was all modern country, but my parents were big Merle Haggard fans. I went along with them to a Merle Haggard/Phil Vassar show at the local fair and that was it. I was hooked on the Hag. Since that day, I've become a fan of bluegrass and I continue to explore all facets of the country genre. I guess you could say, I'm all in. When I'm not up to my neck in any kind of music, I enjoy genealogy, history, my granddaughters and my addiction, SongPop. I guess it could be worse, right? I'm a Buffalo, New York girl living in a Nashville, Tennessee world, and I'm livin' the dream with my husband, my dog and my two cats.
Related Article