Thursday, June 07, 2012

Rockin' the Suburbs

In the last months of Waylon Jennings' life, the legendary outlaw recorded a cover of the Old 97's 'The Other Shoe', a country-tinged tale of a spurned lover's revenge. The 97's stood in as his backing band, and when Jennings struggled with the phrase 'an elixir' in the song's second verse, frontman Rhett Miller was called upon to help. "Think of two beautiful women naked together," a nervous Miller told Jennings. "And remember 'Annie Licks Her'".

Miller told that story Monday night at Jammin' Java in very suburban Vienna, VA on the first date of a tour in support of 'The Dreamer', his third solo record. He was moments from delivering the punch line when he blushed, realizing that he'd misjudged the crowd just slightly. "Oh, God. I just realized there are kids in the audience," he laughed, before finishing the story and delivering an acoustic version of the song. It was the only misstep of a rollicking evening.

I went to the show with my wife not really knowing what to expect. Jammin' Java's a neat little venue, but the emphasis there is on little, and suburban DC on a Monday night ain't exactly Jazz Fest. I should've known that my favorite musician wouldn't disappoint. Miller and his band, The Serial Lady Killers, were using the small club as essentially a dress rehearsal for their national tour. "We've got a lotta songs tonight, so we're just gonna get right to it," Miller said by way of introduction.



25 tunes and over two hours later, Miller and the band ripped through a lively version of 'Our Love' to close the show with as much energy as they opened it, and the Moms and Dads in the audience did their damnedest to forget they didn't have to go to work the next morning. Maybe it was the proximity to the stage. Or perhaps the novelty of seeing one of my favorites in such a local joint. Could've been the Dale's Pale Ales that went down like water, too, I guess. Whatever the reasons, this show went immediately into my top 3 of all time.

The band mixed several songs from Miller's new record with a healthy dose of his earlier solo work and a heaping helping of Old 97's cuts, including standouts like 'King of All of the World', 'Murder (or a Heart Attack', 'Nineteen', 'Four Leaf Clover', and 'Barrier Reef'. At the midpoint of the set, the band took a break while Miller played a handful of acoustic tunes by himself, including the aforementioned 'The Other Shoe'. His down-tempo acoustic version of the band's riff-heavy 'Timebomb' reimagined the song in a way I hadn't ever considered.

As Miller stopped to introduce the band at one point, he exclaimed, "I'm a really lucky man. I've got two great bands." The Serial Lady Killers certainly lived up to the billing, with guitarist Tommy Borscheid, bassist Greg Besher, and drummer Angela Webster, sounding anything like a band running through several songs for the first time.

In addition to the Old97's discography, Miller's early solo work was well represented, with 'I Need to Know Where I Stand', 'The El', 'Singular Girl', an electrified version of 'Question' - interesting counterpoint to the acoustic 'Timebomb', 'My Valentine', and 'Four Eyed Girl' standing out.



I don't recall much about the new tunes, except to say that they sounded tight. 'Picture This' was a noteworthy exception. It might be the most optimistic - even happy - love song Miller's ever written. That's not saying much, given his catalogue of wrenching heartbreak and self-loathing, but it's a beautiful little tune, made moreso by the presence of Heather Robb of opening act The Spring Standards, who performed the song with Miller.

Tuesday morning coming down didn't feel all that great, but the ringing in my ears and cobwebs in my head were more than worth it. Live music, man. It's good for what ails you.

20 comments:

rob said...

oklahoma city's performance last night was spectacular. and that crowd was bananas. what a fun watch.

Whitney said...

Excellent work, wish I could have been there. I saw a band called Jim's Big Ego at Jammin' Java, and it's a pretty cool place, especially for Vienna. Just to be that guy, technically the new album is Miller's 4th studio release and fifth overall, including last year's Live at Largo. Speaking of which, did he play his cover of "California Stars"?

rob said...

yeah, i don't count the first record.

he didn't play any covers at all, to the best of my recollection.

Mr KQ said...

so pissed i missed that show.

signed, Lame in the Suburbs.

Shlara said...

Love Rhett, sad I was in NYC and missed the show.

And, really excited about OKC. Did you know that TNT ran the game again at 3am? Been struggling with some insomnia, so I watched it twice last night.

Dave said...

trying to work up the mojo to see my friend's band tomorrow night-- but it means i'll have to fight shore traffic to get down to the beach. perhaps this post will inspire me to go.

Jerry said...

Heeey just hoppa in da IROC. But bringa the extra hair gel cause itsa windy. We gottsa the fuel injectors! Boom.

Danimal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danimal said...

toured "the donald's" track in scotland the other day. it is worthy of any and all hyperbole he attaches to it, for once.

Igor said...

Rhett Miller is fantastic, and for what it's worth, the way he consistently induces stormy weather drawers in the Girls of Gheorghe is an underrated sidelight.

Jerry said...

That's good writing.

rob said...

igor!

TR said...

He makes women poop their pants?

carosmith said...

Rhett Miller didn't write "Picture This"....it was written by James Smith of the Spring Standards...their opening band.

rob said...

that explains a lot. thanks for the detail.

Danimal said...

for you jokers that are trying to make your life just a little bit better....the perfect cocktail glass.

it's perfection. trust me.

http://tinyurl.com/bws79tq

Dave said...

though my friend's band should be doing loverboy covers in a boardwalk club, he's actually playing funk at a bbq place. that's right, a bbq place in jersey. and the bbq is actually pretty decent (to my unrefined palate-- i lika da spaghetti and meatball parmiagiana from nino's pizzeria).

zman said...

Is it Dave's ultimate BBQ?

Dennis said...

The last time I was at Jammin Java was my 3 year old's birthday party in January to see "The Great Zucchini"...also an epic performance not to be missed. His dirty diaper bit slayed.

rob said...

so lebron, huh?