Report from my 4-day "tour" with Drag the River:
* - Note to ALL / Armchair Martian fans: Drag the River is an alt-country / insurgent country / whatever they're calling that genre now, so if you're thinking about checking them out live or on CD, you'll be disappointed if you're expecting something like ALL or Armchair Martian (or the Nobodys, Hot Rod Circuit, or Pinhead Circus for that matter). Think more along the lines of Uncle Tupelo, Old 97s, Lucero, and old country (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones) songs about drinking. Live @ the Starlight is an excellent first pick-up if you want to hear what they're all about.
Day 1 of our planned 4-day DTR gorging was in San Jose at the Blank Club. That joint was the darkest bar I've ever been in. Seriously, I could barely see walking around there. Like some vampire club with red lights.
Opener 1: The Mojo Apostles (Oakland, CA). Doesn't mention him as an influence on their bio page, but the Apostles seemed like disciples of Mojo Nixon to me with maybe a little goofier Supersuckers and some Southern Culture on the Skids thrown in. I guess their highlight was the song about losing another good man to Christianity and his wife says they're sinners, and for once that bitch is right. They were also the biggest draw of the night, as it was supposed to be their CD release party and they were shooting a video.
Next up, also from the East Bay, was Dynamite 8. Um, the less I say about this band the better probably. I will say that the description "Some of the band's influences are Descendents/ALL, Wretch Like Me, Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Bronx, Hot Water Music, and Jawbreaker. JoAnn's powerful voice rarely gets reference to other female vocalists, but some of her trademark inflections coincidentally bear resemblance to James Hetfield of Metallica and Glenn Danzig of the Misfits" from their online bio is total BS. I could have done without having to sit through them.
And, finally, around midnight, Drag the River! I've seen them 3 or 4 times and I think this might have been my favorite show yet (until 2 days later). They played for a long time; I don't think we got out of there until around 1:30 A.M. They played just about every (newer) song we wanted to hear. I couldn't even think of any I wanted to request (I thought of "Caleb's Grave" and "Away With Women" later, which I didn't end up requesting at any of the shows).
My wife wanted to hear them do "Hybrid Moments," and they didn't, but that was about it. She did get her favorite, "So Long Hoss" though. And I got to hear some of the newer ones I wanted to: "Lost Angel Saloon" and "Amazing Grace & Chuck Fasano," plus one of my all-time favorite DTR songs, "Me and Joe."
They also played "Portland" and from a comment Chad made, I think they probably played most, if not all, of the new record too, and a really cool version of "Beautiful and Damned." Some older songs included "Medicine," "Mars Motors," "Embrace the Sound," "Columbus Stockade," "Tomorrow Morning," "Deminer," "Kelly Country," and probably bunch more I can't remember right now.
So last night marked our 4th straight night in a row of Drag the River.
That was a blast every night. I don't know how often I'd drive all over NorCal to see the same band 4 nights in a row, but I'm sure glad we did. Each show was a unique experience and a great time. I was so beat last night though. I don't know how bands do it, driving all over hell and playing every night. And I wasn't even drinking and partying all night after every show.
I'd say the Santa Cruz show was our favorite overall. We showed up just in time for I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House. We had shown up for the last half of their set at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco and we liked them OK that night, but we really enjoyed them at The Attic in Santa Cruz. They're a gruffer, more "cowpunk" kind of band than DTR, but pretty rockin'.
The San Jose show/set was probably our favorite DTR set, but we had the most fun overall in Santa Cruz. The Attic was a really nice venue (kind of a granola joint, but nice).
Bottom of the Hill probably had the most people, and that SF show was fun too. I'm going to skip over Jackass. They didn't do much for me but ruin a Hank Williams and a CCR song. The crowd really fed those guys the alcohol that night. I don't know how those guys do all those Jagerbombs and shots and still manage to sound so good. Of course, by the time they were really trashed it started to show, but it was still awesome. People didn't want to let Chad off the stage, but he had to laugh and say he was too drunk to keep playing. He did give us all a bonus solo acoustic performance of "Modern Drunkard," which was appropriate and awesome.
I think I had some nostalgic recollections going about Old Ironsides in Sacramento. It is a fine dive bar, but seeing a band there is claustrophobic to say the least (low ceilings freak me out I guess...). And the band didn't even all fit on the stage.
With Sacramento local stalwarts Groovie Ghoulies (AKA the Haints) looking on, that night seemed a lot mellower set overall and they might have seemed a little on the tired side (I know we kinda were from all the driving, and we weren't even drinking and playing every night!). We did get some requests in that night ("Lost Angel Saloon" and "Down This Road"). The new guys (Spacey Casey in particular) did a pretty rad job of playing that song they'd never played on the fly.
Since we saw all those shows, we didn't have too many requests 'cuz we heard pretty much every song we wanted to hear. I guess they're not playing "Hybrid Moments" anymore, though. Some people asked for that and got denied.
All in all, awesome 4 days of shows...definitely check them out if they play in your area!