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You know when a band takes the stage on April Fool’s Day they’re gonna mess with you somehow. That’s just what Old 97’s did to an eager audience in Madison, WI. As Aaron Conkin reports “no sooner had the raucous strains of ‘Time Bomb’ ended when the band raised their cups, bid the Barrymore Theater crowd a loud goodnight, and strode off the stage. About a minute later they were back and ready to rumble some more. ‘Awwww … we wouldn’t do that to y’all!’ howled Miller.”

That kind of playfulness is what long-time fans have come to expect from this quartet of “rock ‘n roar” legends. Of course they went on to power through their long setlist, complete with a seven-song encore. As Aaron goes on to say, “That’s how you keep a crowd in a favorite town satisfied.” Indeed.

http://m.host.madison.com/mobile/article_f274ef31-d5d5-5011-b74a-c2f15c163674.html

In Indianapolis, Katie Darby does a marvelous job articulating the special bond between this band we all love and its fans.

“I’ve always had a hard time explaining why I love the Old 97’s with words. I think it’s something that I understand at a gut level– when I see them live, I feel like it’s home…The music of the Old 97’s is loud and fast; it’s smart, but it’s sincere. It’s everything I want to think about myself, and for that reason, when watching an Old 97’s show, I’m completely transformed.”

You can read her entire entry here.

Spinner’s Lonny Knapp caught up with Rhett before the Toronto show to discuss staying power despite the lack of a hit single, Katy Perry and the growth of popularity on this recent tour. Rhett states, “We played to 800 people in Bloomington, Illinois, the other night. It was huge. We are seeing bigger and more excited audiences. Something about it, man, it feels like we are at the right place at the right time.”

http://www.spinner.com/2011/04/18/old-97s-katy-perry/

I can personally attest to the through-the-roof energy of the 97’s 27 song setlist from the Rochester show. They had the packed house in the palm of their collective hands, singing loudly along to old and new favorites, screaming full-force with Rhett to the refrain of Roller Skate Skinny and Big Brown Eyes’ “YEAH!” There was even a group of delightful hipster doofy wildly pogo dancing next to me by the end of the evening. Plus we were treated to a never-before played song from Volume 2, “No Simple Machine.” Sweet.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tazGZU4ufGM[/youtube]

By the time Ken’s last chord of Time Bomb echoed through the hall, we were all a sweaty, hoarse, euphoric bunch of happy campers. Rochester rocked the love for Old 97’s. Rochester. Who knew?

In Boston, the guys “Riled up the Royale”. According to Allison Francis, they lived up to their reputation as a great live band, belting out 30 songs over the course of the evening including a cover of the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation”.

Allison sums it up thusly, “The Old 97′s have stood the test of time. Though they are not a household name, they’ve built a loyal fan base who is not afraid to get drunk and dance after almost 20 years of music. As long as people want to hear raucous, twangy rock and roll music, Rhett Miller will be making it — provided a bottle of Jameson is within reach.”

That sounds about right.

http://buquad.com/2011/04/12/the-old-97s-rile-up-the-royale/

See more photos from the Boston show here.

In the Big Apple, Dan Weiss from the Village Voice notes,

“Old 97’s bandleader Rhett Miller can tell you the exact number of songs he’s written, but not how many times his fans have proposed at shows. He’s happy to sound off on Battlestar Galactica, Rock Band, his perfect coif, and how to write a cheating song when you’re happily married. Just don’t mention green-eyed women.”

His Q & A with Rhett is big fun, even if Mr. M does think green-eyed, redheads are typically insane. HaHa! Wait a minute… What the?!? Hey. I resemble that remark…

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2011/04/qa_rhett_miller.php

On to Carrboro, NC and Cat’s Cradle. No Depression’s Jeff Strowe sums up the beauty of Old 97’s music.

“…Wednesday night before a packed and adoring Cat’s Cradle crowd, I realized just how great the Old 97’s are at making rock and roll music. The above lyrics (Buick City Complex) have always jumped out at me as they seem to sum up their wondrous dichotomy. Their music can rollick forward at a furious pace worthy of their namesake, filled with bittersweet and rousing choruses of passion, lust, and revenge or gorgeously lope along, anchored by sweet melodies of heartache, longing and regret… Add Murry Hammond’s vivid tales of devotion, doubt, and self-discovery and you get the perfect one-two punch of songwriting genius. Throw Ken Bethea and Philip Peeples into the equation and things just get crazy.”

Well said. This is why he’s a professional. You can read more on the evening and the near 30 song setlist below. Don’t know about y’all, but I’d love to see a video of that acoustic medley listed. Anyone… Anyone… Bueller?

http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/old-97s-live-at-the-cats

more photos from Cat’s Cradle:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/minervacat/5619973405/in/set-72157626374807489/

The boys spent Record Store Day in Birmingham, AL, the last stop of their Spring tour. Making good on their promise to return to the Workplay on a weekend, Carla Jean Whitley notes their energy was anything but sapped for the final hit on a long touring stretch. “For two hours, the Old 97’s attacked a near 20-year catalog of 3:30 beauty, cross-bred of Texas swing and garage punk, with ferocity.” Proving once again, our favorite foursome never phone it in. One of the many reasons why we all keep coming back for more time after time.

http://mobile.al.com/advbirm/db_96511/contentdetail.htm;jsessionid=D2D16450E1F857C249FFBA330DADA78C?contentguid=UGEvdo5T&detailindex=0&pn=0&ps=5&full=true#display

You can view more photos from Stephen Pyle at Picasaweb:

https://picasaweb.google.com/stephenpyle/Old97s041611?authkey=Gv1sRgCJq83c2RjaXwjAE#5597158297426946242

That wraps up the round-up of the latest Spring tour. This has turned into a beast of a posting, but there are two more articles I’d like to share.

This first one is an interview Rhett did with Wayne Bledsoe at Knoxville.com. This one is for the ladies as it contains a lovely  heart-tugging, head-tilting “Awwww” moment when Rhett shares his special bedtime ritual with his son, Max.

http://www.knoxville.com/news/2011/apr/14/old-97s-knoxville-music/

Finally, to end on a more butch note and because I share a love of all things hockey with a certain lead singer and his drummer, here’s a fun interview with David Strehle from NHL Hot Stove. In it Rhett reveals he once was in a championship roller hockey team, The M-Street Monarchs comprised of a “ragtag group of rockers and restaurant staff”, names off his hockey heros and speaks of being torn between performing and watching the conclusion of the Stars Stanley Cup victory in 1999.

http://nhlhotstove.com/interview-with-old-97s-frontman-and-hockey-fanatic-rhett-miller/

Alright. That’s it, I promise. While our favorite “rock and roar” band gets some well deserved rest, pop on over to the tour page to plan your next outing to rock on out with our own Fab Four. The end of May will be here before you know it.