Friday, April 25, 2008

Drive-by Truckers @ The Pabst Theater

Or: Drinking Pabst at the Pabst with DBT Part II.It's hard to believe, but it has been nearly two months since E Eugene and I ventured forth on a Thursday night to see quite possibly the greatest Rock Show on earth - the Drive-by Truckers in full rock mode. Two years prior I had gone to Milwaukee to see DBT at the venerable Pabst Theater with Natan & Joe. This time Natan found himself in Vegas at the time of the show, and it should be taken as a testament to the power of the Truckers that he seriously considered cancelling the trip to Sin City. I called Joe, who immediately agreed that this would be a must-see. The stage was set for an extremely fun night.

I cut out of work a bit early and met up with E Eugene at the Chalet around 4. It was at this time that Joe called with a bit of bad news - he was stuck in Elgin working at a house that was taking much longer than he'd planned. I told him that I would leave a ticket at will-call for him, but I figured that he wasn't going to be able to make the show. Too bad for him. E Eugene and I made our way to Milwaukee and I paid too much for parking near the Pabst. Last time I was able to find street parking for free, but no such luck this time and I think I payed something on the order of $15 for the night. Fucking Milwaukee. Anyway, E Eugene and I grabbed dinner at the down the street from the Pabst. It was crazy busy when we walked in, and we actually were seated at a table for four with another group of two (a pair of middle-aged out-of-town salesmen, by the snippets of conversation I eavesdropped in on: "Ooh, bratwurst, sauerkraut and red cabbage - that's so German! Have you met Tony with Allied? I sold him a lot of product at the convention last year."). Strangely enough, the place emptied out after around 30 minutes, until finally it was just us and the salesmen in our dining room. After dinner we still had a bit of time to kill so we hit up the Newsroom Pub for a quick drink. I didn't realize at first, but while we were sitting at a side table I noticed a black and white television showing what appeared to be closed-circuit security footage of people doing strange things with hula hoops and various other props. As it turns out, the Newsroom Pub is owned by the Safe House, the spy-themed "secret" restaurant & bar. I went there with Missy last year, but I hadn't realized it was that close. Sure enough, I saw the International Exports, Ltd. sign down the alley as we walked out. The Felice Brothers opened the show, and I was looking forward to seeing them once I had listened to a few of their songs on MySpace. However, I was blown away by their live set and the songs became instant sing-alongs with the crowd up front. The band is composed of actual brothers, and their sound is something of a rustic Americana-twinged folk-rock based upon lyrical stories. The lead singer had a raspy twang that reminds me a bit of early Dylan. The instruments included acoustic and bass guitars combined with accordion and violin, with organ and washboard thrown in for good measure. The entire band was highly engaged with the crowd and brought a real energy to the venue. They were the perfect opening act, and I made it a point to pick up their self-titled debut album the week it came out. E Eugene and I had also planned to catch their free show later in March at the Rathskellar, but unfortunately his wife rudely scheduled her birthday dinner for that night. It was a tough call. The only downside was this: during the Felice Brothers set E Eugene and I were first introduced to several drunken fans in the crowd. Foremost was a bald middle-aged man that was a DBT super-fan. He also was highly intoxicated and proceeded to get more so during the show, drinking PBR tallboys he had stashed in his overalls. I'm not one to claim the high road when it comes to being on best behavior at concerts, but I usually try not to be "that guy" that keeps shouting and bumping into everyone. Maybe I'm taking it personally, but I was relieved when he was kicked out of the theater after getting caught smoking twice. The Drive-by Truckers came on stage after a moderate intermission, long enough for E Eugene to procure a couple of Lakefront Riverwest Stein beers (there was actually no drinking Pabst at the Pabst this night). Patterson Hood started off the show with two acoustic-based numbers before Mike Cooley blasted in with "3 Dimes Down", all off the new Brighter Than Creation's Dark. Three more new songs followed, all of which I sang along to every word. I really enjoy Brighter Than Creation's Dark and I had been listening to it non-stop since getting it the day it came out. However, I felt that the crowd wasn't as receptive to the new songs since it appeared that not many knew the songs. When Hood started playing "That Man I Shot" I was ecstatic - this song is the most kick-ass rock song I've heard in quite some time. In a few years, when the rest of the DBT fans catch up, this will bring the house down. Instead, it was the older (and still great) songs off of The Dirty South and Decoration Day that got the crowd really going. The previous time I had seen the Truckers they played an acoustic set sitting down at the Barrymore in Madison. Great show, but E Eugene had correctly maintained that the true glory of DBT is in their Rock Show. No debate here - even with high expectations coming into the show I was blown away. DBT played 19 songs during the main set, eleven off the new album, and for once I actually remembered the set list in order. We actually left before the encore, because snow was in the forecast and E Eugene had to get back to plow. It turned out to be a hellacious drive back to Madison on an unplowed and potholed I-94. I think it took about two and a half hours to get back home. Even with that headache, and the requisite fatigue the next day, I wouldn't have even considered not attending this show. It was exceptional, and it takes an exceptional band like the Drive-by Truckers to make the exceptional seem routine.

Muzzle of Bees has an excellent review of the show as well. Here's the set list from the show, for those that are interested:
- Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife (Brighter Than Creation’s Dark)
- Daddy Needs a Drink (BTCD)
- 3 Dimes Down (BTCD)
- That Man I Shot (BTCD)
- The Home Front (BTCD)
- A Ghost To Most (BTCD)
- Sinkhole (Decoration Day)
- Marry Me (DD)
- Dead, Drunk & Naked (Southern Rock Opera)
- Guitar Man Upstairs (SRO)
- I’m Sorry Huston (BTCD)
- The Opening Act (BTCD)
- Gravity’s Gone (A Blessing And A Curse)
- Puttin’ People On The Moon (The Dirty South)
- Checkout Time In Vegas (BTCD)
- You and Your Crystal Meth (BTCD)
- Goode’s Field Road (BTCD)
- Shut Up And Get On The Plane (SRO)
- Lookout Mountain (DD)
-- Encore --


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