Old 97’s

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When I first announced this quest for the next year, friends from far and wide offered suggestions and offers to attend a show with me. It is so great to share the gift of music and a lot of these suggestions are bands that I may not necessarily see or are the favorites of the suggestee. Thursday was the both and off I went to join my friend Happi to see the Old 97’s at Union Transfer. The show was actually a birthday present from her and Christa, sadly for us Christa (not for her, she is in Italy) was away and could not join us.

We got to the show during the second opening act and somehow got talking and I almost forgot my own rule- go listen to the opening band. So, we are chatting away and I was like ”hey guys,’ do you hear that? We should head in.” Wow, was I glad we did. The Banditos were amazing. “Originally from Birmingham, AL, Banditos is a group – more like a gang, actually – of six 20-somethings, nowadays operating out of Nashville.” Fronted by a woman with five burly hipster guys rocking out (one with a boisterous banjo) behind her, she was a cross between Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes and Janis Joplin. They ended with a version of “I put a spell on you” and they sure did. I cannot wait to see what they will do in the years to come.

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You can actually see her face here, usually she was a swirl of hair.

Now, I was even more psyched for the main act. The Old 97’s, as my friend Karen perfectly put it when I asked if she wanted to join us “I have a feeling the show would be one of those how-am-I-not-listening-to-this-band-all-the-time-already.” Over the summer, before I even knew I was going to see them, I got enthralled by their song “Longer than you have been alive.” To me it was an instant classic, the likes of “Turn the Page,” by Bob Seger about being on the road touring. Except not depressing.

The crowd was age appropriate, i.e. old and my age, and they were all really psyched to see these guys. I love the anticipation of the crowd before a show starts. The band came on stage during a Gipsy Kings version of Hotel California, which was a rumba/ salsa version of the tune.   Usually when a band starts coming on stage, the background music stops. Not this time, the Old 97’s came out dancing to the song for about 30 seconds. That was a very good start and I knew I was in for a treat.

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Rhett Miller definitely had a Jackson Browne vibe to him. He could have been 25 or 72 years old. I am sure there is a Dorian Gray photo somewhere in his attic.

The band came out and did not stop. I mean, did not stop. They are like the greatest bar band you would ever want to see. High energy, fun, thankful you are there and just ready to rock and roll. Audience members would yell stuff out to them and they would answer. And not in a snarky way, but more like in a “thanks for coming out, let’s chat in between songs” kind of way. I would describe them as speed alt country. I know alternative music, I know country and now I know speed alt country. They do a lot of high-energy songs, and on the surface kind of frat boy stuff, i.e. “let’s get drunk and get it on.” However, I think there is so much more to their songs, it almost seems like they are making fun of the good ole boys. I could not get Happi or Susan to agree with me on that, but, hey this is my blog so I am putting it in and now it is true. Rhett Miller also kept doing this swirly arm thing, which he made look effortless. So much so that I tried it later, not on stage, not singing, not playing an instrument and I twisted my arm immediately. For the encore, Rhett came out and played a solo and acoustic version of a song, which was hauntingly beautiful and could not have been more different than the set of rollicking music. Murry, the bassist and a crowd favorite, then also came out for a solo. There was this really sweet moment when Rhett handed Murry his guitar and stepped into the background to provide some background vocals. It was just such an intimate moment. After all of the rocking and rolling, the encores are what I most enjoyed. “Rock and roll’s been good to them (and me) so far,” for sure.

23 shows to go, 223 days left…

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One thought on “Old 97’s

  1. One of my all-time favorite bands to see live. Was sorry that their tour schedule did not coincide with mine and so glad you got to enjoy it! I’m with you at their next appearance!

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