I arrived about an hour before the show, as one of the two opening acts “The Lopez” were performing their set. Being a Thursday, I wasn’t surprised to see the venue was mostly empty. There were a handful of people near the stage enjoying the music, and it didn’t take long before I joined them. The enthusiasm of the duo on stage was infectious. It made me glad that I hadn’t skipped the opening acts as I am often too eager to do. As I scanned the venue and crowd, taking in the setting, I noticed none other than Lee Bains III standing at the front of the crowd. He rarely moved from that spot, supporting his supporting acts, and talking with members of the crowd in between sets.

It had been about 6 months since I last went to a concert, and I had felt some hesitation about attending a concert an hour and fifteen minutes away from my apartment on a weeknight. Consistently I surprise myself by forgetting how much I enjoy live music. Seeing Lee enjoying the music and interacting with his fans helped break me out of my worknight funk, and instilled a sense of community throughout the room.

Both of the opening acts were as excited to see Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires as I was. The second of the two openers, Wine & Sprit, had opened for the band in the past and reached out when they saw The Glory Fires were coming to Pittsburgh. Lee and the band have an affinity for the Steel City, sharing that their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama is referred to as the Pittsburgh of the South. Bains sense similarities in the culture and setting of both steel towns.

Over four years ago I had the opportunity to meet with Lee before his show at the Great Scott in Boston. We talked about the band’s sound, life on the road, and what it’s like to be a working musician. Since then, the band has put out two new albums, both of which embrace the punk rock side of the band’s style. I told Lee I was surprised that he and the band haven’t started to calm down or become more reserved as they age, to which he responded that he hasn’t been able to find much to relax about these days. Fair enough.

Lee Bains & The Glory Fires are not the type to sit idly by or let their concerns fester unspoken. Throughout the lyrics of their songs, and in the spoken words in between songs, Lee expressed his concerns with the social and political issues that he sees headed in the wrong direction. In the song “Whitewash” off their most recent album Youth Detention, the chorus proclaims,

“But I don’t want to be a whitewash
I don’t want to be an absence
Don’t want to be the great silence
I want to be”

More and more it seems the world is headed in a direction that the band disagrees with, and they’re determined to get their message out. It was inspiring to see the band up on stage doing what they love, and advocating for what they believe in. Sadly, the relevance of their latest album does not seem like it will fade very quickly. They criticize the system because they care for those who live within it. This passion shows in their recorded music and live performances.

As I drove home from the show, I felt refreshed and reinvigorated – passion is contagious. It is saddening that so many people are struggling to relax these days, even more so when it includes people I look up to and respect, but it is also encouraging to see the same people taking action. I thought it ironic that it took the performance of a man who can’t find reason to relax to help me relax a bit and take a deep breath.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are on tour through the end of October with stops in the Midwest, South, and in the U.K. as well. If you see Lee make sure to tell him a joke or a funny story, and tell him I say thanks.

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