The Old 97s came to Lubbock Texas for (according to my records) only the 2nd time in their 18 year tenure as a band. Even more surprisingly, they came to the typically "Texas Country" venue, The Blue Light. Of course, they could not return to the venue they played the first time, Liquid 2000, as it closed long ago, and the building has since been torn down and made into the new Buddy & Maria Elena Holly Park.
The Blue Light is a venue that, to a large degree, has a built-in crowd, although not necessarily built-in appreciation of good music. That is, it doesn't matter what dog and pony show is playing on any given night, because everyone and their dog seems to show up and pony up the cover charge [you're welcome]. Thus, throughout the night, I watched as countless nightclub-goers came to the entrance with small-town-big-city hair and heels, or alternatively, pressed western shirts and belt buckles, only to be turned away because the show was sold out.
Speaking of the sell-out, the Blue Light is easily the smallest venue in which I have ever had the chance to see the Old 97s, so I won't complain. In fact, the sound was well done and the show went off without a hitch as far as I could tell. What was interesting was watching the crowd dynamic and trying to figure out in what capacity many of the attendees actually knew of the Old 97s. Were they huge fans of The Break-Up? Perhaps they got engaged using the song "Question" as a soundtrack? Maybe they thought Old 97s were a hack Johnny Cash cover band? The young demographic suggested that maybe some were Tech students originally from Dallas whose parents listened to the Old 97s when they were growing up.
It is hard to say where everyone came from, but the crowd produced an interesting evening of music for sure. Opener Brandon Adams & the Sad Bastards got an excellent response, and in spite of the odd choice of covering a Whiskeytown song when opening for Old 97s, it seemed many of the attendees were actually fans of Adams as much or more than the 97s. Sarah Jaffe was the second opener, and received a good response, although the noisy Blue Light was not exactly the ideal forum for her music.
Old 97s took the stage to an energetic crowd, quickly breaking into a couple of numbers off of their most recent record, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1. [Stream The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2 at KXT.org] What was unclear throughout the night was how many of the fans actually knew any of the music. Not that concertgoers are required to know the words to all the songs, but early on it was evident that the crowd was most responsive to the fast paced rockers. In that respect, long time fan favorites such as "Stoned" and "Wish the Worst" were met with little enthusiasm, whereas a Dallas or Austin show would have found a packed room vigorously bellowing "Picked up the phone book and called all your friends/I just wanna know where you've been.'"
In short, the band recognized that this was a "college town" crowd, and they went with it. Clearly they have learned to just go with the flow after 18+ years in the business. That is, they acted like they couldn't be happier to be there, talked about drinking, talked about West Texas, and overall kept the crowd interested. Less seasoned bands might have pouted at the crowd's lack of overall knowledge of their catalog, but the 97s showed no such lower lip. The band has tended in the past to pull at least a song from each of their albums, although I believe on this night they neglected the material from Satellite Rides on the setlist.
Rockers "Won't Be Home" and "Timebomb" drew the crowd into the scene most resembling a singalong that was to be found all night, the former of which I found odd because it is on one of the lesser-listened-to albums, although I suppose it is still among their best songs in its own right. Surprisingly, the show did not see Rhett or Murry play "Question" or "Valentine" acoustically, yet the band did a customary encore and promised to return to Lubbock in the future. You can bet I'll be there with all my bros when that day comes.
The Grand Theatre
A State of Texas
W. TX Teardrops
Please Hold On While the Train is Moving
Crash on the Barrelhead
Big Brown Eyes
(new) Bright Spark (See What I Mean)
Wish the Worst
Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)
Won't Be Home
Four Leaf Clover
Dance With Me
Seriously, check out the stream of The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2 at KXT. The record will be out July 5th on MP3 and CD, supposedly to be followed by a double vinyl with both Grand Theatre releases at some point.