Thu November 17, 2016 – 7:30 PM
Just a few miles south of Athens, Georgia there’s the small town of Watkinsville. Born and raised in that town is this enigma of a fellow named Tracey Fester Hagood, but folks just call him Fester. Rumor has it, he once beat up a shark. I don’t know what that has to do with anything. Well, other than to establish the fact that he won’t be defeated. He’s proven that again lately by recently recovering from a shoulder surgery that could’ve potentially crippled a guitar player’s livelihood. With a head full of long blonde hair and a matching beard he looks like he might be one of the Kentucky Headhunters or just maybe a regular ol’ headhunter. What he really is though, is one of the most diverse singer/songwriters I’ve ever seen.
He picked up his brother’s nearly untouched guitar at around 13 or 14 and has hardly laid one down since. Playing in clubs by the time he was 21, Fester is seasoned, to say the least. Exploring his older albums on Spotify will lead you to gems such as Living and Dying by the Gun where verses like “if Billy the Kid was alive today, I betcha he’d know my name” demonstrate his history of lyrical strength that seems to only get better with age. His last album [Live From Rock Bottom] is as diverse as they come. Songs like Jacksonville are so beautifully arranged you would almost miss the poignant quips that subtly convey distaste for the area. You can’t help but laugh at the irony of modern suburbia with verses like “I’ve got a taste for scotch and good sex life, little blue pill for the neighbor’s wife. Hate myself but I’m having fun, watch Fox News with a loaded gun” from his song All the Pretty Families.
His voice is definitely southern, but it isn’t the typical country like you would find on the radio. His rough deep voice sounds more like a man who spent his days in the swamps of the Okeefenokee. Maybe it’s because he has spent a fair amount of time down in Waycross, Georgia playing annually at The Swamptown Getdown and the classic Gram Parsons Guitar Pull on a bills with notable legends Dr. Ralph Stanley, Col. Bruce Hampton, and Ian Dunlop. With an undeniably unique voice that is perfectly suited for storytelling, Fester Hagood naturally fills the shoes of the nation’s lost folk heros.
Shortly after taking over the Tuesday Night Confessional at Nowhere Bar, he made it Athens’ most successful weekly music night. His history of playing with Georgia greats such as Levi Lowrey [see earlier reviews], Angie Aparo, & Kevn Kinney (Drivin n’ Cryin) made it easy to bring in artists such as Ed Roland (Collective Soul), Brian Collins, and the man Rolling Stone Magazine called “Nashville’s Most Badass Songwriter”, Travis Meadows [see earlier reviews].
Worthy of noting, Fester has spent his fair share of time producing as well. From his own albums to those of Caroline Monroe and more recently The Redstone Ramblers for friend Mark Wilmot.
I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of seeing him play dives, backyard campfires, and major stages. My favorite experience is watching him play to a rather “Ritzy” crowd of older women. I watched them cover their mouths and almost gasp at his first line only to find themselves laughing hysterically by the end of the second line. Go discover some Fester!