The Old Gods of Appalachia Crew Brings Their Unique Live Show to Knoxville
I’ve been an Old Gods of Appalachia fan for years. The first time I heard the show’s writer, co-creator, and voice actor Steve Shell’s oft-repeated invitation, “Family, won’t you come with me…” I was hooked. Last night, I was fortunate enough to hear that invitation live and in person.
Shell and his co-creator, fellow writer, and voice actor Cam Collins brought the rest of the robust cast of the acclaimed horror audiodrama to Knoxville. Now, I don’t want to throw shade on any other stop on their long Price of Progress tour. However, I can’t think of a better venue for an Old Gods live show than the 200-and-something-year-old, incredibly haunted, and gorgeous Bijou theater.
A Gift from the Green
I found Old Gods of Appalachia during the pandemic and, as a result, I have a bit of a trauma bond with many of the characters and hold them and the show close to my heart. However, I had no idea how they would bring that magic to life in a live setting. I did, however, know that it would be a hell of a time.
The show consisted of a handful of short stories featuring some of my favorite characters from the show. Judging by the crowd’s reaction to the introduction of characters like Melvin Blevins (Steve Shell), Brother Bartholomew (Dr. Ray Christian), and Granny Underwood (Stephanie Hickling Beckman), I wasn’t alone in that.
Additionally, Landon Blood, Jacob Danielsen-Moore, and Jon Charles Dwyer gave captivating musical performances.
Overall, Old Gods of Appalachia: The Price of Progress is an Appalachian Eldrich horror of a variety show. We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we through hexes and cast curses – it was a beautiful time.
So Much More Than a Stage Show
Seeing a live Old Gods of Appalachia variety show was great. However, the night was so much more than that. In my mind, I keep circling back to Family, the word Steve so lovingly uses to refer to all who are willing to truly listen. Those who will follow through the Outer Dark and into the Green. Last night was like a family reunion. The Mrs. and I shared emotional moments, laughs, and a trip into the Outer Dark with a theater full of strangers who, for a few hours in that darkened room, were as close as kin. Let me tell you, it felt good.
The other old-time religion
At the same time, last night felt like an old-time tent revival. It wasn’t just Steve’s impeccable cadence that would make any Southern Baptist preacher on fire with the Spirit feel inadequate in his oration. Nor was it the fact that our guide for the night dressed in a suit and stood behind a wooden pulpit. Though, those things combined with the quasi-spiritual subject matter of the show would have been enough to make it a religious experience. It was knowing that we were there, as the preachermen say, in one mind and one accord.
That fact revealed itself when Cam Collins took the stage to throw hexes at some of the people who are making life harder than it needs to be for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
I’m not going to get into my beliefs on magic or the power of intent. However, I will say that I heard hundreds of people yelling “Hexed” in unison last night. More specifically, I heard the gathered Family mean what they were saying. If I were one of the people named in Cam’s ritual, I’d be worried. In those moments, I felt what some would call The Spirit moving among us. The fact that I heard more than one “Amen!” last night is just icing on the cake.
Add to all that the fact that the theater’s AC was on the fritz on this particular August evening in East Tennessee, and the ushers gave everyone square card stock fans with wooden handles. You know, church fans. So, here we are, fanning ourselves, sweating, and not caring about the heat because, Cam, Steve, and the rest of the cast kept us under their spell.
That’s why when Steve asks, “Family, will you come with me?” the answer will always be a resounding “Hell yes.”
Listen to Old Gods of Appalachia
The Price of Progress tour will hit Morgantown, West Virginia, Bristol, Tennessee, and Lexington Kentucky before the crew packs it in. Head to the website and get tickets now.
If you can’t make the live show, don’t worry. There are currently 3 full seasons of the show available to stream right now. Season four kicks off next Thursday.