Hymn For Her – Winning Over Oregon One Show at a Time
Their new album is titled Drive Til U Die and it pretty much covers the existence of the band. They hit the road before their first album, The Year of the Golden Pig, and have been driving ever since, first in a van and later in a van hauling a classic Airstream trailer— a sixteen-footer. Sixteen feet may sound like a lot but when I walked past it on my way to the Calapooia Brewing Company on September 22nd, I wondered how Wayne Waxing, ‘Hymn,’ could fit let alone with Lucy and daughter Diver. When I asked, Wayne rolled his eyes and said ‘barely,’ at which point we both laughed. The chuckle was easy for me but I wasn’t the one who couldn’t extend his toes in bed. Amazingly, they recorded parts of the new album in that trailer. Hell, they recorded all of their second album in it. That would be Lucy & Wayne and the Amairican Stream, the second in a stream of four, to-date. Did it sound like it? I would like to say yes, but that they could only play quarter-notes, the trailer was so small (ba-da-dump!) but it was a damn fine album. Damn fine. Sounded like it had been recorded at a bona-fide studio, it did, and that’s how all of their albums sound. Damn fine stuff. Damn fine.
This wasn’t my first go-round seeing them. I first saw them on their first tour when they played a dive tavern somewhere in the bowels of Eugene back in… I want to say 2010. Funky place. Doesn’t matter with them. They could play anywhere. They turned a few heads. Of course, there were only a few to turn. They came back through again in, I think, 2012 and played a small tavern in Salem. No one showed except a couple of dudes and three girls who went ga-ga over them and, if I heard Lucy right, which rhymes with tight and that stands for… ahem! Sorry. Lost it for a sec. Anyway, Lucy mentioned that they somehow found the band connections to play a music fest over around Willamina. Which is where I saw them on Sunday, Sept. 25th. At the Wildwood Hotel. That’s right. Thursday at the Calapooia Brewing Company in Albany. The next Sunday at the Wildwood. Were they good? Whoo-wee! Lucy’s not the only thing tight in that band.
There should be a law against two people making that much music. Seriously. Two amps— one about the size of a Fender Super Reverb for the cigar-box guitar and banjo, one the size of a large box of Tide for the other guitar. And a PA system, of course. Also suffering from life on the road. Beaten up a bit, dents now part of its persona. But when they plug in, it doesn’t matter. The bass strings sound like they’re coming from a stack of Marshalls and the acoustic guitars sound damn electric when they want them to. Add Wayne’s pounding bass drum (and Wayne does pound it) and his foot pedal-activated cymbal and you have full band with two voices and a repertoire of originals which leads me to believe that they just might drive till they die.
Funny how it is, but you can sell out a theater at $20 a pop with a tribute band playing second-rate covers of what a ‘made’ band recorded forty years ago but those people won’t pay a dollar to see an outstanding band which has a plethora of killer originals. The crowd was thin in Albany but better in Willamina and every man jack of the people who attended were fans— if not when they came, when they left. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to watch the band among ‘friends.’ I finally did. And it was cool.
Cool because that duo, the crazy lunkheads, came out with both barrels blasting both shows and I knew it because I saw a lot of smiles and some outright laughing and heads bobbing all over the place. And, wonder of wonders, people occasionally singing along with the band! I mean, they knew the songs, fer chrissake! They didn’t always get the lyrics right but they mostly did and they loved the music. For instance, second song in at the Calapooia was “Drive,” a cranker, and there is this part in it (or maybe it’s two songs which flow together) during which Lucy mimics the legendary Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” and a couple of people tried to join in. Listen to this. It will give you an idea of what is a fool’s errand.
Now, that video is a tame version— much tamer than what they presented live. In the first place, they probably wanted the acoustic guitar to actually sound acoustic. Not so, live. Right after the “I’ve Been Everywhere” knockoff, they stopped. Or so everyone thought. When out of the blue they crank into the song at full volume, planting everyone against their seats. Probably ten on the Marshall scale. Hair blowing back like the Maxell Man. More than one person jumped. Both nights.
They did a cover of Morphine’s “Thursday,” a request from someone who knew the band’s music. Again, this version lacks the power they generate live. It was nothing short of awesome.
They played nine shows in Oregon, or will have when they wrap up their Eugene gig on the 30th. Four were at McMenamin’s venues (McMenamin’s is a brewery which has concentrated on refurbishing old buildings to house movie theaters and rooms in which musicians can share their music. Hopefully, this tour will have them coming back through for even more shows next time around.
Another thing. When bands play, it helps when they give you your moneys worth. Two hours at both pubs. Two solid hours. And they worked their asses off on every song. And the crowd loved it.
Funny thing. At the Wildwood in Willamina, they had one bartender. One. And they kept her hopping. She didn’t mind, I don’t think. She slung drinks like a pro and kept up with food orders too and danced to the music every once in awhile. I left her a tip. Body Shop in the third at Pimlico. No, seriously, I left her money. I haven’t seen anyone sling drinks that good since the 318 Tavern in Seattle. She never wrote anything down and, to my knowledge, never made a mistake. It was a joy to watch.
So here’s a tip for you. You want to see a band really worth seeing, go see Hymn For Her when they play your area. And not just if they play the tavern around the corner. Anyplace within driving distance. They’re that good. They’ll be close sometime soon, I am sure. After all, they have promised to drive til they die. Or did they want U to do it? No matter. Just go see them.