Show your pride as on Old 97’s fan!

Share any photo of you, your friends or family in an Old 97’s t-shirt and we’ll add it to our new Tumblr:


Everyone who submits a picture before 4/1/13 is entered for a chance to win a signed Old 97’s poster! This one, actually:

Eyeball poster

Just email your pix to noreplyold97s@gmail.com, and follow the blog to see yourself soon.

***** UPDATE *****

Congratulations to Kat Carpenter, who submitted this lil’ winner to the contest and won the drawing!

2013-03-21 18.55.37

There was a proposal.

But more on that later. First things first. Since this is about me—I mean us—I will take a moment to tell you about our day in La Jolla. It’s January, but the weather was glorious. I woke up before 7 AM, still on Central time and thinking I needed to get the kids to school. Tried to go back to sleep, but I was up for keeps. So I took to the cove. The previous night’s beer kept my head from consenting to the jostle of a run, but I walked, briskly, in shorts and a T-shirt along the ocean. More than once I passed people in parkas and gloves. We exchanged looks of mutual bafflement.

Later on was alfresco coffee (with free wireless) at the Goldfish Café alongside the ocean, where if you squinted you might be able to convince yourself you were in Italy. There was sunshine, seals, and sea lions. Then after that, a hike overlooking the ocean at Torrey Pines State Reserve. Seventy degrees, pure sun, the whole world of the Pacific open.

We had ourselves a time.

On we drove to Santa Ana. Dinner was at a Greek restaurant I’d found on Yelp. We’d originally made dinner reservations at the venue, but then we decided to look at the menu and canceled our reservations. I was happy with my gyro. The venue was oddly situated behind what appeared to be an office complex, and the beer selection was unacceptable. But the stage area was set up nicely, with booths and tables ringing the floor in a half circle. The floor, it turned out, was cement. We all exchanged sighs, because we knew what that meant.

Langhorne Slim now has us wondering if he shops at a new Goodwill store before every show. More: Dude playing the upright bass has a fro for the masses. The drum kit is half the size of Philip’s. We likey.

For the second time, the house music played between the opener and the band included Stuck in the Middle, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s a decision on the band’s part. Murry came out and ooo-oooooed along with the part in the song that goes … ooo-oooo. And then it was show time.

I actually took notes during this show. That won’t happen again. I stopped short while texting notes to myself in the middle of Barrier Reef, when I realized I was texting notes to myself in the middle of Barrier Reef. But for now, you’ll benefit from the fruits of my labor:

Opened again with Grand Theater, which is growing on me. (Incidentally, my husband is one of those folks who says thee-ay-ter. The kids have picked it up, too, and my daughter corrects me when I say it differently.) Rhett seems to be taking care to vary the set list because he knows crazies like us will see them more than once (or twice) (or three times). We appreciate the thoughtfulness. Last night’s St. Ignatius was tonight’s Stoned with the supercool psychedelic intro.

I think it’s safe to say the band was feeling loose and in extremely good spirits. As they all paused for a moment while Rhett downed whatever was in his cup, Murry quipped: “We get thirsty a lot.” Later Rhett posed a request to the crowd in general for a Jameson on the rocks. “We should have people for this,” he joked. The drink materialized alarmingly quickly. Intro-ing Champaign, Illinois, Rhett said, “We wrote this song with Bob Dylan. We weren’t in the same room but it worked out.” As the were going into “State of Texas” (possibly my favorite “new” song on the new album), there was an uncharacteristic mixup that had all four guys looking to one another and laughing, starting and stopping the song.

Mistakes are what makes it real.

Videographer girl was back, and I was happy to see that she now had a speaker on which to rest her elbows while she again filmed the show with both cameras.

Midway through the show Rhett invited a guy on stage, and even before he started strumming the opening notes of Question, we knew what was going on. Another damn proposal.

Julie, who has seen the 97s many more times than I have in the past few years, has seen onstage Question proposals before. I have not. But as tattooed, grinning Chelsea was coaxed down to the stage, where her man was waiting with a ring, which he presented to her on bended knee, I forgot all of the cheesiness I’d ever ascribed to this practice. The whole place was cheering for that couple–even Rhett couldn’t seem to keep himself from smiling.


Then Murry began to play You Were Born to Be In Battle, which he offered to the happy couple as the song for when they had kids.

On the set list I caught a mention of The Other Shoe, which remained unplayed, ditched in favor of Dance With Me. No idea why, but I’m wondering if the proposal took so much time that curfew was setting in sooner than expected and a shorter song was warranted.

After Smokers, which smoked (including the otherwise-inappropriate fog smoke that finally found its purpose), Ken, who had been jamming almost into the crowd right next to Murry as the song built up to the end, threw his guitar pick into the crowd. I know he wasn’t aiming for me, but he threw it straight at me. I predictably missed it, but it bounced off Matt, and now it’s in my hotel room.

My only 97s guitar pick ever.

As feared, the night ended with aching backs, feet, and legs. (Seriously, club owners? Concrete? It can’t be that spendy to at least throw down something foamy or rubbery.) If I lived in Santa Ana, I’d never watch a show from the floor there again. Which just might mean I’d never watch a show there.

I’m not one for requests, but we’ll be expecting The Other Shoe tonight.

Did we even know how to do this anymore?

Yes. Yes we did.

Well, pretty much. When the show got out at 11, 18 hours after I’d woken my kids up for school that morning, I was at first shocked, then relieved, then downright ecstatic to know I’d be getting home so early. I suppose I should be embarrassed by that. I’m not.

The first time I bought tickets to see the Old 97s was for a show at the Paradise in Boston. But the first time I saw them was at Irving Plaza in New York City. So impatient was I to witness this band I’d just discovered that I decided I couldn’t wait an extra two days for the local date. Finding no willing partners, I drove the four hours to New York alone. By the time Rhett sang the line that had singlehandedly detoured my casual curiosity into outright fandom—“It’s not funny like on TV, and it’s not smart like it is in books”—I knew I’d never let a lack of a sidekick keep me from seeing this band.

But that said, sidekicks are the best part of showgoing. Tonight I’d be meeting up with Jen and Julie, as well as Mark, Julie’s cousin, who’d never seen the band. Snow delayed our flight and we arrived at the Wild Note Café, the restaurant adjacent to the Belly Up, just in time to be an hour and a half late for our dinner reservation. But our friends were well into their cocktails, the door to the venue was in my line of vision, and Ken was dining two tables away. All felt right.

Old 97s crowds take on different characteristics in different cities. Some places — say, Denver — I’ve been able to wait almost until they take the stage and easily make my way to my preferred spot: one row back from the front, Murryside. In other cities, like Dallas or Chicago (so I’m told; Chicago’s a city I’ve missed thus far), you damn well better stake your claim while (or before) the opener comes on or you’re out of luck. Frankly, in cases like that I usually choose to be out of luck. If being up front it means staring at the back of some guy’s T-shirt or being bumped by screaming girls competing for their share of Rhettsweat, I’m gonna take it to the back without complaint.

Julie and I evaluated the crowd. The path to Murryside looked impossible. We exchanged looks and wordlessly agreed to head to the second-most important location at an Old 97’s show: the bar. This helped. The bar was on a riser, and we had a better view of the crowd density. “We can so navigate that,” I told her, and she agreed. Beer in hand, we entered the crowd midway back, Kenside, and slowly smiled our way through. We caught the last few songs of Langhorne Slim, whose fans were in full force in the front. In my crotchety older age, I’d rather not stand for hours at a time, so opening bands are usually not my thing. But I have to say, I liked the sound. I wasn’t disappointed I’d be seeing them for three more nights.

I should admit up front that I’m not much of a show reviewer. I know my limitations. I’m more of a list maker, a reporter of observations. So here’s my list of what stands out from Solana Beach:

  • Brie burger: fantastic. I highly recommend it.
  • Sound: Thumbs up. Even from right up front, often the worst place for the best sound, it was phenomenal.
  • Venue: For that matter, I’ll say that the Belly up is one of the best rock show venues I’ve been in.
  • Murry’s shirtwear: pearlsnap, shortsleeved.

Murry @ Belly Up, San Diego, 1/11

  • Ken’s hair: Mohawkish.
  • State of certain band members’ sobriety: questionable.
  • Band Julie’s cousin compared them to, mid-song: Replacements
  • Notable shirts available: the brown crown shirt, which I own and recommend, and a new Strike Anywhere matchbook one, which I scored.
  • St. Ignatius. Hell yeah.
  • Girl in the front row who held up two different cameras recording video of the show the entire time: My arms got sore just watching her.

Camera girl at Belly Up show.

Mostly, I just stood there and existed, knowing the experience wasn’t mine alone. The best word I can use to describe being there with Matt for the first time in over three years, hearing “Wish the Worst” and “Doreen” and songs that we’d been watching together since the beginning of us was … contentment. I know that’s not the most exciting way to describe a rock show, but there it is. Hearing Rhett and Murry harmonize on West Texas Teardrops or seeing Rhett’s windmill during Barrier Reef just brings an order to things. On the floor two rows back from the stage, Murryside, at an Old 97’s show, nothing feels out of place.

I’m on the way to the Santa Ana show and I’m exhausted. Delayed jet lag. More tomorrow.

Rhett Windmill Video

For the first four shows of the current Old 97’s tour, long-time fan Sandra Hume is going to provide a road diary from the fan’s point of view. As she, her husband Matt and an ever-changing cast of like-minded Wreckers follow the boys up the west coast, Sandra will keep us posted on all the fun. She’s uniquely qualified to do so, but I’ll let her tell that story herself.

It’s a little embarrassing, really, so I’ll just come right out and say it. My family—the family of my adulthood, the one I chose—exists because of the Old 97’s.

Almost eleven years ago, I discovered this band called the Old 97’s. It was between Fight Songs and Satellite Rides. At the same time, I discovered Internet fan groups. I was a Johnny-come-lately to the Yahoo Group “Wrecked” (and its on-topic, no-exceptions sister, “Hitchhiking”) compared to the pioneers who had been around since 1998. Like my husband.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At first this guy, Matt, was just a fan whose name I’d see tacked on to the end of his group messages. And then in my personal email inbox. Our private email exchanges were sparked when he offered me unsolicited advice on a romantic situation I’d vented briefly about to the group. This should have been a turnoff, but I liked his style. Email gave way to instant messaging, then phone calls, and the next thing I knew I was meeting him for a drink in a hotel bar on a June night in Dallas before a one-off Old 97’s date at the Gypsy Tea Room. It was my first time in Texas, and I’d flown from Boston solo. He’d driven down from … where was it? Oklahoma? He corrected me: he lived (and farmed) in Kansas. I was almost thirty, fairly newly single, and experimenting with my latent bravery, but I wasn’t nervous about meeting the Kansan farmer. Although I liked him and felt an almost alarming synergy with him, the two pictures he’d sent of himself I’d found … underwhelming.

Then he walked into the bar, where my mind shut down from all but two thoughts: Dude’s wearing cowboy boots. Dude takes really bad pictures.

Five months later we were married.

Some couples love Vegas. Others schedule annual Disney trips. For me and Matt, seeing the Old 97’s was What We Did. For a while, it was easy. Just before we got married, we met up with other fans for a three-show hit in Missouri and eastern Kansas. The drive to and from Boston for our five-months-after-the-fact wedding reception serendipitously coincided with another tour. We hit Pittsburg on the way there, and St. Louis, Columbia, and Lawrence on the way back.

Wherever we could, we hooked up with friends. People from the same Wrecked group where Matt and I met were scattered all over the country, and hitting shows together was some of the best fun we knew how to have. That summer, 2001, we joined half a dozen other “Wreckers” for what we still call the “trifecta,” caravanning to Dallas (Trees), Austin (Stubb’s), and Houston (I can never remember the venues in Houston) over a long weekend in July.


Our venture into parenthood crimped our plans only slightly. Our daughter Sky’s first plane ride, at ten months of age, was a jaunt to Dallas to catch a Ranchero Brothers Barley House show, which we listened to from the sidewalk. Video exists somewhere of Matt sitting on the bottom floor of Sons of Hermann Hall holding a sleeping Sky while “Wish the Worst” plays in the background. As she got older and life at Grandma and Granddad’s proved much more exciting than being with Mom and Dad, we were able to hit Dallas or Austin or Denver for a couple shows at a time.

Then we had another kid. Relatives in Austin were kind enough to keep Wilder and Sky while we caught a show at Stubb’s in 2005, and we even tried to indoctrinate the kids by bringing them to sound check. But that year marked the last family-wide Old 97’s travel. Life got complicated. From where we lived in the middle of the High Plains, getting away was always at least an overnighter, and usually required a boarding pass. Taking off for an adults-only weekend wasn’t just inconvenient, it was irresponsible. The kids had things to do, school to attend, and when they didn’t, relatives to see.

The guys we learned to love as they sang about drinking and debauchery were now married and having their own kids, just like us. But playing music was their job; listening to it wasn’t ours. Years went by. Entire tours happened without our hitting a single show. When a ballet recital conflicted with the Gruene Hall recording of Alive and Wired, I … forget it, I can’t even talk about it. As I sit here typing this in 2011, I can’t believe that the last time the two of us together saw the band perform was in 2007.

Matto Hume & Sky

Matt and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary this past November. What to do to mark the occasion? The best time for us to travel was January. We considered the Caribbean. We considered Europe. When we took a look at the Old 97’s tour schedule, though, we realized sheepishly that the rock clubs of California would win out. Tonight, in a club just north of San Diego—kids happily moved in for a long weekend at Grandma’s—we’re going back to where it all began.

Four cities. Four nights. No kids.

Do we even know how to do this anymore?

– Sandra

Also, I want to make sure to pass on the following from the good folks at wileymusic.com. They’re heading up the street level promotion for Rhett and The Instigator and they need your help:

Heads Up Old 97’s and Rhett Miller Fans!

After much anticipation, Rhett Miller, lead singer of Old 97s, is set to release his debut solo album “The Instigator” on Sept. 24 and we need YOUR help getting the word out!

That’s why we’ve created The Instigators – an elite establishment built FOR THE FANS AND BY THE FANS (yes, we work with Rhett, but are always fans first!) to spread Rhett’s music to the masses.

As an Instigator, you’ll be given special assignments and awesome tools to share Rhett’s music with others and will be handsomely rewarded for your help. In exchange for your efforts, you’ll be the first to hear news and music, AND will have the opportunity to win awesome prizes such as concert tickets, rare autographed items, meet-n-greets, personal phone calls with Rhett and other cool stuff.

We also want your feedback and ideas – you will be heard!

The first 10 people to sign up will receive Rhett’s single ‘Come Around’!! If you’re interested in becoming an Instigator, sign up at http://rhettmiller.wileymusic.com.

Thanks for your support…we hope you enjoy his new album!!!

Christy & Amy