Drive-By Truckers with Blitzen Trapper –Terminal 5 (NYC – March 20, 2014)
A rock show on the eve of the first official day of Spring, March 20, 2014, seems like a special thing in and of itself. Terminal 5 brought us the indelible Drive-By Truckers along with another fine band, Portland, Oregon’s own, Blitzen Trapper. The anticipation was in the air of a nearly sold-out Terminal 5 in Manhattan’s Upper West Side to hear new songs from English Oceans, the stellar new record from the Athens, GA alt-country/downright bad-ass rock heroes, the Drive-By Truckers. They are no stranger to this venue having rung in the New Year of 2011 with a heaping helping of guests, two marathon sets of live, sometimes face-melting rock and roll, with a tinge of pedal steel guitar and a whole lot of Alabama attitude.
Eric Earley set the night off early with his band Blitzen Trapper’s special brand of cosmic Pacific Northwest alt-country funk rock. They opened the set with “Fletcher” from their 2011 American Goldwing album on Sub Pop Records, to whom they remain signed today. They segued into a funked up version of “Feel The Chill” from their latest effort VII, an album that made great use of Eric Menteer and his synth fills and phenomenal steel guitar work. The abbreviated set contained a perfect sampler for those not too familiar with the band as it showcased songs from nearly all their albums. The country ballad “Love The Way You Walk Away” was another set gem with some banjo and beautiful steel guitar in the form of a sideways love song. The band moved quickly into crowd favorite “Black River Killer” with its funky moog synth chorus and dark lyrical content painting a picture of murder, bondage, and mayhem. Overall the Blitzen Trapper boys definitely gained some new fans and pleased those there to see them as they don’t tend to get over this way as much as we’d like.
Drive-By Truckers dove into their set showcasing songs off their new record immediately with a “Primer Coat” opener, this writer’s favorite Mike Cooley penned offerings. Cooley beat a bad case of writer’s block with a vengeance on this record, although a constant contributor writing-wise, latter albums primarily featured Patterson written songs with a few Cooley gems interspersed. The first four songs of the set represented the new album with the third offering “Til’ He’s Dead or Rises” being the first Cooley sung, Patterson written song in the band’s history. The set did not cater only to English Oceans. The new DBT line up moved into Southern Rock Opera’s “Women Without Whiskey” right after a raucous version of “Lookout Mountain” off the band’s fourth and finest album, in my opinion, The Dirty South. The energy level rose to 11 in the crowd with some back and forth eardrum splitting solos by Mr. Hood and Mr. Cooley.
The band seemed tight for a newer line up of former Dexateen Matt Patton handling the bass, no John Neff on pedal steel, not so new Jay Gonzalez on the keys, as well as longtime drummer Brad Morgan to round out the rest of the Drive-By Truckers. A highlight “Shit Shots Count” minus the horn section on the album version led into set closer “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy”, a definite Patterson Hood crowd favorite that quickly started an audience assisted chorus throughout. A five song encore was started by a personal favorite “Three Dimes Down” from the Brighter Than Creations Dark record and was capped off by a perfect version of Cooley’s “Zip City” and ended with an emotional, “Grand Canyon”, which was written about long time merch man and band friend, Craig Lieske, who died sadly in 2013 of a heart attack. All in all a great rock show and a hell of a way to welcome in the Spring after a brutal Northeast winter, here’s to many more…
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+Words by Scott Zuppardo+