Drive-By Truckers (Knitting Factory) – 2/5/18

In which my heroes show up and validate the hype.  And then some.

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Admittedly, I am a die-hard fan of this band.  As in, I consider them one of the five best touring rock bands in music today, I celebrate and know each of their twelve studio albums, and can tell you more about their history and subject matter of their songs than anyone would care to hear.  Needless to say, living up to my excitement level for this show would require a full-on effort on their part.  In more ways than one, these guys delivered…

To call their music southern rock n’ roll would be unfair.  To label it country-rock, lazy.  They have their own niche space in that realm, and for over twenty years they have crafted consistently beautiful, sometimes raucous and raunchy, frequently rawking tales of the south, and southern life: murder, injustice, drunkenness, heathenistic behavior, and the importance of family.  Hailing from Alabama and proud of their southern roots, these guys are also among the most “woke” bands around, not afraid to call out racists and fascists for what they are.  Quite the talented paradox, this band.

The current incarnation includes Brad Morgan playing a mean set of drums, not only keeping the same rhythm for upwards of eight minutes on some of the longer DBT jams, but adding nuance and flavor to what many of his contemporaries would leave as empty spaces, Matt Patton as the serviceable bass player, and keyboard and guitar maestro Jay Gonzalez.  But make no mistake, the core of this band is – and has been since its inception – songwriters and guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.

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Hey, that’s Patterson!

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Hey, that there is Mike!

 

These two are in many ways quite polar opposites: Mike, with his long hair, low voice, and small stature, writes witty and catchy songs that frequently feature incredibly clever turns of phrase; Patterson, standing at 6’4’’ (estimation) yet with a higher (I won’t say whinier, but some do) voice, is more apt to write about social issues or stories from his family or life experiences.  Patterson loves to tell a good story, and he has quite a knack for it.  Pull any DBT record at random and you will find at least two songs in which Patterson is telling a tale far more interesting than any I can relay.

Although they have been doing this together for so long, and tour constantly – surely the source of their rabid fan base – they truly seem to be in a permanent honeymoon phase.  Watching them perform, it is blatantly clear that they are enjoying every minute, and each other’s company.  I have a theory, after seeing them perform for over two hours on Monday: they have gotten this touring thing down to a science.  Throughout the show, they consistency switched between Mike and Pat songs, pogo-ing back and forth throughout their 27-song set.  However, the key is this: When Pat is playing his songs, Mike gets to shred the solos and fun guitar effects, and vice versa.  They truly are both engaged for each and every song, which is magic.

Opening with the powerful ballad which tells the first-person account of a survivor of the Roseburg Community College shooting, “Guns of Umpqua”, followed with the tale of the murderous ways of the founder of the NRA, “Ramon Casiano”, it was clear these guys came with a message.  As if the giant Black Lives Matter sign on their piano was not already an indication, these boys wanted to rock and spread the word of human decency and love.

Setlist is below, but the highlights included the band inviting the incredible opener, Lilly Hiatt, on stage to join them in a raucous rendition of “My Sweet Annette”, as well as the string of rockers that even got a little dance-moshpit going, of which I, of course, had no part: “Guitar Man Upstairs” (a personal Cooley favorite), “Sinkhole”, and “Shit Shots Count”.

After two and a half hours, including Tom Petty and Ramones covers and several times I thought they would call it a night, they finally did. Closing with the ultra-powerful police shooting inspired “What It Means”, the band gave a final bow and vowed to return quicker than the last gap between appearances.  Let’s hope they do.  Let there be rock!

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Spotify setlist link:

 

Setlist:

Guns of Umpqua

Ramon Casiano

Baggage

Women Without Whiskey

The Perilous Night

Surrender Under Protest

Ronnie And Neil

72

Southern Accents (Tom Petty cover)

Ever South

Made Up English Oceans

Heathens

First Air of Autumn

My Sweet Annette (with Lilly Hiatt)

Uncle Frank

Goode’s Field Road

Sounds Better in the Song

Dead, Drunk, and Naked

Guitar Man Upstairs

Sinkhole

Shit Shots Count

Lookout Mountain

Kinky Hypocrite (dedicated to Roy Moore)

The KKK Took My Baby Away (The Ramones cover)

Let There Be Rock

Shut Up And Get on the Plane

What It Means