Old 97s are a band that I got into in my late 20s thanks to a colleague of mine. He was almost as obsessed with music as I was and turned me on to some fabulous bands during the time we worked together. Old 97s were one of those bands and my love for that band ignited when he loaned me a copy of Fight Songs. After hearing “Jagged” just once, I was hooked. By the end of that album I had a found a new band to fall in love with. I immediately got my own copy of Fight Songs and from there I branched out to their other releases. Satellite Rides was next and then I purchased their double live album Alive & Wired. That put this band over the top for me! Their live concert sounded amazing! From that moment, I knew they were a band that I wanted to see in concert.
The opportunity finally arrived in March of 2013. Old 97s were opening for the Drive By Truckers at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey. Having seen several shows there in the past, it was a familiar venue for me. Admittedly, I had no idea who Drive By Truckers were when I purchased tickets for this show. This was my opportunity to see Old 97s live, so I decided to take a chance that the headliners would be decent. I talked Mrs. Vie into attending the show with me and the evening was set.
The Old 97s were still supporting their Grand Theatre records (Volume One and Two) as the spring of 2013 approached. Unfortunately for me, I did not have either of those records, so I wasn’t familiar with the songs they contained. 2013 was an odd year for my music collecting capabilities. Record stores were phasing out completely. Big boxed stores were carrying less and less music, and I had yet to embrace the digital format. It was harder and harder for me to know when new albums came out, or how to get a copy of those albums. Between 2013 – 2016, a lot of albums were released that escaped my notice, or I wasn’t able to add to my collection.
I was also doing a lot of review writing for Hard Rock Hideout at that time, so my desire and availability for new music was limited to what I would get for reviews. Ironically, managing my music collection was becoming a chore that was more hassle than it was worth. Hence, I did not know that Old 97s had two new releases. I went to that show expecting to hear the Alive & Wired hits. What I got instead was a mix between classics and songs that I did not know. Which was okay, because shortly after the concert, I went out and got copies of The Grand Theatre Volume One and Two, and my love for Old 97s was reignited!
Their opening set was short and sweet (10 – 12 songs if memory serves correctly), but it was fantastic! The fact that it is still the same original four members making music together almost 20 years later was impressive. Very few bands stay together with the same exact lineup for every album, so to see the Old 97s do it was a testament to their longevity and dedication.
I knew they were the openers, so we didn’t expect them to play too long of a set. I think we got about 50 minutes from them, which was great. Of course, I wanted to hear more, they were the band that I had come to see, but I understood why that wasn’t going to happen. All in all, I was glad that I got to see what I did from them and I told myself that I would need to see them live as headliners at least once in my lifetime.
Prior to the show, I tried to give myself a crash course lesson on the Drive By Truckers. I purchased their greatest hits record and listened to a couple of live concerts on the internet. They seemed like a solid band and I was hopeful that I would enjoy their show. They weren’t a band that I fell in love with right away, but they had a lot of solid songs, enough to hold my interest, that I figured I would enjoy their set and perhaps walk away from that show wanting to see more.
Sadly, my crash course did nothing to prepare me for most of the Drive By Truckers set. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t good in concert, or that I did not like them. I liked their performance a lot and could tell that they were a finely tuned, talented group of musicians. The problem was that I did not know enough of their songs to really lose myself in the performance like I do with most bands that I see live.
One of the songs I did fall in love with on first listen was “Zip City.” This is a fantastic song about love, lust, angst, and anger, with vocals by the uber-talented Mike Cooley. It was the one song that I wanted to hear that night and fortunately for me, The Drive By Truckers obliged. They performed it as the first song of the encore and it got the biggest roar of the night from me. I sang every word at the top of my lungs with glee. I was ecstatic.
Memories of this evening are dominated by seeing Old 97s live for the first time, but I also have fond memories of my first time witnessing Drive By Truckers in concert. I was impressed by their performance and left with a desire to see them in concert again. After the show, I spent more time listening to their music and while they aren’t at the top of my “go-to” list when I am wondering what to listen to, I do pay a lot more attention to their music and have added a few more of their records to my collection. Sadly, I have not seen either of these bands live since this night. I need to change that in the near future.
Drive By Truckers Setlist
The Southern Thing
The Fourth Night of My Drinking
Why Henry Drinks
Women Without Whiskey
Drag the Lake Charlie
Self Destructive Zones
A Ghost to Most
3 Dimes Down
Used to Be a Cop
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
Let There Be Rock
Shut Up and Get on the Plane
Angels and Fuselage