Sunday, April 23, 2006

Let there be rock.

Only one thing could top Saturday's Cotton District Arts Festival, The Drive-By Truckers at the Old Main Music Festival. Last night, there simply wasn't a better rock band playing anywhere in the known Universe. Sure, there have been Southern three guitar bands since the early 1970s, but never one with three lead guitarists with variant styles who also serve as three distinguished singer/songwriters: Jason Isbell, the young gun and guitarmeister extraoridnaire; Mike Cooley, of the acquiline visage, and equally fluid and swooping guitar licks in the Allen Collins vein with a soupçon of Duane bottleneck for good measure; and Patterson Hood, the good ole gutbucket emotionalist who holds the whole band together and continually drives them to greater heights. Add a fine drummer, a great bassist, and at least last night a guest pedal steel guitarist and you have a recipe for one of the rock shows of your life, if you're so lucky as to acquire a ticket.

Old Union
I was lucky enough to skip last-minute replacement and Nashville Star winner, Bucky Jewell. Also hailing from Nashville, Old Union play "original coal-fired rock & roll." They were a creditable opening act for the DBTs and brought on Jason Isbell for a multi-song guest spot at the end of their set.

Isbell w:OU

The Drive-By Truckers
The DBTs set was about 90 minutes long followed by a 40 minute or so extended encore. They played across all their albums with seeming special focus on Decoration Day and The Dirty South. The latter providing a show highlight in Mike Cooley's autobiographical murder ballad, "Where the Devil Don't Stay."

They also pulled out a few tracks from their new release (as of last Tuesday), A Blessing and A Curse, and two Patterson Hood solo things.

One of the things that separates the DBTs from all the other pretenders is the sheer joy with which they always play live. It seems after years of struggle and heartache leading up to the eventual breakthrough with the Dave Barbe-mastered Southern Rock Opera, the DBTS MK 2.1 have achieved a newfound inner peace due to various marriages (Isbell and bassist Shonna Tucker are a couple) and parenthood. More importantly they seem to enjoy each other's company on stage. Sure they do a lot of cock rock posturing; they are a rock band after all. But when Isbell climbs aloft the mini drum risers to solo furiously, he's pointed directly at the bearded Brad Morgan as if to serenade him and him alone and not the crowd at his back. The truth of this comes out whenever Patterson Hood takes time to address the crowd in an extended fashion, as when he told the tale of his first ever trip to Starkville (That's Mississippi not Michigan stoneponeyhead!) as a 16 year old 25 years ago this February to see Bruce Springsteen on the River tour at the Hump. Now that's a story to tell on such a night as this.

Show highlights were the triple guitar attack to close out "Decoration Day," a particularly savage "Outfit," "My Sweet Annette," the oft-overlooked but trenchant political venom of "Puttin' People on the Moon," Hood's Southern Rock Opera anthems "Let There Be Rock" and "Ronnie and Neil" and Cooley's bitter "Shut Up and Get on the Plane" from the same. The show closer was "Buttholeville". Here Patterson begins to let it loose.

Wandering off Main Street when it was over, you felt like you had been sanctified in the mysteries of the deep, dirty, rawkin' South.

Late Addendum May 8, 2006

Prof. I.B. shared his avant garde masterpiece of the whole show scene:


brocato said...

A super-duper post. Last night was the sort of show that makes me want to buy every damn thing the band ever put(s) out. Also: I wish I looked as cool as Cooley (er...heh) does whilst playing guitar. He is grimy ice.

Anonymous said...

I was there last night for my first time seeing DBT live. And holy hell it blew me away. They just seemed to be having such a good time that it was impossible for it NOT to extend to the crowd. Awesome, awesome show.

Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff ... I've had the distinct pleasure of seeing the DBT's about eight times now, and they just get better ... This show sounds a lot like the last one I saw at the 40 Watt in Athens .. just insane rock