Paper Lions tear up the LAVA House

By David Lilly

The Paper Lions want to earn a living playing music. How determined are they to accomplish that? So determined that they drove from their Atlanta base to Louisville, via Nashville, to play the LAVA House, which is nearly hidden from local access, let alone visitors. The rain falling on the House's roof sounded like an incessant round of pre-show applause, suggesting a great night to stay home. However, I'm really glad I went because the Paper Lions were definitely worth it. You might know the band's bass player, Chris McNeal, as he is from Louisville. Drummer Joshua Lott, whom I had the pleasure of hanging out with, has family here. McNeal, Lott and their bandmates, guitarist Justin Snyder and vocalist/guitarist Jesse Smith burned up the stage for the 30 minutes or so they played (as opening band). To me, it seemed like about ten minutes.

I'm still getting familiar with their material, but I know they played "Graduation Prize" because I heard the line, "Alligators on his feet," which is, of course, part of that song. During that tune, Smith whipped out a small keyboard that he played with his mouth, sounding much like a car horn. I counted three very effective notes that enhanced that song like the right condiment enhances the right food. A tambourine, some wah-wah guitar effects and something that looked like a maraca, were among other enhancements during the too-brief set.

Paper Lions' music has an urgency about it. Their sound somehow evokes a musical, or let's say sonic version of a jet cruising through the high-altitudes, or at least that's the feeling I had while they were playing onstage. There was no pyrotechnics show, dry ice, nor a complex light or laser show. Some of those things might be a nice addition, but these guys play primal music, play it well and exude a lot of energy; the bottom line is they're good and fun.

Based on what I witnessed at the LAVA House on April 25, it should be a matter of time until this band headlines or moves closer to it. Check their tour schedule at