Exploring Bluegrass The Packway Handle Band Way

The Packway Handle Band, Eddie's Attic, Decatur, GA 12/7/2013
The Packway Handle Band performed an early set at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA on 12/7/2013. Like their namesake, Packway Handle is not easily defined. The band brings their own style to bluegrass through unique originals, surprising covers, instrumental prowess, and lyrics at times witty or a little strange.

The show kicked off with “Not a Song” and “There’s Something Going On In The Graveyard (Like You Aint’ Never Seen),” the latter featuring a nice guitar and mandolin jam and banjo-player Tom Baker displaying his command of the five string. Guitarist Josh Erwin provided the vocals for the tune, with a vocal growl that rivals that of Larry Keel. The band then gave a nod to the recently ascending Lou Reed, performing a bluegrass infused take on “Waiting For My Man.”

The Packway Handle Band’s traditional around-the-mic approach really shines in the “listening room” environment provided by Eddie’s Attic. The venue, located down an alley and up a set of stairs, provides the city of Decatur with a haven for artists and music fans alike. A true gem in the greater city of Atlanta, the award-winning venue has hosted the likes of John Mayer, Sugarland, The Civil Wars, Sheryl Crow, and The Black Crowes. On this evening, the intimate room was packed with appreciative fans soaking up the good-time, old-timey music.

The band’s showmenship and affinity for the uniqe was on full display in the middle of the set, with fiddlin’ frontman Andrew Heaton’s unique “Earl the Duck” and “Satan’s in Space” translating well to live performance. Similarly, Michael Paynter (mandolin) displayed his vocal range with an operetic introduction to the Violent Femmes “American Music” before beat-boxing with bassist Zach McCoy. If The Flaming Lips performed bluegrass, they’d probably present it much like The Packway Handle Band.

More traditionally presented offerings that stood out included the band’s treatment of Leonard Cohen’s “Diamonds In The Mine” and the original “Wish I Hadn’t Done It.” Still, the latter half of the set continued to interject distinctive trademarks, including Paynter’s use of a kick-drum (penned “the Rattletrap”) and other percussive effects or Erwin going electric on “Nicotine and Arsenic.”

“What is a Packway Handle?” was introduced as a song about the band, inspired by the propensity of fans to inquire about the origin of the name. The recording is essential listening, highlighting the band’s quirkiness, harmonies, melodic timing, and good-time approach to music. A vicious and ominous sound, “Blood On The Fiddle” led up to the set’s finale, “Sinner, You Better Get Ready,” the band’s most traditional feeling tune of the evening. The song is always a stand-out and really highlights the band’s ability to perform vocal harmonies in the bluegrass tradition.

McCoy heaved his upright bass and led the band’s charge off the stage and into the audience for the encore, “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss.” The band made their way all the way to the other end of the room, shifting from left to right and howling the lyrics much to the delight of patrons.

Whatever a packway handle is, The Packway Handle Band is must-see bluegrass presented with showman’s style.

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Need an introduction to The Packway Handle Band? Check out our “JamGrass.net Recommends – The Packway Handle Band” feature complete with a brief fact sheet, recommended tracks, and Spotify playlist. The playlist immediately below is a partial setlist from the 12/7/2013 Eddie’s Attic, pieced together on Spotify.

2 thoughts on “Exploring Bluegrass The Packway Handle Band Way

  1. Jess Clifton

    Hahaha! I got mad when I googled “packway” and found no correlation between it’s definition and said handle, so got happy when I made it down to “What is a Packway Handle” …only to realize no answer lies there either, lol :)

    I won’t lie, I skipped the 1st song fairly quickly, but Gets Me Every Time is a groovy little ditty. :)

    I adore the music on Earl the Duck. The vocals are nice – the harmony parts are great, even – but I’d LOVE to have a track of just the instruments.

    Off My Knees is really nice – great lyrics, too.


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