Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Drive-by Truckers at the Barrymore

Three weeks ago I went out with E Eugene and Natan to see one of my favorites, the Drive-by Truckers. This marked the third time I've been lucky enough to catch them, and the second in Madison. This was also a bit of a different show, as DBT was playing a stripped-down acoustic set, named the Dirt Underneath Tour. Check out the tour notes for the story behind the tour. This also was the first time I would see them at the Barrymore Theater, a venue larger than the last place in Madison they played, the High Noon Saloon.Before the show we headed to Tex Tubb's Taco Palace on Atwood, the now-customary place for a pre-show fish taco or three. We were running just a bit late, and we didn't get over to the Barrymore until mid-way through the set of the opening act, Ryan Bingham. I enjoyed what I heard of Bingham and his backing band. He played a rough and dirty style of alt country. We all agreed that musically the band was top-notch. We met up with one of E Eugene's landscapers, Kevin. He was there with his father, as both are big DBT fans. I'm always a proponent of enjoying kick-ass music with one's parents. I had also purchased a ticket for one of Kevin's friends, who cancelled at the last minute. That's why you shouldn't ever buy tickets from someone you don't know - dude still owes me for that unused ticket!

DBT came to the stage after a good thirty minute break between sets. Of course, I had just left to grab another beer, and coffee for Natan. As I tried to squeeze through the crowd back to the group, I thought for sure the scalding hot coffee would end up on the front of my shirt, but fortunately I managed to hold on. DBT recently parted ways with guitarist Jason Isbell, who has come out with his own excellent solo album, Sirens of the Ditch. E Eugene, Kevin and I saw him play the Memorial Union Terrace back in July, and it was one of the highlights of the year. One of the things that makes DBT so great is the collaboration between the guitarists on the songwriting. Some of my absolute favorite songs were Isbell created and sung. At the show there weren't any of these songs on the setlist. No matter, though. With seven albums under their belt, and one on the way in January, DBT has plenty of material to draw from. In fact, a good amount of the songs were from their earlier albums, Ganstabilly, Pizza Deliverance, and Alabama Ass Whuppin', none of which I have. I recognized several of these earlier songs from the other shows I've seen, but for the others it was a bit of a mystery. The band all played sitting, a fact that didn't seem to go over well with Patterson Hood. Between songs, as he got up to pass the communal bottle of whiskey the band shares on stage, he indicated that this would be the last time he would sit down during a show. In response to some asshole in the crowd shouting for the Rock Show (DBT's normal three-guitar ass-kick-a-thon), Hood replied, "Motherfucker, we'll bring your motherfuckin' Rock Show next spring." Mike Cooley also asked the crowd, "Did Alabama win today? Just kidding, I don't give a shit!" Everyone was in good spirits, and the crowd just kept cheering for more. The Drive-by Truckers played for a good two hours. Now, E Eugene maintains that his only qualm with DBT is that they play too long. I can understand his point - after a while I sometimes find myself a bit stupefied by the spectacle of it all, especially at loud shows late at night. However, I would have gladly liked to see another hour this night. As with any great show, I was left wanting more.

Interestingly enough, I did get just a bit more music this night. Since the show wrapped up around 12:30, E Eugene, Kevin, his father and I (Natan left during the encore to meet up with a friend celebrating his birthday) went down the street to Mickey's Tavern, a Willy Street classic. We walked into the place to see a punk band playing right near the door. Mickey's is a fairly small place, and it was almost like the band was playing in the midst of the crowd. Kevin's father was not a fan of the genre, and when we decamped for the Crystal Corner about 30 minutes later he attempted to fight one of the bandmembers. His theory was, "That's what they really want, for you to pop 'em one. That's why they're in the band..." I don't know about that, but the next week I was screwing around at work and I discovered that the punk band playing that night was the Bottles, a band that had once played a basement show at my shit-hole house back in 1999-2000. Even better, the Show Diary for the night mentions the incident. Too much...

I came away from the DBT Dirt Underneath show really enjoying the change in format. I love seeing the Rock Show, probably more than that asshole calling for it. But one of the greatest things about seeing a live show are the differences between the recorded studio and live versions of a song. If you really like a group enough to see them multiple times, it's a pretty good bet that you are going to like the material enough to really appreciate the different takes a band comes up with. I know I did.


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