Archive for January, 2012

After a short holiday break, the 97’s have hit the road again, this time rockin’ it through the sunbelt. Wisely so being it’s miserable here in the Northeast.

Band favorite, Those Darlins were originally slated to open for this leg of the tour, but the three energetic lasses and lone lad had to bail, leaving an empty slot in need of filling. Leave it to our favorite front man to offer to pick up the slack and fill the gap between the O’s and Old 97’s by playing an acoustic set reminiscent of the “Evening With” tours of 2009. Fortunately for us fans, he loves his work.

Holding back nothing, playing with his usual verve, Rhett, the solo performer, impressed even the most skeptical in the audience, including Houston Music writer, April Brem Patrick.

“Miller delivered a set that was great in action… He started off with “Help Me, Suzanne”, probably my favorite song off of The Believer. He followed that up with a story about an ill-fated opportunity to be Billy Bragg’s back-up band in lieu of Wilco on a European tour. Though the tour didn’t happen Miller was still happy to bust out a song from the Bragg-Wilco collab, “California Stars”. Wow. This is one of my favorite songs of all time and something about Rhett Miller’s voice and phrasing just suit that song so well. It also made me realize that Old 97’s were like Wilco for people who thought Wilco were too weird.

He followed this up with “Come Around”, “Singular Girl”, the 97’s “Nineteen” (explaining that the rest of the band refused to play it anymore)… The acoustic versions of these songs seemed more natural than the full band arrangements on his albums.”

The band hit the stage running with the raucous Doreen, and cranked out a solid set of crowd pleasers over the next 90 minutes.

“The guys are pros and even if they got up there and played nothing but new songs, we’d all still enjoy it. Luckily for us all they delivered a solid mix of old and new, each one as great as the one before.”

Don’t we know it. View the entire House of Blues setlist here.

Not the usual leap, but nice levitation just the same.

Next stop was NOLA and the famed Tipitina’s. This time the power stayed on for the entire set, unlike last time during Mardi Gras.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wk_U2ysB2g&feature=related[/youtube]

 

The WorkPlay got a second visit within nine months from Birmingham’s favorite foursome. The audience brought the love. The Birmingham News’ Mary Colurso described the crowd this way:

“Joyful, rowdy and a few hundred strong… the Old 97’s faithful turned out to celebrate. Audience members sang along with the band, shouted song requests, danced with abandon and created a big ol’ love fest.”

Along with rocking sing-along standards like Won’t Be Home and Every Night, the guys threw in a couple quieter, lesser played lovelies, Salome and No Baby I. You can read the rest of Mary’s synopsis of the evening including a fun video explaining Rhett’s signature windmill here.

 

Prior to the gig at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia, Rhett spoke briefly with Jamie Gottlieb from Redandblack.com about the band’s cross-generational fan base, staying true to its music and defying genre categorization.

“I like that we’re not tied down to one time,” he said. “We’re not an ’80s band, a ’90s band — we are who we are, which has always been outside of [one movement]. “We’re a mutt,” Miller said. “We leave it to the critics.”

No Old 97’s fan would have it any other way. You can read Jamie’s article here. You can peruse the entire evening’s set list here.

 

Last night , the Sprinter rolled into FLA for a Sunday night gig at St. Petersburg’s State Theater. By all accounts on Twitter, the show kicked butt. Wearing his usual after-show tee, Rhett treated the vocal crowd to the band’s long ago dropped Nineteen. The fans were definitely in a partying mood, singing along with abandon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRNFMtIbxgQ&feature=related[/youtube]

Later they all gave it up to the band, belting out perhaps the greatest gin-soaked, heartache anthem ever written, Wish the Worst.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bihKRz_nOo&list=FLQoq3fhOZPt3IlO9tzImEfA&index=2&feature=plpp_video[/youtube]

Sounds like a good time was had by all. Both Rhett’s solo as well as band’s setlist are here.

One funny aside about last night’s show, before they took the stage, Rhett posted this photo of the dressing room on Twitter.

The few backstage areas I’ve been in have been dingy rooms filled with nasty, worn out sofas or have had walls filled with signatures and rude drawings, but this one…  Wow. That’s more befitting a dismal KBG basement in St. Petersburg, Russia, not Florida. You can practically smell the mildew and hear the dripping faucet echo off the bare brick.

The 97’s are playing one last gig in Orlando tonight before heading back north and west, ending this leg at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas–site of their outstanding live double album, Alive and Wired. Tickets are still available for all the shows. Check out the tour schedule here and grab a space while they last.

Last, but certainly not least, Murry is selling copies of his CD “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I’m On My Way” at each show. 100% of the proceeds benefit “Project Mercy” who build houses in a very poor section of Tijuana in Mexico, similar to what Habitat for Humanity does in the US. He’s trying to raise $3500 to build one house for the May home build. Even if you can’t make it to any of the shows, you can still receive a CD and/or donate towards this worthwhile cause by sending a check to First Christian Church Burbank. Murry’s Facebook link with the address and all the details is here.

That’s it for now. Have fun out there with the best live band in the land!

 

Thanks to Jay Lee, Eric Sauseda and Brent Thompson for use of their photos.

 

Meet Leslie

Regular visitors to the Old 97’s forum may recognize MeanJeen as a devoted fan and great storyteller. MeanJeen, also known in real life as Leslie, greeted 2012 with a mini-vacation to Chicago with her husband, where they celebrated the New Year’s Eve Rock ‘n Roll Ball featuring the Old 97’s.  She bonded with fans, had a serendipitious encounter with Murry, rocked 2011 into the ground with a killer set list, and lived to share her experience with all of us in this fantastic recap. After you read her story, check out the Old 97’s Flickr page to see some great shots courtesy of her husband, Bert. Thanks, Leslie and Bert! Here’s to another year of rock and roll!

I jumped at the chance to buy tickets to the New Year’s Eve show in Chicago when it was announced a couple months ago. Why drive seven hours to see a band at a hotel out by the airport? Bert and I had New Year’s Eve’s the last few years have been somewhat disappointing. Our friends are growing ever more responsible, and their celebrations have shifted to focus more around their kids. Forget that, the kids had Christmas and the old people had Thanksgiving! We “young adults” needed a good release from all that wholesome family time (that requires pills and booze to survive it).

I knew nothing about the hotel, and didn’t care. We just made a vacation of it. Seems like we tend to do that–build a vacation around an Old 97’s show. We checked into the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare hotel Saturday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised. It’s got a huge, modernly designed lobby–just a really beautiful space. Our room was also very nice. We would stay here again if we needed to fly out of O’Hare or some such scenario.

Before the evening’s festivities, we were waiting on the elevator to the lobby. When the doors opened, there was Murry! We said hello, and he asked, “Leslie, right?” Holy crap, I love this band. Murry has to be one of the nicest people on this planet, right? He has an amazing memory too, which always makes a person feel pretty good.

Thanks to the chat forum on the Old 97’s page and Facebook, we knew a few folks that would be at the show. Dave & Amy G. got in touch, and we met up for some snacks in the Ice Bar at the hotel. We figured the “passed hors d’oeuvers” the hotel listed for VIP’s would be few and far between. Once we found the VIP lounges, we found that we were wrong. We could have made a meal out of them. We also discovered that we got free drinks! Granted, they didn’t have Jameson or dark beers. You can’t have it all, right?

Clay D. brought a large group of friends to the show, and though we never actually saw him, we know Art C. was there too! Dave and Amy proved to be true to Old 97’s fan standards. We enjoyed good conversation, laughs, and when the time came, a spot together up front between Rhett and Murry. We quickly discovered we were surrounded by other super fans, and a rowdy group to our left. Bert served as a blocker, got grinded on some, and also served as our photographer. Good man. We spotted Rhett’s wife not far behind us. It was a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd for a NYE party at a hotel by an airport.

The band took stage just after 11 pm and barreled right into “Doreen!” They were out of the gates just like bucking bulls. Rhett broke sweat by the second song, as per usual. Murry announced, “this is a song about West Texas,” and the crowd cheered. I don’t know what others thought about the lighting for the show, but I enjoyed it. It lent for some great photos too. The guys galloped through several of their live regulars, including some top shelf selections–”Victoria Lee” and “Salome.”

I always cringe at the first few notes of “Question.” It’s such a sweet song, sort of opposite of everything else they do. That night, though, I had an epiphany. Twelve years ago, on this very day, I was answering that same question. It wasn’t romantic or anything–Bert just pulled the ring out of his pocket and said, “well, will you?” I think I said, “let me see it.” Then, of course I said yes. Then we went to a party with a bunch of friends. How will I react the next time they play it? That’s yet to be determined.

We enjoyed one of my favorite live Murry songs–“Mama Tried” It was ten minutes before midnight, so they did a few more, including “Big Brown Eyes,” accompanied by the crowd tooting the free noise makers the hotel provided… “the end is coming soon” *beep *beep *beep, “a pill or three” *beep *beep *beep, “I wish you were here” *beep *beep *beep, etc. It was pretty funny. We all answered “YEAH” when Rhett said he’s got issues, of course.

The countdown began, and then the band started in on Auld Lang Syne, slowly at first, then they put their Old 97’s spin on and turned it into a pretty rocking tune. Near the end of the song, Rhett and Murry played back to back and truly looked like they were having a great time. One of the rowdy folks to our left looked like she might hurl, as she leaned against the press barrier, I’m thinking she wasn’t having such a great time.

The guys stumbled into “White Port,” but quickly got their footing and were bouncing around the stage. “Time Bomb” came a little early. I was in disbelief–you know the bittersweet feeling when you hear the first few chords of the song, right? Then it was over, or so I thought. They came back and did two more–”Dance with Me” and a really fun “Over the Cliff.” I never get tired of hearing that one. We didn’t hang around afterwards, we were both tired from the drive and the colds our families shared over the holidays.

Did we have a great time? YES! We also got out and explored some museums, ate some good food, and got a feel for winter in Chicago. Dang, it was cold and windy!

Set List (from my notepad)
Doreen
Barrier Reef
Every Night is Friday Night
Perfume
West Texas Teardrops
Victoria Lee
Salome
Murder or a Heart Attack
Champaign, Illinois
Won’t Be Home No More (Heisman–does he even say pavement anymore?)
Question
Mama Tried
Indefinitely
Big Brown Eyes
Wish the Worst
Auld Lang Syne
White Port
Four Leaf Clover
Time Bomb

encore:
Dance With Me
Over the Cliff