Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Texas Bound: Lucero, Sleepercar, and Glossary

at: Club Dada
at: Emo's

I recently became obsessed with Glossary. I mean really obsessed. The last two albums have been in almost constant rotation in my car and home stereo. I bought a bunch of copies at their last Milwaukee show and The Better Angels of our Nature has been my standard birthday gift to friends for the last 6 months. I really tried to evangelize the band using the free copy of the album available on their web site, but it seems my friends are too lazy to even get free music these days. (what is it with music fans? - Save that thought for another blog.)

I had heard of Lucero. One of my great friends, Kyle, had lent me That Much Further West which bounced around my place for almost a year before he asked for it back. I listened a few times, but was never really drawn to it. He also favors Drag the River, Bobby Bare Jr, and the Jayhawks, none of which hold my attention, so I grouped Lucero in with those acts and never gave them another thought.

My travels allowed me to be in Dallas for the show at Club Dada and Austin for the show at Emo's. I have since learned that Club Dada, right off the main drag in a section of Dallas called Deep Ellum, was once a primary player in the Dallas punk scene and has a lot of history. While it is very small, I would guess this punk history makes it a sentimental choice for Lucero.

I entered the club with music playing and was scared that I had missed the start of Glossary's set, but did not recognize the tunes. Started to think perhaps Sleepercar was on first. Turned out to be a local start up band called Somebody's Darlin'. Typically when I see a lead singer on stage with an acoustic guitar I expect to be bored, but these guys really converted me. The female lead singer must get sick of comparisons to Janis Joplin, but the wild hair, aggressive stage presence and uber powerful pipes make it a deserved comparison. The songs on their myspace page fail to excite, but I understand that their first proper CD is coming later in the year along with a possible tour up HWY 35 (ala This is American Music 07).

Glossary was up next and their set was littered with songs from both Better Angels and For What I Don't Become as well as some songs that I am not familiar with. I have 2003's How We Handle Our Midnights, but it never stuck with me.

The set was great. About 1/3 of the people near the stage seemed to know the words to their songs, especially the ones from Better Angels. Two highlights for me were Almsgiver and Shout it from the Rooftops. Both where performed with extreme gusto and the crowd reacted accordingly.

Sleepercar was next and this was my first time seeing or hearing them. They struck me as somewhat similar to some of Will Johnson's (Centro-matic) stylings but with a more overt twang element. Hate to be the cover guy, but for me the highlight was their rousing cover of FBB's Older Guys.

As Lucero was loading in I got my first glimpse of what was to come. As each member loaded their gear on to the small stage the crowd erupted in cheers. You would have thought Bono or Springsteen had walked in the place. The crowd continued to grow and the people from the outside patio started to filter in just to secure spots standing near the small stage for the show.

This was a Monday night. This place was packed like a Milwaukee bar would be packed on a Friday or Saturday. The cameras were flashing out of control. Taking pictures of the guys plugging in their guitars and tuning... the show had not even started.

I wound up sitting right at the corner of the bar about 10' from the stage next to the Somebody's Darlin gang and asked if this was a normal sized crowd and Azure explained to me that this is far from typical for the club, but to be expected for Lucero.

When the band started it seemed every person in the crowd hoisted beer or fist in the air. They anticipated the first words and sang aloud with the band. So loud in fact that should the singer trip up a line the crowd would overpower him with the correct one. I figure, OK, so this must be their big song, of course everyone knows it.... song after song after song. Same thing.

Now I have never been to a Bon Jovi concert, but this is what I imagine the front 10 rows would be like. Everyone knows every word and shouts them at the top of their lungs.

Besides the completely kick ass crowd, the band was also incredible. Drums and voice stuck out for me the most. Both so sure and authoritative while remaining organic and earthy. Springsteen, booze-soaked, heart felt, anthem, epic... the classic list of exhaltations all apply in spades. I felt like I had stumbled into the Stone Pony in 1970-71 and caught one of the first shows by Springsteen... when only people in NJ knew who he was and would never miss a chance to see him play.

Songs like What Else Would You Have Me Be borrow heavily from Springsteen in terms of chord structure (see Born to Run's I VI V verse) and over all format, but the song pulls in the Wall of Sound Phil Spector rhythm section sound. Lyrically it should resonate to any one who has had a partner that wanted them to change or grow up. How can anyone resist screaming along to:

"You used to love me
A drunkard running wild out in the streets
C'mon baby, what else would you have me be?"

Another favorite of mine is I Can Get Us Out Of Here which details the plea to "dump the one you are with and run away with me."

"Long legs use 'em and run
Blue eyes that blind like the sun
I might not be the one
But that's alright
I can get us outta here tonight"

If you are not familiar with Glossary, they are not quite the anti Lucero, but they certainly stand in stark contrast. While both have extremely talented drummers and singers with somewhat tough voices, the song writing and guitar interplay is very different. In Glossary it is more often than not that the two guitars are playing parts that intertwine with one another both rhythmically and melodically. The rhythm section is typically providing a somewhat sparse but powerful back bone for the guitars. In Lucero the rhythm guitar works very closely with the rhythm section to create a big band sound that then the other guitar will play a counter melody, or hook, or lick that adds texture to the backing track.

The Show at Emo's was excellent too. Unfortunately we lost Somebody's Darlin, but that was more than made up for with the incredible performances by the other three bands. Glossary had more time, seemed less rushed, had a larger stage to spread out. Prior to starting Almsgiver Joey pointed out that it was his and Kelly's wedding anniversary. Sleepercar was also much more exciting for me this time. Might be due to the fact that I recognized some songs from the Monday show. Lucero was just as powerful as they were in Dallas. The Emo's crowd seemed a bit more beer-centric than lucero-centric, but none the less everyone was into it. When the first song started at least 10 beers were sprayed in all directions and within the first 3 songs we had a young chap body surfing over the crowd up to the stage for a half hearted stage dive.

Well, I am now the proud owner of both Nobody's Darling (the Lucero album) and Rebels Rogues and Sworn Brothers. If I had to pick one, in an attempt to get someone into the band, I think I would have to pick Rebels... in fact, I just ordered 5 additional copies, so I you are someone who gets birthday presents from me, you can pretty much bank on a brand new Lucero CD.

Happy Birthday!