By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
The band not to be missed is Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. They’re playing tonight on the midway lawn at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction. They’re also playing down in Hartford, Connecticut, on Sept. 25 as part of Farm Aid with Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and more. Wherever you can see them, do it.
Nathaniel David Rateliff is a singer/songwriter whose music takes on folk, Americana and vintage rhythm blues. Rateliff got a lot of attention with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, the soulful R&B combo he formed in 2013. I first discovered them about five years ago on an obscure radio station while in New Jersey. I instantly was a fan. The song I heard was “S.O.B.” and soon after started hearing bands in Killington covering it. (Jamie’s Junk Show does a good cover.) Others started catching on, and I started getting requests for songs like “I Need Never Get Old.”
I had the pleasure of working with the band two weeks ago at a private concert in Connecticut, which was also their first stop on their tour. It was my first time seeing them, and I thought I would just sell my tickets to the Champlain show since I had just seen it but man, was I wrong. Even though I only got to pay attention to a few songs, they were the two hits I mentioned above and they were so good. The crowd never stopped dancing and the band never let up their high-energy. I knew right then I was going to this show. They’re a 10-piece band with every instrument covered from guitar to bass to keys to drums with percussion and horns. They put on a show. They reminded me of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who surprised me at the Gathering of the Vibes in 2014. Both bands are big in size and both put on a show, but Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats energy puts everyone else to shame. I will go see this band anytime I can.
Even though they’re starting to sell-out many venues, they still have a mostly cult-like following. They’re known but not famously known. When you hear “S.O.B.,” you recognize it. Do yourself a favor and listen to the whole album, which is the self titled first studio release, “Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.” They have a few other great albums like “Live from Red Rocks,” which is a blistering, 18-song set that captures a commanding, euphoric performance from their triumphant, sold-out homecoming show at Colorado’s legendary Amphitheater on Aug. 21, 2016.
“S.O.B.” is an upbeat song that definitely seems to make everybody happy. It’s a foot-stomping drinking song, or might seem to be at first listen. I thought it was just that, until I really listened to the words. You don’t realize it but it’s actually an anti-drinking song. It’s about Rateliff’s personal struggle with alcoholism. Rateliff wrote that song about having delirium tremens in order to make light of it, but it was a pretty traumatic situation. He said, “I thought I was dying. I was in another country, and I was alone.”
Rateliff knows for a lot of people it’s a fun drinking/party song, which is fine, but at the same time he knows it’s kind of heavy. Some people will party to it and some other people will probably be introspective or relate to it and know exactly what he’s talking about. He’s not trying to glorify substance abuse. It’s one of the things he has struggled with in his life. It distracts him from what he loves and that’s creating, writing and working.
As reported by Rolling Stone, Rateliff said, “The last three years have changed me so much,” as he reflected on his journey to success. So far he has a gold debut album, many worldwide tours and the hit single “S.O.B.,” which he introduced with the Night Sweats about alcoholic desperation to late-night America on “The Tonight Show” in Aug. 2015.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are back with a summer and fall tour. The extensive run of shows includes their annual shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (a three-night run) as well as performances at Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival, Nashville’s First Bank Amphitheater, Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater and more. The band will share the stage with The Marcus King Band, Margo Price, Bahamas, Delta Spirit and Tré Burt.
The Night Sweats took a break after the touring cycle behind their acclaimed second album, “Tearing at the Seams.” During that time, Rateliff released a solo album, “And It’s Still Alright,” in Feb. 2020 and planned a full year of touring until it was halted due to the pandemic. Rateliff still remained active during the lockdown with various streaming events and fundraisers while leading the charge for the Colorado Music Relief Fund, which raised over $800,000 for musicians and crew members in Colorado. In Sep. 2020, Rateliff and his 10-piece band played a six-night run at Red Rocks to a reduced capacity crowd of only 125 attendees. During the run of socially-distanced shows, Rateliff recorded “Red Rocks 2020,” their second Red Rocks live album.