American Aquarium, Old 97’s and Turnpike Troubadours at Sumter Ampitheater, Papillion, NE
The Sumter Amphitheater in Papillion, Nebraska is a jewel of a venue. There are two hundred built-in seats and a large grassy hillside where you can lay down a blanket or bring a lawn chair. We had been to a terrific show here by the Decemberists last summer so we knew to get there right when it opened so we could get a seat. There really are no bad seats there; all provide a great view of the stage and you can clearly see the whole band playing. This is important to me. I don’t like being in a huge venue where the singer looks like a dot on the horizon.
Right on time, American Aquarium took the stage. I had never heard them before but I figured how can you go wrong with a band named after a line in a Wilco song? I was right. BJ Barham was great, as were his bandmates. He made real fans out of my wife and me. His song writing was obviously well thought out and we really enjoyed the cover of John Prine’s Spanish Pipedream. I appreciated the fact that he came out to the merchandise booth afterward and spoke to each person, posed for pictures with them, and signed records.
Next on stage was the act I had come to see. I’ve been a fan of Old 97’s for years but this was the first time I have been able to see them live. They were everything I hoped they’d be with Rhett Miller shaking his ass all over the stage and windmilling his arm on his guitar, Ken Bethea tearing it up on lead guitar, Murray Hammond playing bass, and Philip Peeples doing a stellar job on drums. I just wish they could have played another hour. They opened with Nashville and throughout the set they played Wasted, Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On, Intervention, and Longer Than You’ve Been Alive all from the Most Messed Up album. They also played classics such as Doreen, Timebomb, Question, Rollerskate Skinny, Stoned, W. Texas Teardrops, Buick City Complex and Big Brown Eyes. Murray even sang a surprise cover of Merle Haggard’s Mama Tried.
Throughout the evening the crowd had been filling in. I’d never seen so many young girls in short skirts and cowboy boots and young guys with unruly beards, trucker hats and work boots in one place and I surmised they were there to see the final act, Turnpike Troubadours, since they didn’t seem interested in the first two bands at all spending most of their time talking to each other and drinking a whole lot of Bud Light. Sure enough they all collected by the stage and whooped and hollered when the Troubadours came on. This was another band I knew next to nothing about. We quickly noted that they were good musicians, had a fiddle player, and the lead had a great voice. However, after 6 or 7 songs we began to wonder if they were just playing the same song over and over. It seemed like this Red Dirt band needed to get some variety in their act. The young crowd loved it and I couldn’t really fault the talent. However, we decided to leave early and make the 2 ½ hour trek back to the hinterlands.
All in all, we had a great time and we are ready for the next concert.