Jason & The Scorchers – Smith’s Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)
The cool Atlanta night air was brisk enough to keep an old-timer awake, and when the roasting blast of smoke and body heat that filled Smith’s Olde Bar first hit, it was an omen of things to come. A faded memory of a similar night in a small beer joint in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, almost two decades earlier was about to be revived with a vengeance.
The Scorchers roared out of the gate on the second date of their incredibly short 20th anniversary tour with a high-energy take on Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway”, followed immediately by “Greetings From Nashville”, and then right into Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” before a word was spoken.
Resplendent in his flashy red and white western shirt and topped with his signature cowboy hat, singer Jason Ringenberg wasted no time in claiming the night for himself and his pals. A little older and slower, but with the love of music still on their side, original members Warner Hodges (guitar) and Perry Baggs (drums) were joined by relative newcomer Kenny Ames on bass, and throughout the two hour show they rarely let up for a moment.
Twenty years is a long time for any band to survive, and tonight the Scorchers were clearly celebrating the high points of their career. Ripping through a virtual “greatest hits” set (despite never having a bona fide hit record), the band had the crowd screaming, dancing, and singing along in no time. Ringenberg was almost drowned out by the audience during “Shop It Around”, and the floor was shaking so hard throughout the entire rave-up of “Help, There’s A Fire” that it felt like the place would cave in. By this point, Jason had become a whirling dervish, and Warner was spinning his guitar with abandon, never missing a note.
Slowing things down for a few moments, Ringenberg invited Baggs to step up to the mike and sing. Baggs was responsible for writing some of the Scorchers’ twangier tunes, and the crowd was impressed with a couple of his songs rendered with acoustic guitars.
Performing “Uncertain Girl” live for the first time, Jason laughed about how the band had just relearned it that day, and that Ames had never even heard it before then. Another surprise was the performance of “Too Much Too Young”, a previously unreleased Scorchers tune that’s now available on Yep Roc Records’ new Wildfires & Misfires, a 19-track compilation of live and obscure songs dug out of the archives in celebration of the 20th anniversary.
As the evening wound down, the Scorchers turned up the heat and the volume, blasting through “Broken Whiskey Glass” and “White Lies”. The coda was an all-out assault on the late John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, and then it was over. It was as if time had been reversed and the twenty years simply disappeared — at least for a little while.