For Charleston-based SUSTO, by all accounts 2017 was a banner year. The band consisting of Justin Osborne, Corey Campbell, Jenna Desmond, Marshall Hudson, and Dries Vandenberg, first built their reputation behind the cosmic Americana of their self titled debut album (2014). Over the next few years, SUSTO would tour hard while building their fanbase with every rousing live set they played around the country. Last January the band released their sophomore album, & I’m Fine Today, earning rave reviews with a bigger and more ambitious sound, while never straying too far from Justin Osborne’s blunt songwriting and storytelling that SUSTO has become known for. With that success brought new opportunities for the band in 2017 – festivals, an arena tour with the Lumineers, tours with Band of Horses and The Head and the Heart, their national TV debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday, their own headlining tour, and most of all, the opportunity to connect with not only their current fans, but new fans while becoming a “real band”. It’s sublime to think about just how far SUSTO has come in a short time. There are a lot of people that care about this band, and the band has earned it all.
The last few years, SUSTO has made Atlanta feel like a second home, playing pretty much everywhere around town – Red Light Cafe, Tabernacle, Park Tavern, Private Rooftops, Chomp and Stomp, and plenty of other places including selling out The EARL towards the end of 2016. But while SUSTO was touring the country back and forth in 2017 behind & I’m Fine Today, the only chance Atlanta got to see some of the new songs was at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth before The Lumineers. So when it got announced a few months ago that SUSTO’s last show of 2017 would be at Atlanta’s Terminal West, AND with Nashville’s Great Peacock opening, you knew Atlanta would be there.
It almost felt fitting being there with the band here in Atlanta as SUSTO prepared to put a cap on 2017 at Terminal West. Not only is SUSTO a band that I’ve personally closely followed, but they are also people whom I’ve grown to know and truly respect.
We met up with the band before the show to chat and catch some back stage clips for the above video. SUSTO always keeps it light and likes to have fun, while still taking their craft seriously. Backstage was much of the same. There was official band business being conducted, soundcheck, pre-show prep, setlist to be made and changed, there were shots, and plenty of messing around while they waited to go on stage. By the time Great Peacock finished their set after heating up the packed out crowd with their own version of guitar solos and folk rock ‘n’ roll, SUSTO was ready for that last piece needed to close down their banner year.
While the stage was being prepared for SUSTO to come on, there was not only an excitement and spark budding throughout the building, but backstage there was an almost nervous energy. By this point, there was really only two words the band needed to hear – SOLD OUT. Word came back – 14 tickets left as the band waited to hit the stage. A brief moment of disappointment seemed to overtake the members at that point as it looked like they may just miss the mark. They quickly bounced out of that zone though and went back to messing around and enjoying the moment. Once the green room door opened and the band was ready to hop onstage, one last update was provided – 2 tickets left. That just didn’t feel right. Even if selling that many tickets is in reality a huge success, even if 2017 really was the stellar year it seems to have been for SUSTO, even if they had sold out venues all around the country, it just felt wrong to come that close and fall short. Sure it would change nothing, and SUSTO would take the stage and wow the crowd like they have for so many times before. But a sell out is what SUSTO really wanted at this point.
And that’s exactly what they would get. After a year filled with 185+ shows and 240 days on the road, by the time the band made it from the green room to the stage – the screams coming from the Terminal West crowd were from that of a SELL OUT. SUSTO immediately hopped in with the crowd over a 16 song set that included familiar singalongs, sentimental ballads, psych rock, cosmic Americana, huge rock ‘n’ roll songs, dynamic songs such as “Far Out Feeling”, passionate cries for equality on “Gay in the South”, and the huge ending as the whole venue became one as SUSTO delivered the straight from the heart “Dream Girl”.
By the time Terminal West shut down, the whirlwind that was 2017 for SUSTO was also over. All the hard work, all the time on the road, all the good times and bad, came to a halt right there. And as the crowd walked out feeling like magic had just happened on stage, it was a fitting end that was special for everyone there. SUSTO has left their mark, and this is really still just the beginning…..
Check out the Backstage Pass video at the top, and check below for more from our chat with SUSTO and some killer photos from the show:
OE: It’s been a huge year, what are some of the highlights from 2017?
Justin: “It’s been a long, productive year. We started out with our album coming out, our second album ‘& I’m Fine Today,’ it’s been cool promoting that. We started out doing a headline tour on the East Coast & The Midwest, then hopped on tour with The Lumineers, we did arenas all over the place.”
DV: “I’d say Hangout fest was probably one of my favorite moments of the year.”
J: “We did Pickathon-Festival out in Oregon, we’ve been to the west coast like three times this year, we did all of Canada, twice. We’ve basically been everywhere two or three times.”
J: “It was great because the shows have really grown, it’s like we’re a real band now. It’s great to be in Atlanta, because last time we were here was with The Lumineers, which was a big arena show, so that was super special since the last show before that was a sold out show at The EARL.”
DV: “I think sitting in the van was probably my favorite part *laughs*”
J: “We all get along really well, we all have different personalities and balance each other out pretty well.”
OE: Any good stories from the road?
J: “Well we got robbed…*laughs*, that was the first time, hopefully the last time too. Is there any wood around here?”
OE: What’s coming up in 2018?
J: “Well we are stoked to be on the High Water festival, they offered us a spot last year but we were so busy with trying to promote the album that we couldn’t make it, so we’re glad to have been invited back. There’s a lot of friends on that ticket, Band of Horses, Shovels and Rope, Shakey Graves, a lot of friends, Tweedy, who hopefully will become a friend…*the group laughs*”
J: “And that’s right when we get back from Europe, our first tour over there, and we’re also gonna be in the studio. I don’t know if we’ll put out a record next year, if we do, it will be at the end of next year, but we have a lot of new material that we’re definitely going to start working on our third record next year, which I’m excited about.”
Video filmed and produced by Alisa Malkova.
Additional video footage shot by Christopher Little.
Photos by Christopher Little and Alisa Malkova.
Written by and interview performed by Mike Gerry.