published Friday, November 25th, 2011


  • photo
    Members of Futurebirds are, from left, Thomas Johnson (guitar/mandolin/banjo/vocals), Payton Bradford (drums/guitar/banjo/vocals), Carter King (guitar/banjo/drums/vocals), Brannen Miles (bass), Daniel Womack (guitar/banjo/vocals) and Dennis Love (pedal steel).

After touring with artists such as Widespread Panic and Grace Potter and making appearances on "Austin City Limits" and at Bonnaroo, Thomas Johnson doesn't have much difficulty summing up 2011.

"It was unbelievable," said the multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of Athens, Ga.-based indie folk/rock band Futurebirds.

"It's been a year when we feel like we've made some real progress, and it's been really fun," he continued. "We're just enjoying the ride right now and trying to make sure it continues."

Despite the strides Futurebirds made this year, the attention its energetic performances has attracted is a bit of a double-edged sword.

The band is starting to feel the weight of audience expectations for the first time since a group of University of Georgia students started jamming in 2009.

Not that they're letting the pressure get to them, Johnson said.

"You can't spend too much time thinking about it," he said. "We've been pretty much the same since the beginning. We're still friends, and we're still riding around in the van."

This has been a banner year for Futurebirds, but the band's relatively short career was given an early boost with a pair of marquee bookings.

Its first show was alongside Pennsylvania psychedelic rockers Dr. Dog. An opening slot for Oregonian alt-country artist Blitzen Trapper soon followed.

Futurebirds members are all versatile performers, often switching out instruments between songs, many of which highlight pedal steel and banjo. That, along with their dynamic shifts within songs, draws comparisons to artists such as Mumford & Sons and fellow Athenians The Drive-By Truckers.

Just before Track 29's official opening on Sept. 2, Futurebirds headlined a private prelaunch party. Thursday, the band will make its second appearance there alongside Memphis punk/country artist Lucero.

Johnson said the band is excited to be the venue's first returning act for the show, which will kick off a mini-tour to close out the year.

And as 2011 comes to a close, Johnson said it's hard to believe the momentum of the last two years is continuing to build.

"Everything has been going in the same direction and keeps building," he said. "That's been really fun to be part of. It's been a fast-moving machine."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.


* What: Lucero with special guests Futurebirds.

*When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

*Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

*Admission: $18 in advance, $20 day of show, plus applicable fees.

*Phone: 521-2929.

*Venue website:

*Related links at


2009: "Futurebirds" (EP)

2010: "Hampton's Lullaby"

2011: "Via Flamina" (EP)



about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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