This is the second of my Drive-By Truckers reviews. If hard
rock/country music doesn't appeal to you, leave now. This review
has nothing for you - it's not an insult or criticism, it's
just that The Drive-By Truckers appeal to a certain type of
person and (barring extreme alcohol intoxication) they don't
try to have much crossover appeal.
If you are just tuning in to this series, it might make sense
to read part 1 first.
One week to the day after seeing them last and being somewhat
disappointed, I went over to The Earl on a Friday night to see
The Drive-By Truckers. Sometimes when you walk up to a venue,
you just know things are going to be weird. Sometimes you just
know that ought to turn around, go home, and lock the doors
behind you because it'll be so over the top. This was one of
You see, when I arrived with Zythos and The Evil Lawyer, we
found The Earl decorated from top to bottom with souvenirs and
ribbons from Pabst Blue Ribbon, favorite beer of a many a hard-drinkin'
music geek. Then, as we paid our admission, the doorman handed
us an ice cold can of PBR, pretty much ensuring my own relative
state of non-sobriety. Yup, it was definitely going to be one
of those nights.
Shortly after we walked in, the first act, Amy Pike and The
Last Cold Beer, began to play. I had seen Amy Pike on her own
long ago, opening for someone. I don't remember much about her
set, but obviously it didn't strike me too hard, as I never
went out of my way to see her again. But on this night, I found
the combination of her deep rootsy voice and classic country-blues
sound really enjoyable. At times she reminded me greatly of
Patsy Cline; more realistically, it all was reminiscent of the
recordings of the new alt-country chanteuses, like Neko
Case or Kelly Hogan. I
liked her, and she provided a pleasant background to survey
the décor and the influx of people.
I had been aware of the members of the second band ever since
we had entered the bar. I thought they were a little out of
place - looking more like they belonged at some northside country
bar than at the dive-y Earl. I became a little more scared as
they took the stage: the singer bore an unhealthy resemblance
to Billy Bob Thornton, and someone was pulling out a glittering
metallic green bass. From the first few songs, this band lived
up to my fears. You see, they were singing songs that could
only be termed "farcical." With titles like The
NRA Took My Cousin Away, they were all over the over-the-top
spectrum. PostLibyan and I have a question we occasionally ask
ourselves as we watch yet another opening band: how many beers
do I need to enjoy this? I'm used to the one and two beer bands;
I can think of the occasional three (and maybe even a four)
beer opener. But this, at last, was the pinnacle of an opening
band - a full 6 beer band. Wow, it certainly was something.
After that, there was really only one question in my mind:
could The Drive-By Truckers live up? Normally, I wouldn't have
any doubts, but the previous week's show was still fresh in
my mind. I was hopeful, but not exactly expectant.
I shouldn't have worried; from the first notes, I could see
that The Truckers were in rare form. The were on a drunken edge,
but they weren't falling over (like they had been the previous
week). They were fast and hard, but not completely out of control.
They were balanced. Even the songs themselves were balance.
The setlist seemed to balance the older crowd favorites with
newer material (like Boys from Alabama or the standard
Let There Be Rock) from the upcoming album. Unlike the
previous week, there weren't many of the rawer, newer songs
that have been written in the last few months. And guitarist/vocalist
Patterson Hood kept a more central role this week, but he didn't
go overboard on the between song stories, like he is occasionally
wont to do.
It was fun, and it was obvious the drunken, loud crowd was
having a blast as they shouted along with the songs and danced
along with the music. As far as I could tell, no-one was sitting
back and watching the Truckers critically; rather everyone was
involved with the music, willing to follow the band wherever
they would lead musically. And this week, instead of ending
with a loud punk cover, they finished up with one of their own
songs: Steve McQueen,a song which epitomizes the best
of The Drive-By Truckers' material.
Afterwards, Zythos yelled his rating at me ("7,"
he would cry, "7"), and I was left to ponder the differing
energy and feeling between the two weeks. To the naked eye,
there probably wasn't too much that changed: The Drive-By Truckers
still played their Neil Young influenced brand of rock music,
and they were still singing about the rural South. But during
this second performance, it seemed like they weren't just going
through the motions. They were enjoying themselves and their
music (and their beer), and the performance was better for it.