Archive for March, 2011

Odd and Ends

March 31, 2011

As the 97’s roll out to Omaha, Nebraska this morning to begin their next 17 day tour leg, I thought I’d tidy up a bit and share a few media odds and ends from SXSW and beyond.

This first video is from back in December 2010 when Larry Groce of Mountain Stage took time to sit down and catch up with Rhett before the concert. Among other things, Mr. Miller discusses how writing new lyrics to Dylan’s Desolation Row came about as an attempt to stay awake while driving his sleeping bandmates between gigs on a long, dark stretch of highway in the middle of the night.


The entire Mountain Stage concert featuring Hayes Carll and Cake as well as Old 97’s will be up on Mountain Stage podcast archives page or NPR in the next few days. So you’ll want to keep an eye out for those.

There’s lots of great fan footage from the boys’ six exhausting performances at SXSW this year, including this uber special moment when the one and only Excene Cervenka joined the band on stage at Antone’s to reprise her role on Four Leaf Clover.


She can still belt it out, can’t she? Thanks to Cindy Royal for that video. You can read her take on the 97’s SX experience and watch more videos, including Perfume and I’m a Train Wreck from Volume 2, here.

Bright and painfully early on their second morning, Rhett and Murry sang five songs for KUT in front of a very appreciative, if not bleary-eyed, crowd in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. Their energetic set shot out of the gate with a rousing performance of A State of Texas–an anthem so irresistible, even a jaded Northerner like me finds it impossible not to jump up and shake her groove thang. The morning’s offering included Champaign, IL, Born To Be In Battle, Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You) and of course, their consummate closer, Time Bomb.

At their penultimate stop for Brooklyn Vegan at Barbarella’s, Ken took everyone by surprise and made an unprecedented Rock ‘n Roll move by leaping into the adoring crowd.

Grandpa, my ass. Right, Ken? HaHa!

The last stop of their SXSW 2011 appearance was at Maggie Mae’s for the Gibson Guitar party. Always the gracious subject, Rhett took some time out to discuss the philosophy behind splitting the double album into two volumes, the bad-ass sturdiness of his beloved Hummingbird guitar and overindulging out on Sixth Street, an experience to which any SXSW attendee worth his salt can relate.

Oh and I would be remiss if I left out this particular highlight from their fast and furious two day stint in Austin. Some people suffer for their art. Here’s proof only the best Rockers bleed for theirs.

Now that’s commitment, Baby. And how very Johnny Cash of you, Rhett. Thanks to Lori Hillhouse for being at the right place at the right time.

Just because their duties at SXSW were fulfilled didn’t mean the guys could go home and take a long nap. Before they got to call it a day, our favorite foursome made two more stops in Dallas. The last of which was performing before the Mavericks game, where Rhett had the honor of singing our National Anthem.


Those of us living outside of Texas will probably never have the opportunity to witness this live, so thanks to Melissa Bridgefarmer for being a sport and sharing this moment.

Speaking of special moment…

By now you all are aware that Old 97’s wrote a jingle for a Chili’s commercial.


But did you know Ken and Rhett also leant their talents to a public awareness campaign?


Because the Old 97’s cares about your locks.

Stephanie and I are off to Rochester, NY next week to sing, dance and generally make a spectacle of ourselves in front of the best live band in the country. Stop by and say hi. Oh and don’t forget the Vodka and Tonics. See you there!!

The Old 97’s performed on Mountain Stage back in December, and the episode starting feeding to NPR stations on March 25. Airtimes vary by station, a complete list of which can be found here. Next week the set will be posted at for archived access.

Old 97's at NPR's Mountain Stage

(c) Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

While a SXSW recap is in the works, I wanted to slip in a round up from the second half of the most recent leg of the tour before the band hits the road again next week.

After enduring the late-winter wrath of the North,  the Old 97’s headed southeast to Asheville, NC where Tim W. Jackson of The Laurel of Asheville gives a favorable review, noting that the fans were exhausted by the end of their spirited 25 song set. I don’t get the comparison when Jackson refers to Rhett as “the Jon Bon Jovi of alt-country”, but I am sure that was intended as a compliment.

Before the Atlanta show at the Buckhead Theater, Rhett interviewed with Alec Wooden from Wooden asks if the band goes on stage with a “credo” or philosophy. Rhett explains, “Whatever I have going on in my life or in my head, I try to remember that the audience made a special effort to be at the show and that they deserve me to give them something special.”  Fans are always talking about how the guys go full throttle at every show, so this deliberate commitment to rock out is much appreciated. Read the interview to find out which song Rhett wishes he had written and how his songwriting challenges have changed over the years.

The Freebird Live show in Jacksonville Beach, FL was reviewed by Brian Fullford for He notices the connection that the band shares with the audience. “Murry looked the part of a polite George Harrison in his stage stance along with his “Thanks everybody, I appreciate it!”… Guitarist Ken Bethea walked the stage like a prize fighter looking for the knockout punch… Drummer Philip Peeples was like the dealer at the poker table, dishing out every drum beat as if it were a card from his deck.” Fullford shares that “as someone who had never seen them live, I can tell you that with a personable front man and a band that delivers flawless straight forward rock and roll, you will not miss the arena rock pomp.” Word.

After a ten year absence in Tampa, fans flocked to see the Old 97’s play “as if their lives depended on it.” Curtis Ross of Tampa Bay Online acknowledges what we fans have been saying all along: Miller is “one of the best, underrated songwriters around, combining a poet’s eye, a romantic’s hear and a punk’s sense of humor” while fusing the “best of the British Invasion with country music’s economy.” Ross likens Ken’s skills and moves to Pete Townshend while recognizing Murry’s punk-rock prowess.


The next stop on the tour was at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. Perhaps the synergy of an Old 97’s show during Mardi Gras celebrations caused the blackout that ended the show a few songs earlier than usual, but as our webmaster Jeff details in his NoLa show report,  the audience was treated to an exceptional finale when the band led the bar in a drunken revival of Amazing Grace.

The winter leg of the tour concluded at the House of Blues in Houston. Zach “Bacon” Vernon, from provides an amusing recap accentuated by a ton of excellent photos by Jim “Eggs” Bricker. (You gotta love the nicknames – I mean, if you’re going to have a theme, run with it.) According to Bacon, the Old 97’s have mastered their craft with, “poppy, proficient alt-country, chockfull of memorable geetar licks and earwormy-y lyrics.” This review is a fun read and their flickr account is worth the visit, as well.

Before the band heads to Nebraska next week, we have a few more nuggets of fun to share from their SXSW/TX gigs, and Rhett tweeted that he has a fun story to share about the Drag It Up demos that are currently featured on our Media page, so come back soon.

Our favorite foursome just finished up an exhausting extended weekend playing six, count ’em, SIX shows at SXSW before motoring to Dallas to play the Texas Music Revolution Saturday night, then onto a freebie outside of the American Airlines Center prior to the Mavs match. And still there was energy to spare for more than a little air time.

At the New West party

Friday Night Showcase at Antone’s

Riding the Shiner Bock at Texas Music Revolution

Victory Plaza prior to the Mavs game

Even Ken got into the act with this incredible hang time

Last Friday on the way to his and Murry’s second early morning radio performance after only 3 hours sleep, Rhett tweeted “No rest for the wicked. #apparentlyIamwicked”

Yeah. Wicked awesome!

Better work on your leaps, Murry. You’re next.

(photos courtesy of Cindy Royal and Melissa Bridgefarmer)

Much like the East Coast and West Coast tour legs, Gowalla has created another Old 97’s trip tik for fans at SXSW. There are up to six, count them, six opportunities to catch the boys in action over the next two days and earn an exclusive virtual pin to add to your growing collection. You can find the trip details here.

The beauty of SX is, unlike the East/West tours, there are no planes, trains or automobiles involved–just foot power. So grab your comfy walking shoes, your favorite libation for hydration purposes of course and check in.

With the music portion of SXSW beginning in earnest on Wednesday, March 16, I thought I’d follow up Jeff’s list and post additional Old 97’s appearances I’ve found so far.

Thursday, March 17, the boys will be the last of five acts playing for the New West Party (1pm-6pm) at the Belmont on 305 West 6th Street between Guadalupe & Lavaca. ****Please note: this is by invitation only.

Their official showcase is at Antone’s on 213 W. 5th Street at Lavaca. The 97’s hit the stage at 12:00AM right after the legendary Emmy Lou Harris plays at 11PM.

Friday, March 18 is shaping up to be a very busy day beginning at the ungodly hour (ungodly for a SXSW attendee/performer anyway) of 8:30AM. The entire band will be part of the KGSR live broadcast from the Four Seasons located on 98 San Jacinto Blvd at Cesar Chavez.

For a $5 donation to the Seton-Shivers Center, you’ll get breakfast and four hours of exclusive live interviews and performances by SXSW featured artists. If you’re a fan of  all-nighters, you can see the full list of musical types here. And while you’re at it, be a sport and grab an energy drink or four for our bleary-eyed blokes.

At 9:45AM, Rhett and Murry are going to hoof it over to the Hilton at 500 East 4th Street at Neches to perform a short set for KUT.

After the full band’s 4:00PM appearance for Brooklyn Vegan at Barbarella’s Patio at 615 Red River Street, Rhett and Murry will high-tail it over to Maggie Mae’s at 6th & Trinity for their final stop of SXSW at the Gibson Guitar Day Party at 5:00PM before heading North to Dallas.

Good thing these venues are in close proximity to each other.

Hope all of you attending SXSW have a spectacular time. A little advice to any festival newbies: make your lists of must-sees, but be prepared to alter your plans and just roll with it. Embrace the wonderful weirdness that is Austin. You’ll be glad you did.

Recently I watched a few of the videos of the band posted on YouTube. Some of them struck a chord in me so I’m going to post a few with some thoughts. KB

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We shot this video in June or July of 1993 in Sherman, TX and bits of it down in South Dallas, I believe. The director was Darren Kasmir, a friend of Rhett’s from high school who lived across the hall from me. There was some tall grass outside of the house where we were shooting in Sherman and we all came home covered in chiggers.

I think the music here is the demo version of St. Ignatius. We’d recorded it at Cedar Creek Studios in Austin around May. An Austin drummer named Lisa Pankritz played the drums for us. The solo is half as long as it winds up being on “Hitchhike.”

Lisa Delarios plays the part of our drummer. We debated this — she doesn’t play drums — but in the end she’s funny and the cutest thing of all time so we just let her in and I’m glad we did. She was Rhett’s girlfriend for the first 2 or 3 years of the band and many of those original love songs are about her. She’s a stand-up comic in NYC and we still see her when we play there. She has big, brown, eyes and used to drive a Bel Air.

Penny plays the part of the “goddess” that Rhett sees from afar. She hung around us in those days and looks great in the video. I haven’t seen her in about 10 years.

Rhett was 22 when we shot this. That was his original Old 97’s guitar covered in stickers. I think it was a Takamine. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen him wear a vest.

Murry cut off his long hair soon after this and quit wearing those train hats.

Philip joined the band about two months later, so that’s why he isn’t in any of the main scenes. Darren shot the scene of him with the typewriter (“Typewriter? What’s that?”) and added it later.

That Telecaster I was playing was stolen in ’98. I still have that shiny red cowboy shirt and wear it on stage about every 5 years.