Archive for 2011

Getting Magnified

September 14, 2011

Earlier this summer at Outside Lands in San Francisco, Murry, Rhett and Philip took a little time out to kibitz with Google’s Magnifier crew. They discussed the secrets to their longevity, finishing each other’s songs and revealed the totally rock ‘n roll story behind Mr. Miller’s shiny white gold tooth. And someone in the group even busts a move, baby!


As we East Coasters wait around to see what nasty turn Hurricane Irene will take, here are some fun tidbits from the final leg of the 97’s summer tour.

They started in San Francisco at the Outside Lands festival where Rachel Swan had this to say:

“Baby-faced singer Rhett Miller — who is now forty, but for the most part still retains his pink-cheeked, puerile features — paused toward the end of his Saturday afternoon set with alt-country group Old 97’s. “Hey, I just saw one of those gate-crashing flashmobs tear down the fence over there,” he said, pointing over the heads of several hundred people who had gathered at Sutro stage. He snickered. “Sorry, Outside Lands staff, the revolution still lives in San Francisco!” Miller and three bandmates dedicated their next song, an energetic rock number called “Every Night Is Friday Night,” to “those cheapskate motherfuckers.” It was an appropriate highlight for one of the best, and most sparsely attended performances at Outside Lands… Flashmob aside, the group’s set was willfully understated, with a few folksy love ballads (including “Question”), and one Merle Haggard cover. If anything, it showed that the 97’s remain both powerful and vastly underappreciated.”

So true on both counts. Here’s the sing-a-long favorite, Barrier Reef from that sunny afternoon.




Heading South, the guys hit Harlow’s where one lucky fan, Tami Hackbarth, posted via Twitter, her dream setlist which included the one song she’d been waiting years to hear live. That night Rhett made her musical wish come true by singing Eyes For You.


Before their last show of the summer in Los Angeles, Rhett rose at an unGodly early hour for normal human beings, let alone a Rockstar, to appear on Fox’s Good Day LA. As you can see, he charmed the socks off the hosts, especially the ladies.

Can you say smitten?

Speaking of special guest, as promised in the above interview, the lucky crowd at the Wiltern that evening were indeed treated to not one, but two beautifully harmonized songs by Rhett and Sam Phillips. We’re still waiting for a video of Fireflies surface on the interwebs (anyone… anyone…), however one generous soul posted their version of Sam’s Broken Circle for all of us envious fans to live through vicariously.


Absolutely gorgeous!


But wait, there’s more!!

One last link before I go outside and enjoy the sunshine, this time from an interview back in July. In between back-to-back shows at the Bell House and a stop at the Rolling Stone offices, Rhett visited the studios of WFUV in Manhattan to chat with Claudia Marshall. In between songs, they discussed how Elmore Leonard’s dialog style inspired the lyrics to No Simple Machine, how he has allowed himself to occasionally pen a grammatically incorrect song and how they as a band have embraced the mentor status in which they find themselves these days, while still maintaining their love of garage rock. The two also spoke at length about he and Murry’s humble beginnings before the 97’s formed and how through trial, error and frustration, the band finally “decided to do something that had no chance at succeeding.” A decision for which we can all be grateful.



That’s all for now. Enjoy what’s left of the summer, and keep checking back for new Fall tour dates.

As we wait for the reviews, interviews and photos from the 97’s current mini West Coast tour to roll in, I thought I’d share a Q & A the Ventura County Star’s, Bill Locey did with our long-legged bass player who inhabits Stage Left.

In it, Murry touches on the making of Volume 2, a European tour and the possibility of recording his own new material. He also hints at Old 97’s cooking up their own music festival, complete with a Rancheros Brothers reunion, for their hometown of Dallas.

Holy Crap! An Old 97’s festival? Sign me up!!!

Earlier this month, Murry stopped by KAOS radio in Austin to play a handful of songs including Born to Be in Battle, Valentine and Lost at Sea.




Nice job, Murry!

If you’re lucky enough to live on the West Coast, you’ve got three more chances to catch our favorite foursome bust a move or two on stage beginning tonight at the Soho in Santa Barbara. While you’re at it, you might as well call in sick and keep heading south to House of Blues in San Diego and The Wiltern in LA for the last two shows of the summer featuring the magical, musical donkey jawbone of David Wax Museum and the ever-smiling Josh Ritter as openers. And if that wasn’t enough to lure you, according to Rhett’s twitter feed, there’s a distinct possibility of a Rhett Miller/Sam Phillips duet happening at the Wiltern.

Wow. What a way to wrap up the tour. The rest of us will be sitting around in green-eyed envy, waiting for the videos (as well as a jump photo or two) to be posted.

Enjoy it, Westies. We’ll look forward to hearing your accounts in the forums.



photographic handiwork by long-time wrecker, Denise Zimmerman

Back in July when the guys were playing a two-night stint at Brooklyn’s Bell House, legendary music chronicle, The Rolling Stone asked Rhett and Murry to stop by their offices for a quick interview and mini concert.

They played three songs including a cover from the early Beatles, I’ll Cry Instead. In the interview, Rhett discusses the novel quandary of having too much material for one album, how his solo tour with Steve Earle inspired his continued song-a-day writing streak and a recently penned, curse-fueled number bound to delight wreckers far and wide. Maybe one day he’ll throw it on the setlist just for grins.


Also of note:

The Atlantic Monthly is featuring excerpts from Rhett’s journal written during the days and weeks after the World Trade Center attacks of September 11 as part of next month’s 10 year commemorative issue. For those who are unaware, Rhett and Erica lived only a few blocks from the towers and literally ran for their lives when the first building fell. It promises to be compelling reading.

In addition, Mr. M has given the publication two unreleased tracks recorded with Jon Brion, Lovebird and She Loves the Sunset, which will be posted on their site. Something to look forward to indeed.

Link to 9/11 article: 


Link to unreleased tracks:

Two days after the release of TGTV2, the Old 97’s hit the road to continue this incredible touring streak that they’ve been on for the past year. They just give and they give and then give some more, and we insatiable fans are grateful for every fix. While they rest up for next month’s California run, here is a roundup of links, reviews, and more from the last leg.

The guys kicked things off at Summerfest in Milwaukee, where the new tunes were well-received, according to Piet Levy’s review on The Tap Milwaukee site. The band played some fan-favorites from past albums as well, including Satellite Rides’ Question which set the scene for another 97’s style proposal. Hooray for love, Wisco sweethearts!

The next day, Rhett stopped by Nashville’s Lightning 100, where he treated listeners to an acoustic performance or Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You), and Perfume. In between songs, Rhett describes the latest album as a return to a more “raw, garagey sound,” and shares the agony of creating a balanced setlist that will satisfy the crowd.

Katie Darby reviewed the second night in Nashville with high praise for opening acts, Robert Ellis and Those Darlin’s. As for the Old 97’s set, Katie writes,  “I’m consistently blown away by how good their music feels live.” Right on. Long-time fans know what to expect when they go to a show, and yet, there is always a euphoric moment when the crowd connects with the band’s explosive energy. “The fact of the matter is that the Old 97′s are a band with two songwriters talented enough to be frontmen, one of the most frighteningly talented live guitarists I’ve ever seen, and a drummer who works like a machine.” For more well-written highlights from her Nashville experience, visit Katie’s blog.

After a day off, the Old 97’s were in my neck of the urban woods of Charm City. Marie, my partner-in-crime, flew in from Pittsburgh to join me and my friend Dave for another incredible night of rock. One great thing about this community of fans is how incredibly cool you all are. There were a lot of friendly and familiar faces in the crowd. (If I ever meet you in person, ask me how friendly even unfamiliar faces can be at an Old 97’s show.)

Six days after the release, fans were singing along, or at least taken by the spirit of all of the new songs. From Volume Two, the band played, No Simple Machine, Brown Haired Daughter, Trainwreck, White Port, You Call It Rain, and Marquita/Bright Spark. I think Baltimore liked it, you guys.

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One of the great moments from the Ram’s Head Live show occurred during Rhett’s solo performance of Come Around. I can’t imagine that an artist ever tires of hearing his lyrics from a (drunken) choir of adoring fans. Indeed, he seems pleased to hear the angelic (drunken) singalong at the end of this song.


During White Port, the spirit moved Ken to invite everyone to a local bar after the show. Fortunately for the Cat’s Eye Pub in Fell’s Point, it was a Monday night so it was not a mob of insanity that piled into the bar, but a great number of fans were happy to buy their favorite guitarist and bass player a beer and hang out for a while. So cool, right?!

Hours later, the band raced northeast on I-95 towards The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. In the forum, a fan from The Stone Pony show shares how his ten year old brother had the time of his life. Read matthewconte’s post, 4th below the setlist.

Following the Stone Pony, the Old 97’s rocked Brooklyn’s Bell House for two extraordinary nights. Blogger Carene Lydia Lopez paints a fun front-row visual of how they miraculously land on their feet despite their airborne stage antics.

I made it to the second show at The Bell House and can attest to the amazing energy of the room that night. In the midst of a blistering setlist, the Old 97’s gave a couple more fans a night to cherish. Front and center of the stage, George and Maria, regulars at shows in the Northeast, were happy to see their favorite band on George’s birthday. Rhett and Murry wished him a happy one before treating him (and the rest of us!) with W. TX Teardrops, If My Heart Was A Car, and Lashes, all in his honor. As if their talent wasn’t enough to keep fans captivated, they’re really a generous group of gentlemen who appreciate their fans.

Following the two night stand in Brooklyn, the band played two shows in Massachusetts. First, a show at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, then at the Green River Festival in Greenfield.

Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images

Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images

The next stop on this tour was another two-night stand, this time at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Annielixir shares her thoughts about the shows in the fan forum. Apparently, the shows were filmed for a press kit for future European dates. Old 97’s fans abroad, get ready… After reading her review, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stop myself from doing the hand jive the next time I hear Bright Spark!

Rolling into Minnesota, the Old 97’s stopped by 89.3 The Current. This 20 minute interview and performance can be heard here.

Kansas City, MO and Norman, OK were the next cities that were graced with the presence of rock and roll greatness.

In the Oklahoma Gazette, Rhett talks about the heavy touring that the band has been doing and alludes to more to come… “We’ve already got a best-of and a live album. And the 20th anniversary will be March 2013, which is around the time the next studio album will come out. And then we’ll go on our 20th anniversary tour.” Can we just declare 9/7/13 a holiday? 97’s day on a Saturday in their 20th year as a band seems to be a good time for some sort of crazy wrecker event. (Just trying to plant seeds over here.)

The Old 97’s wrapped this rather epic run in their home state of Texas, at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Rhett performed the National Anthem, the Rangers beat the Blue Jays, and then the happy fans danced in celebration as the band took the stage for a post-game show. In an interview with Amanda Cobra of, Rhett discusses potential walk-out songs for Rangers players, Texan musicians he admires, and he learns about a mashup called, “Rhett Midler.” Warning, once you see this, you cannot unsee this.

Cheers to Rhett, Murry, Ken, and Philip for another round of rock and roll excellence. Fans are loving the new album and the songs are sounding fantastic live. California awaits your return next month!