“Tonight, Live at Red Rocks, it’s… The West Texas Teardrops???”

So last week, y’all might remember that the Old 97’s were scheduled to play a great bill at the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver. (Rent the classic “U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky” if you have any questions about the venue.)

You might also be familiar with the West Texas Teardrops, a rock-pop-punk-country trio consisting of Philip Peeples, Ken Bethea, and Murry Hammond, who’ve played a handful of club dates over the past couple of years, during times when their erstwhile collaborator, Rhett Miller, is otherwise occupied.

From here it’s probably best to let Murry pick up the story:

One of Rhett’s flights was cancelled day of Red Rocks and word was he wasn’t going to make the gig. We were soundchecking at 1 and got word he was still in Boston. A long ways away from Denver, in airport time, especially for a 6pm play. So – we voted him out of the band over the deal.

Then it was just Ken, Philip and me. It was a harsh penalty to impose, as you know Rhett had a lot of promise as a 97, but we have always required East Germany-style punctuality. Old school. Rhett knew it, and the punishment. Then, before the 97’s corpse had even cooled, we formed The West Texas Teardrops, made a set (mostly – well, all – 97’s tunes because we were fairly new at that point) and went on during the slot the 97’s were to play. We explained it all to the crowd and asked them to root for us as we stepped into an uncertain, but almost certainly successful future.

We were doing real good, too, and were already into our fifth song when HIS MAJESTY comes sauntering in, purple robes flowing, as if we had never thrown him out. We had forgot to tell him of his ousting, which is the one loophole in our punctuality rule, but anyway – through some sort of mind power, he got us to end our song on the spot, and we went into “Barrier Reef”, forgetting about the whole scary, scary day…

Now that is a classic 97’s story, made all the better by the telling, but it got me wondering if there wasn’t some weird vibe between the 97’s and Denver. See, back in ’97 or so, Philip took sick on tour, and the 97’s were forced to play a series of dates with Mike Schwedler – their manager at the time and fortunately for all, a drummer in his earlier years – handling the skins. Just before their Denver show though, Philip – a few pounds lighter, and a shade to two paler, but otherwise none worse for the wear – made his return to the kit.

So there you go: You never know who’ll turn up when the Old 97’s play Denver. Now y’all stay cool (physically I mean; it’s hot out there!) and check back soon.