Various Artists – Sunday Bloodshot Sunday – Hideout Block Party (Chicago, Il)
Under a purple evening sky, Bloodshot Records founders Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller took to the temporary stage that filled the street outside Chicago bar the Hideout. Capping a day-long celebration of their label’s tenth anniversary, the pair thanked a decade’s worth of supporters who have helped a onetime barroom lark grow into a viable small business, a recognizable brand, and the chief purveyor of left-of-center twang.
A few hours earlier, Miller had been more succinct. Standing stageside as the Pine Valley Cosmonauts set up their instruments, he looked over the crowd, grinned, and said to nobody in particular, “I can’t fucking believe this has worked for ten years.”
Fact is, Warshaw, Miller and company have made it work by keeping things simple: Bloodshot releases music they like, made by people they know.
Fitting, then, that as the grills sizzled, the beer flowed and the kids played on this third and final day of the Hideout’s annual end-of-summer bash, the Cosmonauts crew supplied the heart of “Sunday Bloodshot Sunday”. It’s probably no stretch to say that various Pine Valley associates are responsible for half the label’s hundred-plus releases.
As always, Jon Langford was in the lead, here joined by vocalists Sally Timms and Kelly Hogan, a small army of fellow guitarists that included Dean Schlabowske and Paul Burch, and no fewer than seven other Waco Brothers and assorted friends on bass, drums, keys, steel and more.
The band was a happy beast, lumbering but amiable. With Langford directing the mischief, calling out solos and trilling his R’s, they rollicked through “Here, Rattler, Here”, one of several numbers drawn from the ensemble’s recent album-length tribute to the 1920s-era WLS “Barn Dance” radio show. When Timms sang, they handled “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “Wild And Blue” with as much subtlety as a dozen scruffy ex-punks could be reasonably expected to muster. And late in the game, Hogan strode coolly to the mike, knocking a version of Bob Wills’ “Drunkard’s Blues” clean out of the park.
Earlier, Burch and Schlabowske played sets of their own. Schlabowske and his band Dollar Store delivered cranky, meat-and-potatoes rock, while Burch’s solo acoustic act focused on the blues, twang, and Beatles/Everlys-inflected material from his latest Bloodshot disc, Fool For Love.
A couple out-of-town ringers followed the Cosmonauts. Stereotypical sawdust-on-the-floor country crooner Wayne Hancock looked rumpled, dazed and decidedly unused to performing in fresh air and warm sunshine, but his set packed a surprise: Hancock summoned a drummer to join him for “Cow Cow Boogie” and “Route 66”. “See, I don’t hate drums,” the Texas traditionalist joked. “I’m gonna get a twelve-piece horn section next!”
Bobby Bare Jr. drew the day’s largest crowd, thanks to the mainstream radio play he’s garnered in Chicago — not a first but still a notable achievement for a Bloodshot act. Bare’s label bosses introduced him after saying their thank-yous, Hideout proprietor Tim Tuten waved a red Bloodshot banner, and the band reeled into the delightfully clattering, irresistibly tuneful twosome of “The Monk At The Disco” and “Valentine” (the radio single from his latest disc).
Backed by a pair of local horn players, Bare Jr. emphasized his moody, sultry side for much of the set. Lead guitarist Duane Denison showed unexpected deftness on “Flat-Chested Girl From Maynardville” and “End Of Your Leash”, though the Jesus Lizard alum had plenty of time to get dirty on “I’ll Be Around” and “Motherfucker”, too.
Bluegrass speedfreaks Split Lip Rayfield closed the show, concluding a Hideout weekend that also featured sets from the likes of Marah, Califone, Andrew Bird and the Blisters — whose members, including drummer Spencer (son of Jeff) Tweedy, aren’t even as old as Bloodshot.