Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Drive-By Truckers & Son Volt

Smoke, Spit
Showbox, Seattle, WA

Back in 1990 when Uncle Tupelo taught alternative rock fans to stop worrying and love the country music, formerly-homogeneous audiences became much more interesting to look at. Granted we're all still mostly white, but now you've got cowboy hats, baseball caps, dreads, football jerseys, and sandals all mixed in together. Girls are at a premium, however, and it takes me a few minutes to notice the SCADS of men trying to make eye contact with me. Since country-loving gals are hard to come by in Seattle, the show can now double as a dating service were one so inclined.

Among those who are decidedly not inclined are the MANY superfans here. Son Volt is pretty legendary in this genre, and Drive-By Truckers are getting airplay that the former only dreamed of back in the day. Superfans sing along with every song, carefully document the performance with a variety of electronic devices, or dance a spazzy dance to even moderately paced songs as soon as they begin.

On that note, you may have noticed that audiences recognize songs at one of three stages, arranged from Superfan to casual listener: (1) first note; (2) presentation of musical theme; (3) first verse vocals; (4) chorus.

The stage 1 folks applaud the loudest because they love the song and want YOU to appreciate how fast they recognized it. The stage 2 people have just a tad less enthusiasm, since some of them are thinking "oh right - jeez - I should have recognized that on the first note." The stage 3 people are a bit quieter, because why is it so great that you recognize a song NOW? The stage 4 people are drunkards who heard the song on the radio and never listen to verses anyway.

Six months ago I praised shows that left me only partially reeking of cigarette smoke. Now that our non-smoking rules are in effect, I am ALL UPPITY about even the slightest whiff of smoke, and believe me, I have olfactory superpowers. So when the guys from Drive-By Truckers get on stage and create their own toxic cloud, that is all I can focus on for the first ten minutes of their show.

The novelty of their smoking quickly gives way to the generous amount of moisture emanating from the face of Patterson Hood as he sings. Spit billows out of his mouth with every plosive and sweat drips profusely from his beard. The man is working his ass off and having a great time. His enthusiasm and the rest of the band's stellar playing go a long way for this attentive and happy audience, full of PBR and love.


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