Published on July 24th, 2022

The Black Keys by Jim Herrington

Some of you know I grew up in Buffalo, New York. Since there are lots of Buffalonians in the West Palm Beach area, people generally know that Buffalo is not upstate New York, it’s western New York. Which means it’s more like Akron, Ohio than Brooklyn. It’s more Great Lakes than the Atlantic. To me, that means I share a formative ear with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, the duo that is The Black Keys.

From the gritty first LP by these Akron blues-rock revivalists, 2002’s “The Big Come Up,” to their arena-rocking rebound in 2011, “El Camino,” to this year’s release, “Dropout Boogie,” I have sensed the sounds of the summers of my youth: incessantly roaring bugs, buzzing heat, electric breezes, freezing cold water. And with it, a comforting ease-to-urgency ratio  where there is winter, after all, you don’t forget it’s coming.

When a band has been around and loved for this long, it has lived with the seasons. It has been present for shifts in our political environment, it has adapted to AutoTune, it has seen indie culture grow and fade and persevere. It has come up for air with a new album every year or so and toured in between. It is truly perennial. For two friends who dropped out of college to make it as one of the biggest small rock bands of the last two decades, I’d say a boogie is absolutely in order. The first track, “Wild Child,” opens like a dance of gratitude for enduring and kicks off another amazing album.

Band of Horses

I used to ride the indie train, jumping off at every dirty venue or college festival, catching acts like Bands of Horses in their formative Seattle and Sub Pop label years before the masses and major labels caught on. It’s with unironic affection that I still tell people about the first time I saw them: by chance, on a tiny outdoor stage somewhere in Massachusetts, and I felt as if I was having a religious experience. Frontman Ben Bridwell had the voice of an angel and looked like he’d fallen from the skies.

That would have been around 2006, when Band of Horses debuted with “Everything All the Time.” Through label, lineup and location changes, Bridwell has carried on creating a body of existentially titled LPs including 2007’s “Cease to Begin” and 2016’s “Why Are You OK.” Their first album of the pandemic era is this year’s “Everything Is Great.”

While I lost touch with most of my old ramblers — the friends in bands I followed on tour or who sat with me while I waited to talk to Bradford Cox after a Deerhunter show — I still feel connected to the music. Looking back, I think about why so much of the music I loved was made exclusively by white guys, and I wonder if I intentionally withdrew from what was once a kind of identity. But I also want to know how it would feel to see The Black Keys, Band of Horses and opener Early James (who records for Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label) this summer under the glowing shade of the amphitheater, and to see what that audience looks like today.

Music rolls on with or without you; like a snowball or an avalanche, it picks up and packs in new fans. Our favorite indie music is not just the bands; it’s their struggle. We’ve seen how hard it is even for brilliant musicians to make a career of it, how rare the successes are.

So as you’re spreading out on the amphitheater lawn this summer with snacks and blankets, spare a thought for all the untamed heart and soul that has been poured into rock ’n’ roll music from its first days to today. You might be older and more nostalgic now, and less likely to get loose and go crazy, but some part of the “Wild Child” in you that The Black Keys are talking to is still in there.

The Black Keys, Band of Horses and Early James play 7pm Wednesday, Aug. 24 at iTHINK Financial Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. ~ Carly Cassano