After nine shows in ten nights, the guys have wrapped up the first leg of their tour. Judging from the setlists and discussions on the Old 97’s forum, they did not disappoint. But maybe we, the faithful fans, are a little biased? For some fresh perspective, I decided to introduce two of my friends, 97’s-virgins, to the band.

I was lucky to go to two shows this week, the first at The Recher Theatre in Towson, MD and then the Saturday night show at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia, PA. A few days before Towson, I offered a ticket to my friend Danielle. She was not familiar with them, but she thought it would be fun to go anyway.  That was just what this music pusher wanted to hear. The next morning, I made her a copy of “Intro to Old 97’s”, a playlist saved in my music library for emergency rock indoctrinations.

Before the show, Danielle and I met with Rhett, Ken, and some of their friends. Rhett was working on the setlist and debating whether he should cross “Let The Whiskey Take The Reins” off to make room for “Love Is What You Are.” Without the crippling adoration of a long-time fan, Danielle piped up without hesitation to say, “No! I know I just heard your music for the first time two days ago, but that is a really good song.” Yes, it is and thankfully, both songs remained on the list. As beautiful as Love Is What You Are is on the album, hearing it live was captivating and magical.

During the show, I could tell that Danielle took the time to listen to her Intro because she was singing along to some of the choruses and remembered details from the info sheet that I included with the CD. (“This is on Satellite Rides?” “Oh, this is the cat song, right?” ) The music made enough of an impression for her to want to get to know them more and the show sealed the fandom deal. The next day, Danielle posted some Old 97’s songs on her Facebook page to share them with everyone in her virtual world. A new fan was born on December 7th at The Recher Theatre. Danielle was as excited as I was to learn that the guys will return to the area in April with a show at the 9:30 Club.

Four nights after the Towson show, I drove to the ‘burbs of Philly to visit Angie, my high school partner-in-crime. After years of hearing me rave about the band, she finally agreed to see them with me. I mailed her the same Intro mix that I gave to Danielle. It’s almost cute how I thought that a mix CD could have prepared her for the epic event that was the TLA show. Front and center, we were both blown away by the singing, screaming voices of a sold out crowd echoing Rhett’s raspy vocals. After 8 straight gigs and several early morning shows, he was starting to lose his voice, and all of the guys had to have been exhausted by this point, but nothing can stop them from giving their all on the stage. In fact, we were treated to a bonus song in the encore when the Phillyphreaks, as Rhett affectionately named them on Twitter, demanded to hear Wish The Worst. They closed the night with The Rolling Stones’ Rocks Off from their Mimeograph EP, Dance With Me, and of course, Timebomb. It came as no surprise that Angie’s world was rocked by the Old 97’s.

Now that this week has passed, and I have to wait four months for my next Old 97’s fix, I’m happy to know that the community on the forum will tide us all over until that next show. There are some great discussions going on with fun details about everyone’s experiences at the shows. At The Recher Theatre last week, I met MsSemicolon who is not a new fan, but was attending her first Old 97’s show. She wrote a fantastic review on the forum which can be viewed here. Even though I was standing next to her throughout the show, it was very cool to relive the experience of witnessing the band live for the first time.

After a couple of holiday gigs, they’ll hit the road again in January, so get ready left coasters. We cannot wait to hear from all you as the tour rolls on…