Rock band heals with tender tunes

By Joann Pauline Johnson – jjohns11@unca.edu – Contributor | April 8, 2015 |

Vulnerable ballads and raw rock ’n’ roll undertones captured the ambience of the quaint and unique Root Bar on March 27 as Joe Smith and the Going Concern performed.

Joe Smith and the Going Concern is an indie rock band based in Atlanta since 2012.

About a year ago, Smith’s close friend Ross “Evan” Harrell joined the band as a drummer and the two have been playing shows together ever since. The two met about eight years ago when Joe started renting a place with his wife of 13 years, Elizabeth, and Harrell happened to be their landlord.

Harrell did not learn how to play the drums until two years ago, when Smith encouraged him to pursue music and join the band. According to Smith, it’s nice to tour and be on the road with a friend. Smith’s lyrics are full of depth, memories, and concerns all going along nicely with the electric guitar and drums.

Throughout the first 40 minute set, Smith played the acoustic guitar solo, and this allowed his lyrics to stand out more. Harrell joined Smith for the last 40-minute set, playing more rock ‘n’ roll with louder instrumental pieces and a more fast-paced beat.

Smith writes all his songs and said his writing is a therapeutic outlet. In one song, “Lonely Arizona Cold Sundown Blues,” Smith sings about his experience visiting Arizona and how desolate it felt then, comparing it to searching for purpose in a sometimes-lonely temporal world. Another song named “Rock & Roll” focuses again on the search for purpose as Smith sings, “It’s no mystery, we’re all on a search. Maybe it’s a temple, a mosque or a church. I needed some place that would accept me as I am.”

While some songs have angry underlying motives, such as a breakup or frustration with the government, many of his songs are about personal identity and the desire to discover the meaning of life.

Combining Harrell’s natural talent on the drums, Smith’s raw voice, and thought-provoking lyrics, the duo creates a fun and meditative environment for their viewers. The audience could clearly see their tight-knit friendship both on and off stage as they joked around and constantly encouraged each other, their down-to-earth attitudes and passion for music coming through their performance throughout the evening.

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