The Royal Tinfoil, Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band, Shathouse Rats
It looked like a wild family reunion kegger inside the Mill on Saturday night. In addition to the colorful Park Circle bargoers and usual musician types, several tables' worth of older couples populated the music room. Many of them sat in booths, aimed at the corner stage, beers in hand. It turned out to be Megan Jean and Klay Family Band's actual family, casually congregated as part of a pre-wedding bash.
A beaming Megan Jean revealed that she and bandmate Byrne Klay were getting hitched the following morning, down the block at the South of Broadway Theatre Company Studios. I felt honored to crash the party.
Things in the music room started getting wild, crazy, and sweaty after the Royal Tinfoil, the first of three acts on the bill, took the stage got rolling with a couple of bluesy opening numbers. The core duo of the group —the fuzzy-faced Mackie Boles and the vivacious Lily Slay — welcomed a guest bassist and stuck with their acoustic six-strings during the first part of the set. With an intense, grinning expression on her face, Slay hollered, crooned, and sang like a hillbilly blues diva during and between songs. The rich harmonies between her and Boles landed somewhere between the classic duet stylings of June Carter and Johnny Cash, Exene Cervenka and John Doe, and Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper.
Megan Jean joined in on the washboard halfway through the set, chiming in on harmonies and antics. They got pretty slow and slinky at times, but the louder, faster, more devilish moments revved things up most effectively. "One, two, three four ... royal fucking tin foil!" they shouted during a rousing, autobiographic closer. They made their point for sure.
Megan Jean and Klay wasted no time getting into their own weird wiggly blues/swing groove. She started out strumming an antique f-hole six-string while he plucked and bowed a full-sized upright bass. Megan Jean kept time with her right foot, tapping an amplified stompbox/tambourine contraption.
They switched instruments, too; she picked up her washboard and bell while he strapped on a five-string banjo. Soulful, sneery, and sultry, Megan Jean's singing was beautifully aggressive — from the slower murder ballads and wails, to the more hickish, haul-ass rompers and the random Sam Cook covers.
"I told Byrne he could never break up with me 'cause he'd be losing his job in the band," Megan Jean joked over the mic to laughter and applause. "Hey, we should get married more often — this is great!"
Atlanta trio Shathouse Rats closed the night down with a more swamp-blues/garage-rock set of originals. Bespectacled frontman Matt Shat strummed an old Silvertone guitar with backing from drummer Trey LeTrash and keysman Byronius Junk, who conjured some huge sounds from a full-sized Hammond M3 and a Fender Rhodes. Megan Jean jumped in for some extra harmonies with them, too. The rowdy and riffy rock 'n' roll capped off the unusual wedding party gig just fine.