Monday, September 13th, 2004
Last night was the second half of the Way Down South double-header weekend – Drive By Truckers and Allison Moorer Saturday night, Old 97’s and Chuck Prophet last night. I saw more than a few of the same faces at both shows.
Chuck Prophet kicked things off at 9 sharp – thank goodness for early starts on Sunday nights. I’d never heard his stuff though I did know that he was considered something of an alt.country forebear with his old 80s outfit Green On Red. I don’t know what that band sounded like, but solo he trades in fairly conventional twang-heavy roots-rock coupled with sardonic lyrics. His set was enjoyable enough with some impressive guitar solos and a couple of standout songs – a fine warm-up act though I didn’t feel the urge to rush out and load up on his back catalog.
Another act I’d never seen live before, Dallas’ Old 97’s had a fearsome live reputation to live up to and proved themselves deserving. I can’t explain why, but it seemed to take them a few songs to really get into gear, but when they did they just got up and went. Fighting off some equipment jinxes (final count – four broken guitar stings for Rhett Miller, one dead Telecaster for Ken Bethea), the band powered through material drawn mainly from the last four records, obviously concentrating on their latest release Drag It Up. I personally find that record a little patchy but in only selecting the stronger numbers for live performance, the material sounds almost as strong as numbers off of Satellite Rides or Fight Songs (my personal favourite).
By leaving plenty of stage space open for Miller, Murray Hammond and Bethea to cut loose and move around, poor Phillip Peeples and his drum kit were consigned to the very back of the stage, barely visible even from my vantage point right up front. He still managed to make his presence felt, however – The man’s drumming was tremendously propulsive and gave the band their get up and go, particularly on the more rocktackular numbers from Too Far To Care. Bethea tossed off killer riff after killer riff from his Telecaster, stopping only to take a solo or step up the mic for his first lead vocal on “Coahula”. Frontman Miller was up there doing the frontman thing, shaking his booty to the delight of much of the female audience (I saw them, they looked delighted). He led off the encore first asking where in town he could get a haircut and then doing a couple of solo acoustic numbers including a great rendition of “Our Love”, from his solo record The Instigator. I should probably say something about Murray Hammond… he was good. Doing the bass thing. And some singing.
So yeah, great show. I’m tired. Zoilus has a piece that he wrote for the Globe & Mail about alt.country in the year 2004, prompted by the two shows in town this weekend and the fact that the GOP may have delivered the genre’s death-knell.
My photos came out a little better than Saturday, but there was still this pervasive magenta cast that was far stronger than I was seeing on the camera’s display. I’m certain it’s tied to the tungsten white balance setting, which I won’t be using anymore even though it’s supposed to be the correct setting for stage lights. Instead it makes everyone look like they’ve gone through the laundry with a red sock or something. It kinda sucks to only be learning this stuff after the show is over, but what can you do? Live and learn.
np – Spoon / A Series Of Sneaks