The White Buffalo Turns South Street into the Wild West at the TLA

Photography by Mike Mauger

You may not immediately think you know of The White Buffalo (real name: Jake Smith), but chances are, if you’re a fan of the hit TV series Sons of Anarchy, you’ve heard his tunes. Smith has had numerous songs appear and even debut on the series, including “Wish It Was True,” “Oh Darling, What Have I Done?” and covers of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “House of the Rising Sun.”

His distinct voice haunts you. At times, it’s a croon. Others, a shout, wail, or even a scream. With every line and chorus, you hear the dark past of a man who has seen some things. He’s a large man, standing well over six feet tall, with long scraggly hair and an unkempt beard to match; patches of grey hair shows that Smith has been around the block once or twice. Don’t let the grey fool you, though: the man has spirit and is known to move around on stage.

The White Buffalo

Smith is somewhat of an a paradox. With such a prominent role in the sound of the show Sons of Anarchy, songs that make the listener feel like they’re in the wild west, and a fanbase all the same, one would expect Smith to show up on stage rocking a cowboy hat, or at least even boots. Jeans, surely. None of the above. Black khakis and flat sneakers – possibly Vans. No hat. The White Buffalo is a style of his own. And, on a Monday night, his loyal followers skipped out on Monday Night Football in Philadelphia to see him.

The serious nature of his songs and his dominant stage presence are somewhat misleading. Smith is not immune to humor. He made jokes throughout the night between songs, and even made mention of the Eagles’ big game – thanking those who came out in spite, even if they had an earpiece with the game in one ear. Even on a Monday night with the game in town, a big and raucous crowd turned up to see the California native headline his biggest show here to date.

The White Buffalo

My previous times seeing The White Buffalo, he was living the life of an independent, D.I.Y. artist. He was driving his old Chevy Malibu from show to show. He packed, hauled, and sold his own merchandise. He had with him just his tattered guitar with uncut strings dangling about. A man, his guitar, and the road. It’s no wonder Smith writes songs most musicians can only dream of.

He’s established enough now that he can tour with a backing band, more closely resembling the sound of his studio albums of late. I have to be upfront; I was nervous going into the night that a backing band would discount some of what made his live show so powerful in previous years. Smith’s stage presence, even with just himself and his guitar, demands your full attention and emotion. Would having others join him on stage reduce his power?

Not so much. If anything, the boom of a drum set and the rhythm of a bass player amplified Smith’s songs and brought them even more to life. His set spanned his entire discography, much to the pleasure of the devoted attendees and ended, fittingly, with his hard hitting “Pilot.”

The White Buffalo

All in all, The TLA was the place to be Monday night in Philadelphia and the only downside is that we’ll likely have to wait at least another year for The White Buffalo to return to Philadelphia.

Thanks to The White Buffalo for having us out, and be sure to check him out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and wherever you get your music. His latest album, Love and the Death of Damnation is out now!

See all the photos from the show below! What was your favorite song of the night? Tell us in the comments after the jump.

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  1. Lauren Silvestri

    October 22, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Awesome photos! He seems to have a very original stage presence.

  2. Amanda S

    October 22, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Killer photos, killer story

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