A Decade of Playing Possum

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Feb. 27 | Modified: Mar. 2
A Decade of Playing Possum

From left, Nathan Turner, Brent Buckner, Jared Church, David Brewer and David Willis are Possum Jenkins.

Photo by David Wainer

Possum Jenkins doesn’t play dead.

This band plays music.

Call it alt-country, call it Southern rock, but first and foremost, call it creative.

Established in 2004, the Boone-based band prides itself on an original sound that can’t be pigeonholed into one particular genre, but can be appreciated by music-lovers across the board.

It’s a sound honed by years of musicianship and friendship, and it can be heard Saturday, March 1, as Possum Jenkins celebrates its 10th anniversary with a concert at Boone Saloon.

“It’s great to be in a band with your best friends for 10 years,” said David Brewer, who, along with fellow multi-instrumentalists Nathan Turner and David Willis, provides guitar, drums and vocals.
Harmonica comes courtesy of Brett Buckner, while Jared Church brings the bass.

“It’s the (best),” Brewer said. “I tell people that all the time. We really love to ride around in the van and hang out. Playing music is almost incidental to riding around in the van.”

But that’s not to say they don’t enjoy playing music.

“What started out innocently enough, in terms of just wanting to drink some beer and play some tunes, has become one of the most important things in my life, both musically and personally,” Brewer said.

Brewer didn’t always play Possum. In 2004, he was a member of Six Foot Groove, a Boone blues and rock outfit. While his bandmates, students at the time, were pursuing internships off the mountain, Brewer, still wanting to perform, started looking for other musical outlets.

When he, Turner, Willis and Church jammed together at a Christmas party, they knew they were onto something.

“We decided, ‘What the hell?’” Brewer said. “We had a gig in no time. We sucked, but it was fun.”
Their first official show, however, was a bit more serendipitous.

“Our first show was scheduled for Canyons (in Blowing Rock),” Brewer said. “It dumped snow, and Canyons understandably bailed on the show. I was really looking forward to playing, and I also remembered there was an out-of-town band scheduled to play at Murphy’s that day, and it occurred to me that they probably had cancelled. I was correct.”

So, the band spontaneously changed venues and got to work contacting their Boone-bound friends.
“This was pre-Facebook,” Brewer said, “so we got on the phone and said this is what’s happening. Murphy’s was packed, and we did the best we could.”

Admittedly, he said, the band was sloppy at first, “and we probably didn’t have any business charging people money to hear us play music.”

But that didn’t deter them.

“Because then, like now, we were having a blast,” Brewer said.

Although Possum Jenkins was writing its own music early on, Brewer said the band’s early shows were cover-heavy. The set lists have since evolved to predominantly feature original material, “but we don’t think we’re so awesome that we can’t play people’s really great songs,” he said.

A year into their careers as Possum Jenkins, the bandmates ventured into the studio to record an album. Nine years later, they have five releases to their name. The records not only garnered the band critical acclaim from regional media, but a full-time harmonica player in Buckner.

“It’s the only (lineup) change that ever happened,” Brewer said. “We picked up our harmonica player … when we were recording our second album, ‘On Time.’ We got B.B. to sit in on a couple tracks, and he started to sit in with the band live, as well, and more and more all the time. B.B.’s the old man of the band … sort of like the grizzled road warrior. This guy has stories for days.”

Possum Jenkins has created its fair share of stories, to boot, but Brewer said family life has slowly applied the brakes to the band’s time on the road.

“I think our busiest years are probably behind us, in terms of the amount of live playing,” he said. “We can’t run around and be quite as reckless as we were a couple years ago — or, at least, not with the same frequency.”

But they can on March 1.

“And we will,” Brewer said. “There’s no master plan for that, as much as I would love to advertise some sort of ‘Last Waltz’ type of epic performance, featuring dozens of our favorite and closest musical associates. I think, really, we’re just going to get up and have a good time like we always do. PJ is an uncomplicated machine on stage, for the most part. We get up and do our best. The way I figure, if the crowd has half as much fun as we’re having, we’ll be in good shape.”

The show starts at 10 p.m., and Charlotte-based Amigo will open. Cover costs $5, and only those 21 and older will be admitted. Boone Saloon is located at 489 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information on Possum Jenkins, visit http://www.possumjenkinsband.com.

Additional Images

From left, Nathan Turner, Brent Buckner, Jared Church, David Brewer and David Willis are Possum Jenkins.
Photo by David Wainer

Possum Jenkins celebrates its 10th anniversary with a special concert March 1 at Boone Saloon.
Photo submitted

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