STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Gaining momentum from radio airplay of the rollicking folky single “Take It All Back,” Nashville’s Judah & The Lion have two upcoming area shows.
On the heels of a scheduled Jan. 12 appearance on “Conan,” they’re on the main stage at the Radio 104.5 Winter Jam Jan. 15 at XFinity Live in Philadelphia, sharing the bill with Capital Cities, Grouplove, Phantogram and Andorra. Then they return for a sold out indoor show opening for Twenty One Pilots Jan. 24 at the PPL Center in Allentown.
Judah & The Lion banjo wiz Nate Zuercher couldn’t hide his excitement about sharing tour dates over a span of eight weeks with Twenty One Pilots — a band that shares their affinity for overlapping hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll and pop.
“I can’t even put it into words. We found out in October. That was such a ridiculous phone call to get. That was our dream tour to get,” Zuercher said.
If you’ve only heard the melodic, banjo/mandolin-heavy “Take It All Back,” your first impression might be that Judah & The Lion are neotraditionalist copycats of Mumford and Sons. That’s until the band bends genres with a hip-hop cover immediately after one of their folkier songs, or “a rock song that comes out of nowhere.”
“It’s fun to watch people’s faces when we play live. The live show makes it all come together,” Zuercher said.
A deeper listen to their second album, “Folk Hop N Roll,” reveals that vocalist Judah Akers is what would happen if Eminem wasn’t so hateful and could actually sing. Zuercher noted that YouTube commenters have made similar observations about Akers’ voice and delivery. The “Take It All Back” video includes footage from the band’s performance at the Bonnaroo Festival.
He said that the band’s name came from a suggestion by Akers’ mother that his rapper name should be The Lion of Judah. “We like what the lion of Judah represents and what it means,” he said, alluding to the Hebrew tribe of Judah from the Old Testament and its literary use as a reference to Jesus in the Book of Revelation.
Also, in Rastafarian culture the lion of Judah is the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, whom they regard as a divine messiah.
“We really are excited to be in Pennsylvania, and so thankful for the opportunities coming our way,” Zuercher added.
He said that this is the fourth or fifth time the band has played Philadelphia, including a headlining show at World Cafe Live.