Sometimes I like to go out and look up. I don't do it for very long, because I'm kinda paranoid, and believe it's safer to look out than up. Still. All kinds of things are moving around up there, or are glued in place up there, and I see the blinking lights of airplanes and falling comets and once I saw a giant fireball that landed on my neighbor's house and just plain flattened it. There was some fire, of course, but no survivors, of course, and they called in the experts who identified it as a falling piece of space junk, from a dying satellite or something. Next door there was nothing left but an impressive hole in the ground, with a bathtub at the bottom of it. That bathtub was in perfect shape. They also found two wedding rings, fused together believe it or not, which is really something, two wedding rings fused together like Mr. and Mrs. Fosdick were holding hands when the space junk hit. The hands they never found, but the wedding rings they found, along with one other thing, one of those paintings with the kids with oversized eyes. Kind of creepy, I thought. But it just goes to show you, you never know. Houses fall into enormous sinkholes, or get flattened by space junk, or just plain catch fire, either because of an electrical short or one of the kids has telekinetic eyes, and got pissed, and burned down the house with her blazing eyeballs because she got grounded or something. Sometimes, I swear, I'm sore afraid. But usually I'm just drunk on gin and watching the dog turn crazy circles around me in the backyard.
Dear Baby Hitler is an irregular advice column on Unremitting Failure. Baby Hitler's opinions in no way reflect those of Unremitting Failure or its parent corporation, the Snark Group.
Dear Baby Hitler: I accidentally weed whackered off my left foot. My wife snores something horrible. My car burst into flames for no apparent reason and was gutted, and my daughter is a shameless hussy. How can I improve my life? Joe from Duluth
Dear Joe: I have an entire army surrounded at Stalingrad, and you're whining about your petty problems? I recommend you do something ambitious, like take one of those language courses that will allow you to speak like a native. Or take up bird watching. Birds are very suspicious animals, and we don't have nearly enough people watching them.
Dear Baby Hitler: I like sausage, but my wife doesn't like sausage, and she won't cook me sausage because she doesn't like sausage, and I feel like ditching her in favor of a woman who does like sausage. Bill from El Paso
Dear Bill: As a vegetarian, I'm with your wife on this one. Your love for sausage is primitive and barbaric. Do what I've done and develop a sweet tooth. Last I checked, nobody had to go into the woods to shoot a chocolate cake.
Dear Baby Hitler: Yesterday I was taking my morning constitutional when a dog approached me and said, "I just wanted to tell you that we animals know your language, and understand everything you say." I know. You think I'm crazy. My wife and children certainly think I'm crazy. But it actually happened! Ronald from Canton
Dear Ronald: Don't sweat it. I believe in UFOs and walking trees and all kinds of wild stuff. Let the doubters doubt. Why, I even believe the Doobie Brothers are a great band. There's one belief I haven't even confided to Rudolf Hess!
I used to like popsicles. I no longer like popsicles. We change, mutate, grow unrecognizable to ourselves. I look at the guy in the mirror and he looks back and says, "Who you looking at, old duffer?" If change is a kind of death we're dying our whole lives long. I was the wild kid who drove my old man's orange and black decommissioned gas company truck as fast as I possibly could down the curvy Fish and Game Road outside Littlestown, challenging death. I never wrecked, but I died nonetheless. I died in the wreckage of two marriages, I died when I quit drinking, I died when I fell to pieces at around age 50. We're at least 100 people during our lifetimes, probably more. We don't live one life, we live hundreds of lives, and we die hundreds of deaths, but we keep on breathing. Personally, I find it heartbreaking. I want to hug all of those other mes, the ones who came before. The one who did his best to drink himself to death in Shippensburg, PA in 1979. The one who played cowboys and indians in Littlestown, PA in the late sixties. But they're all ghosts, and they surround me, but I can no sooner hug them than I could hug my first dog, Taffy the Chinese pug, who is wherever dogs go when they die. It would be nice to see her again. It would be nice to sleep in my childhood bed again. But it's not going to happen. You can't go home again. In fact, you were never home to begin with. You were just taking up temporary residence in a brick structure with more reality than you'll ever have.
I'm going out of my mind, which makes it as good a time to mark my return to Unremitting Failure as any. Welcome, my brothers and sisters. I intend to utilize this here blog to write stories, tell lies, and hopefully restore me to some semblance of sanity. So far it's not working. Agitation through the roof. Oh well. No one ever said life was going to be bearable. Pet peeve: People who tell me to stay in the moment. They never seem to understand that the moment they want me to stay in is unendurable. Anyway, not all of my posts will be this bummerific, so I encourage you to come back, ya hear?
It's up at The Vinyl District. We hope Kid doesn't mind we made up all kinds of lies about him, like he was in Black Oak Arkansas and once shot a man for insulting his mustache. Aw, what are you going to do, tell the truth? It's journalism! Anyway, here's the link:
You wanted it, you got it: today on The Vinyl District the happy to be back Unremitting Failure reviews the greatest album ever produced by mortal minds and American fingers, Styx's "The Grand Illusion." Or as we like to call it "The Paltry Delusion." Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away to be anally probed, boy!" We're talking about Spaceship Rock!
f I could do one thing in this life, I would wipe every Hobbit off the face of the earth. That Tolkien fella has a lot to answer for. Lucky for him he's in Heaven, where they send all the scoundrels and bores of this world.
Ah, the seventies–I don’t remember them well. Too much booze, too many mind-bending drugs. But one thing I was sure I remembered well were those occasions when my pal Billy Harrison would pay a visit to my should-have-been-condemned house in Shippensburg, which any sane human being would have fled the day the ceiling in the next room collapsed, dropping a one-ton wooden beam smack on my roommate’s bed.
What we would do, Billy and I, is place the speakers of my stereo on the sills of my open bedroom windows and crank the volume on Graveyard‘s Lights Out LP to 11—you know, to serenade the neighbors. Unfortunately one man’s ecstasy is another man’s earache, and our neighborhood concerts came to an abrupt end the day a police officer suddenly materialized through the billowing clouds of pot smoke that filled the room, like Satan appearing amidst fire and brimstone. The pot pipe flew in one direction, the baggy of dope in another, but we needn’t have bothered; not only did the cop let us walk, he didn’t even bother to seize our stash. Must have been a Graveyard fan.
There’s only one hitch in this fond recollection of mine: Graveyard weren’t there. They couldn’t have been. Hell, the boys in the band hadn’t even been born yet. But they soundlike they were there, which is what I love so much about Graveyard—they’re so retro they bring back memories I don’t even have.
Four long-hairs with cool Swedish ‘staches who are—in the words of Jethro Tull—living in the past, Graveyard play old-school hard rock and blues tinged with psychedelia and folk, making them the perfect band for people who prefer their music to sound like it came out in 1970. Graveyard may hail from Gothenburg, home of Swedish melodic death metal, but you’ll hear no cookie-monster vocals, heavily distorted guitars, or blast beat drumming from these guys, just the cacophonous echoes of such tarpit-bound dinosaurs as Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath.
Graveyard—they’re Joakim Nilsson on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Larocca Ramm on guitar, Rikard Edlund on bass, and Axel Sjöberg on drums—formed in 2006 and released an eponymous debut album in 2008, but their real breakthrough occurred that same year at SXSW, where they blew minds as well as amps. Graveyard subsequently signed with Germany’s prestigious Nuclear Blast Records—under whose aegis they released 2011′s Hisingen Blues and 2012′s Lights Out—and presto, no longer did they have to subsist on that cheap Swedish staple, reindeer head boiled in beer. And in 2013 they achieved the apogee of all human aspirations when they—that’s right—helped create their very own brand of beer. (Motto: Hisingen Brew–Have two, and you’ll destroy the living room!)
“Nobody likes us / What a shame / We played the Black Cat / Nobody came / Toured North Carolina / Everybody stayed home / But we showed them / We broke their microphone…” “Black Cat,” Lesbian Boy
It’s a familiar story: One night you find yourself hanging by the legs from the rafters at the Velvet Lounge, no shirt, body soaked with beer, a McDonald’s fish filet sandwich shoved down your pants, singing “Nyquil Party tonight / Everybody gonna get real stunned” when your head collides with the spinning ceiling fan, and it really, really hurts. And you wonder, not for the first time, how did I get here?
Well, maybe it’s not that familiar a story, but it’s my story—the story of my career as a rock’n’roll star. During said career I regularly poured hot wax down my pants, stage dove into nonexistent mosh pits, put out a cigarette on my chest, burned dollar bills—you name it, I probably did it, if it would get me a laugh. I was a cut-rate Iggy Pop for a cut-rate town, and I’m glad it’s over.
But during its time, oh was it glorious. It started the way it always does: Idiots get together to form band, think they’re going to become famous, don’t. We decided to call ourselves Lesbian Boy. We sat down, wrote some songs of deep social import—songs like “Sammy Hagar” with its immortal lines, “I can’t drive 55 / With my thumbs stuck in my eyes”—and then set about learning how to play our instruments. That was the part we never quite got down.
Our first gig was a fiasco. We played a house party—it was my house, actually—and made sure to set up our instruments blocking the front door, so nobody could escape. Unfortunately we failed to block the stairs to the second floor, which is where everyone trapped in the livingroom with us promptly headed. And this despite such great songs as “Song for John Lennon to Sing,” with its lines “I’m just a soldier in the war of Rock’n’Roll / My microphone is my grenade / I took a bullet at Live Aid.”
This is more or less the beginning of how we became DC’s Band Without a Fan. Despite our most earnest efforts, despite practicing a rigorous one night a week, nobody, not even our closest friends, would come see us. But we got our revenge in “Black Cat,” with its lines, “Friends won’t come see us / They think we’re shit / Think we’re pathetic / Yea, they wish we’d quit / Someday we’ll be big stars like Van Halen or Styx / Someday we’ll be big stars / Maybe we’ll let ‘em suck our dick.”
Things didn’t improve at our first “real” gig, at a nearly empty Velvet Lounge. This was back when you played the tiny stage—it was like a stage for dwarves—at what is now the rear of the club. A band of lesbians preceded us; they were very earnest. Then we came on, and I decided to stage dive, despite the fact that there was no one in the pit. It really, really hurt. Not only that, but I inadvertently knocked over the lesbians’ monitor, and they went apoplectic. Chased me around the stage, wailing like banshees. I finally cowered behind the drum kit, and our drummer, who was our very own token lesbian, fully expecting to be savagely beaten by enraged Amazons. But I was also hoping that, what with the shared bond of sexual orientation and all, our drummer would be able to calm them down.
And she did, to an extent; they didn’t kick the living shit out of me, but they did take their monitor and microphones and go home, leaving us to perform an impromptu version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” with no amplification. I was in an unnaturally enthused state—narrowly avoiding an ass-whupping by angry lesbians will do that—and started pumping my fist in the air. And promptly knocked out three stage lights, that’s how low they were on this midget stage. With that, management shut us down and charged us for the damage. We were one gig in, and in hock for about a hundred bucks. But not all was lost. This was how we came to write our “all is forgiven” anthem, “Burn Down the Velvet Lounge.”
I don’t care what anyone says—it was all the Godzilla head’s fault. One minute I was listening to “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” and the next—but perhaps I should start at the beginning.
In 1979 my pig farmer pal Bill showed up at the dilapidated rathole I was inhabiting in Shippensburg and twisted my arm into going with him to see Blue Oyster Cult–whose songs were a bit too baroque for my tastes–at the York Farm Show Arena. But Bill always had the maddest assortment of drugs–the two of us are probably the only human beings ever to see Devo on thorazine—and on this occasion Bill’s menu du jour included acid and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Me, I was far too nervous an example of homo sapiens to be fooling around with LSD. But I never learned my lesson, and could never say no when offered the stuff.
By the time we arrived at the Farm Show Arena the acid already had me feeling decidedly twitchy. Bill and I pushed our way into the middle of the arena–which was just one extremely long and depressing space, shabby and and dim and bearing the distinct aroma of the thousands of farm animals that had passed through it over the years–just in time to hear “Career of Evil.” Then the band broke into “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll.” And the lyrics, “Three thousand guitars/They seem to cry/My ears will melt/And then my eyes”–which ordinarily would have amused me with their ridiculousness–instead struck me as decidedly ominous. I didn’t want my ears to melt! Then “Cities” ended, I looked down at the ground for a moment, and when I looked back up, the drummer had been replaced by Godzilla. It was just a head he slipped on to accompany the song, but how was I to know that in my acid-addled state? All I knew was that the new drummer of Blue Oyster Cult was a Japanese movie monster, and I panicked.
Pushed Bill aside and said, “I’ve got to get out of here before Godzilla gets me.”
And with that I proceeded to push and elbow my way, in full flight, towards the back of the arena. I intended to flee the building, but just as I reached the distant exit, I saw a long row of showgoers sitting slumped against the far wall. One look and I could tell these were my people: the lost and the freaked out, the jabbering and drooling, the comatose and the guys with the thousand yard stares. I didn’t hesitate; I immediately slumped down amongst them, grateful to be with fellow sufferers and safe in the knowledge that Godzilla was at least a football field away.
And there I sat until I recognized the sound of a phone ringing. I finally looked up and saw that I was sitting near an old style phone booth, the kind you walk into and close the door behind you. It rang and rang until finally I did something I rarely do–I got up and answered it. And the voice at the other end said, “Is Blue Oyster Cult there?” In a sober state I undoubtedly would have recognized the call for what it was–someone asking if Blue Oyster Cult was playing the farm show arena that night. But what I heard was someone asking to speak to Blue Oyster Cult. So instead of politely saying “Why, yes they are,” I said, “Hold on, I’ll go get them.”
And suddenly I was transformed. I was no longer another acid casualty–I was a man on a mission. There was a phone call for Blue Oyster Cult, and only I could deliver them the news. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” I cried like Paul Revere, bursting out of the phone booth and pressing my way through the crowd. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” As I did so, my mind raced–who knew how important this phone call might be? It could be vital, earth-shaking. It could be a matter of life and death!
It’s a miracle I didn’t climb right up on the stage. I might have, but the pit before it was too tightly crowded by dangerous-looking bikers. So I switched direction and, still crying “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!”, made a beeline for the sound man. He was standing high atop a 12-foot rig, so I started jumping up and down below him, shouting, “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult! Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” until I finally I captured his attention. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” I cried again, certain in the fact that he would appreciate the extraordinary measures I had taken to get to him.
Instead he looked at me the way you might look at a three-legged dog, and in a voice dripping with derision said, “Ask them what they want.” Why hadn’t I thought of that? Details! I needed facts! So I turned around and once again elbowed my way to the back of the arena and the telephone. But when I picked it up, all I heard was a dial tone. “No no no no no!” I cried. I had failed! Now Blue Oyster Cult would never discover whatever critically important news the guy on the phone had to communicate! Defeated, I fell out of the phone booth, then took my place back amongst the damaged slumped against the far wall. And it was there that Billy found me some half hour later, and gently convinced me to return to the audience. “Godzilla is gone” he said kindly, “back to Japan where he can do you no harm.”
Blue Oyster Cult is playing the State Theatre on Saturday December 8–something to do with a 40-year anniversary tour–but you won’t find me there. The sight of that Godzilla head would almost certainly send me into a flashback and set me fleeing for the exit again. But I suggest you go–this is your chance to hear “7 Screaming Diz Busters” in the flesh. Just go easy on the acid, my friend, and don’t pick up any phones.
I love “Free Bird.” Love it. I know plenty of psychological diagnoses could be put forth to explain this strange anomaly in my character, but me, I think it’s the residue of my rustic upbringing.
I was reared in a one-traffic light town a stone’s throw north of the Mason-Dixon Line, where I spent my formative years drinking beer in a juke joint in Taneytown with “The Klan Is Watching You” stickers in the urinals (seriously, watching me piss?), swallowing Placidyl and swigging Wild Turkey with a pig farmer buddy whose chief joy resided in gunning his El Camino through the high corn in the dead of a moonless night with the headlights off, and sneaking dad’s .22 cat rifle into the family’s small unfinished basement with my brother Jeffrey to fire rebounding rounds off the close brick walls in a suicidally stupid sport we called “Dodge the Ricochet.” (We had to call it quits when the old man asked, “What are all these dings in the water heater?”)
With a youth like that, of course I loved Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was in my DNA. But as the years passed and punk hit the sticks, being a Skynyrd fan began to be seen as a symptom of congenital idiocy or worse, and I was forced into hiding like a redneck Anne Frank. While my friends and I were listening to The Minutemen’s “Little Man with a Gun in His Hand,” I was still harboring a secret love for “Gimme Back My Bullets.”
And so things went until 2001, when vindication came in the form of the Drive-By Truckers’Southern Rock Opera, an ambitious concept album about Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Southland in all its faded glory. Southern Rock Opera—a double album which recounted the Skynyrd story from their early days practicing in the Hell House until their fatal plane crash in Gillsburg, Mississippi—finally gave Ronnie Van Zant and company the respect they deserved, and I loved it and so did the critics. At long last, it was safe to come out of the Skynyrd closet.
If Southern Rock Opera was the Drive-By Truckers only album, it would be enough for me. But over DBT’s long career—the Athens, Georgia band have been at it since 1999′s Gangstabilly—they’ve written an amazing body of iconic songs about the South: thundering rockers and country numbers about moonshining hillbillies and hard-boozing bubbas, feckless ne’er do wells, and working class stiffs just trying, as chief songwriter and singer/guitarist Patterson Hood sings, “to stay focused on the righteous path.”
Hood has also written sympathetically about the human cost of America’s wars and the rapacious industrial and banking practices that have destroyed the way country folk have lived for countless generations. And DBT are obsessed with the folklore of Dixie—not only have they written a three-song suite about legendary McNairy County sheriff Buford “Walking Tall” Pusser, they’re probably the only recording artists on earth besides Randy Newman to write a song about brother/sister incest. (Alas, Randy’s is both better and funnier.)
Some things have changed over time, however. Such as the band’s line-up. Since Gangstabilly the Truckers have gone through almost as many personnel changes as Menudo. The most important departure was that of Jason Isbell, whose songwriting skills rivaled those of Hood and songwriter and guitarist/singer Mike Cooley, in 2007. In 2011 Shonna Tucker, the band’s long-time bass player, quit. And just days ago John Neff, who played guitar, pedal steel guitar, and vocals, decided to call it a day. But Hood and Cooley remain, along with Brad Morgan on drums, Jay Gonzalez on keyboards and vocals, and Mike Patton on bass.
Another thing that has changed over the years is the band’s sound. Starting with 2006′s A Blessing and a Curse, the Truckers have attempted to shed the southern rock label by writing songs more in the classic rock mode. It’s tough, for example, not to hear the Tom Petty sneaking into A Blessing and a Curse’s “Wednesday.” But even I was unprepared for the surprise that is DBT’s latest, 2011′s Go-Go Boots. Out are the loud and blistering guitars, and in is “Used to Be a Cop,” with its syncopated drum beat and slicker, more contemporary sound. And it’s the closest thing to a rock song on the LP. I like both the sunny pop song “I Do Believe” and the cover of straight-out sweet soul number “Everybody Needs Love” by late Muscle Shoals guitarist Eddie Hinton, but neither sounds anything like DBT.
More characteristic of the band—but subpar—are not just one but two sluggish Hood numbers about preachers and murder, the title cut and “The Fireplace Poker,” the latter of which is not just dull but clocks in at an interminable eight minutes plus. Throw in a pair of so-so songs by the departed Tucker, and a couple of Cooley country songs that aren’t quite up to his usual stellar standards, and what you’ve got is an LP that is not just all over the place, but may mark the nadir of the band’s career.
So I arrived at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, December 30 not knowing what to expect. A new, smoother Drive-By Truckers, or the band whose delirious live shows have audiences singing along word for word? My only real hope was that they stayed well away from “The Fireplace Poker.”
I needn’t have worried. DBT played but one song off Go-Go Boots (“Used to be a Cop,” which sounded about the same as it does on record) and delivered a fantastic set from opener to six-song encore. The guitars were every bit as deafening as the time I saw them at SXSW, and the band didn’t seem to miss Neff. They opened with two populist numbers, “Uncle Frank” (from 1999’s Pizza Deliverance) by Cooley and “Puttin’ People on the Moon” by Hood. “Uncle Frank”—about a farmer who commits suicide rather than be forced from his land by the construction of a hydroelectric dam—featured some finger-burning solos by Cooley and fine Gonzalez keyboard work, while “Puttin’ People on the Moon” was told in the voice of a bitter working man (“Goddamn Reagan’s in the White House/And no one there gives a damn”) who loses his job at the Ford plant and has to turn to dealing drugs.
DBT then played “Women Without Whisky” (“If I make it through this year/I think I’m gonna put this bottle down/Maybe as time goes on/I’ll learn to miss it less than I do now”), which Cooley sang in his most doleful voice, and came complete with a nice organ solo by Gonzalez. It was followed by the funereal “Plastic Flowers on the Highway,” about the only song I didn’t need to hear that night, although towards the end the band broke into a jam featuring some intense interplay between guitar and organ and ending with a truly fierce guitar solo by Cooley. The upbeat “Self-Destructive Zones” included a couple of raucous Cooley solos—the man is truly an ax svengali—and some lyrics that I don’t understand, but love: “The night the practice room caught fire/There were rumors of a dragon headed straight for Muscle Shoals/”Stoner tries to save an amplifier”/And it’s like the dragon’s side of the story is never told.”
“Sinkhole”—the opening guitars and beat of which brought to mind those neglected Southern rockers, the Outlaws—was another populist number by Hood. He interrupted his story of a farmer who kills a banker, buries him in a sinkhole, then says, “Damned if I wouldn’t go to church on Sunday/And look the preacher in the eye” to take the opportunity to denounce Congress and trickle-down economics at length, before singing “Bury ‘em all in the old sinkhole.” Meanwhile, “Where the Devil Don’t Stay”—a song about the perils of moonshine—was backed by a giant drum beat and a mean brace of guitars, and was closed out by yet another frenetic guitar jam.
Drive-By Truckers returned to Pizza Deliverance for the meandering and hilarious “The Night G.G. Allin Came to Town,” which Hood delivered in talking blues mode. The song tells the story of Hood and Cooley slumped hung over in a café the morning after the Allin show, listening to an outraged old man read aloud from The Memphis Star about G.G.’s outrages to his appalled wife: “It says he took a shit on the stage and started throwing it into the crowd.” And, “It says he took the microphone and shoved it up his ass!” And concludes with Hood’s observation: “The old man and his wife were aghast.”
Cooley’s cheerfully upbeat “Carl Perkins Cadillac”—a number about the heyday of Sun Studios which came complete with a cool organ solo and is an instant classic if ever I heard one—was followed by the double-time “Get Downtown,” which included some very Skynyrd-sounding keyboard work and more guitar mayhem by Cooley. Hood then introduced the pretty “Heathens,” with its simple guitar strumming, quiet organ work, and defiant observations of the poor white trash in the neighborhood: “We were heathens in their eyes at the time/I guess I am just a heathen still/And I never have repented from the wrongs that they say I have done/I’ve done what I feel.”
Cooley laid blistering guitar over crashing drums on the stripper ode “Birthday Boy” (“Which one’s the birthday boy?/ She said, “I ain’t got all night”/ What your momma name?/ You can call me what you like”), then Hood broke into “Girls Who Smoke,” a crowd-pleaser in which the chiming guitars got louder and louder before breaking into a tremendous three-guitar free-for-all. Cooley’s rip-roaring “3 Dimes Down” also got the three-guitar treatment, along with a nod to Bob Seger: “Three dimes down/And 25 cents shy/Of a slice of the Doublemint twins/Come back baby, Rock and Roll never forgets.” DBT then launched into a cover of the late, great Warren Zevon’s rocker “Play It All Night Long,” with its comic lyrics and salute to Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Sweet home Alabama/Play that dead band’s song/Turn those speakers up full blast/Play it all night long.” The speakers were indeed up full blast, and Cooley rode a great solo atop some excellent organ by Gonzalez.
The band then left the stage, and returned to perform an encore that began with “Zip City,” a midtempo number boasting a chunky organ fill and a great distorted guitar solo by Cooley. They then performed Hood’s languorous and beautiful “World of Hurt,” with Hood speaking the verses and the whole crowd singing the chorus before Cooley launched into a slow but delicious guitar solo that went on and on, and that you wished would go on forever. After that Gonzalez launched into the big Tom Petty organ riff that introduces the GTO-fast “Marry Me,” the loudest proposal ever made. Cooley played a mean guitar solo over Hood’s power chords, and everybody in the audience said “Yes.”
DBT then played the slow “Road Cases,” and followed it up with the breakneck “Shut Up and Get On the Plane” off Southern Rock Opera. Cooley tossed some superfast Chuck Berry guitar licks over Van Zant’s fatalistic words to a band with forebodings about the plane ride they’re about to take: “When it comes your time to go/Ain’t no good way to go about it/Ain’t no use in thinking bout it/You’ll just drive yourself insane/There comes a time for everything/And the time has come for you/To shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane.”
Me, my favorite song of the night was the show closer, “Angels and Fuselage,” the final track on Southern Rock Opera. A slow and intensely moving song, it has Van Zant reminiscing about old times, knowing his end has come: “Strapped to this projectile/Just a blink ago/I was back in school/Smoking by the gym door/Practicing my rock-star attitude.” Some wag says, “Last call for alcohol,” but death awaits, and Van Zant sees frightening visions: “I’m scared shitless/Of what’s coming next/And I’m scared shitless/These angels I see in the trees/Waiting for me.” Hood then played some harmonica before Cooley kicked in with an otherworldly guitar solo over Hood’s power chords that seemed to go on, wonderfully, forever. Then the band members left the stage one by one until it was just Cooley, who sat his guitar squalling feedback on the stage and walked off too.
What can I say? It was a magnificent conclusion to a magnificent show. And it reminded me that, while like DBT, I’ve taken great strides from my redneck upbringing, it will always be with me. Part of me will always be riding with Billy Harrison through the high corn at midnight with the headlights off, hoping to hell we don’t plough into an unseen electric fence or find ourselves submerged in an unexpected farm pond. And I’m proud of it. So you’ll have to excuse me, because this review is over, and I have “Free Bird” to listen to.
We've been so preoccupied writing music reviews that we've let this blog go. We apologize for that. We miss everybody--Martijn, Martin, Gillian, Bulletholes, Dave, etc.--and intend to make a go of it again. Part of the reason we stopped blogging is that we felt we'd grown stale--that nothing we were writing was funny or original anymore. But we're going to try with all our might to rejuvenate this site. Okay?