Vintage Trouble Live in Carrboro, NC
Vintage Trouble travels light. They don’t need no semis totin’ light trees full of sparkling laser blinders, or fire-and-brimstone-spewing pyromaniac toys flanking the stage. There’s no jumbotron flashing images ten times lifesize on a giant screen behind them. Frontman Ty Taylor produces all the action and fireworks they can almost contain on a stage, and the image he projects is so much faster and larger than life that its hard to follow him with the naked eye, much less a camera.
The band doesn’t don’t need much of an introduction, as they file onstage to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” blasting over the P.A. during last week’s midweek show at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina. Taylor came out working the crowd like an evangelist engulfed by the spirit, energy coming off him in waves that crashed against the audience with soul-soaking power. He couldn’t stand still, flitting from the drum riser to the lip of the stage. Strutting, preening, and preaching. Taylor delivered a soulful message, screaming like gutshot panther.
He and bandmates Nalle Colt on guitar, bassist Rick Barrio Dill, and drummer Richard Danielson, look like scruffy bankers, well turned out in spiffy suits and pointy toed Italian shoes. But once the music starts, they turn into rock and roll degenerates, pounding out hard-driving, churchy soul.
They were working the new record, 1 Hopeful Road, hard that night. Colt was twanging away on “Angel City, California,” soul-drenched, hard rockin’ Bakersfield honky-tonk. “It means so much to see you folks mouthing the words to these songs we just did a few months ago,” Taylor said. The crowd seemed to know ’em all, singing and swaying along to “If You Loved Me,” gritty soul from the Otis school of anguished moaning.
Taylor introduced “Doing What You Were Doing” as being inspired by the drum circles on the beach of the band’s home base of Venice Beach, California. But this was more ’60s-era soul than tribal thudding, smoothed out by Colt’s sweet, soulful chords.
Taylor was darting restlessly about stage for the slow ones, but he couldn’t contain himself when the band kicked off “Run Like the River.” He was off in the thick of the crowd, spinning and screaming, finally leaping back on stage, finishing off the song with a flying knee drop James Brown would have envied.
Taylor was the center of attention, but the band was beside and behind him all the way. It’s one of the best road bands in the business — their power steering navigates twists and turns with ease. Bassist Dill and drummer Danielson are the suspension and Colt the fine tuned engine that keeps this vehicle turning over. Like Steve Cropper’s accompaniment for Otis Redding, Colt seems to always have the right licks at hand to wrap around Taylor, enhancing his vocals without overriding them, while Dill and Danileson hold up a platform that thuds and trembles mightily but is always rock solid beneath.
Taylor earns James Brown’s former title of “the hardest working man in show business” with his J.B.-inspired twirls, leaps, and splits. He put ’em all to work on “Strike Your Light,” once again leaping offstage to climb atop the highest railing he can reach in the club, then diving back into the middle of the crowd, organizing a group squat like ’60s-era fratboys used to do at house parties for the Isley Brothers ’59 hit “Shout.” He got them crouch down with him as he lowered the volume to a whisper, gradually bringing it up to a scream, the audience leaping and screaming lustily as Taylor crashed through the crowd like a linebacker, scrambling back onstage to finish off with a couple of flashy mic stand moves, also courtesy of J.B.
For the encore, Taylor offered up “Nobody Told Me,” Sam Cooke-style mellow soul with just enough of a burr in his voice to remind you that, although he may be delivering it smoothly, he’s still bleeding inside.
The closer, “Pelvis Pusher,” a ’70s-era Wilson Pickett soundalike that could have been a follow up to “Land of a Thousand Dances,” had Taylor commanding everybody within earshot to push their pelvis at him at regularly scheduled three-point countdown intervals. It’s impossible to follow that, so the band doesn’t even try, filing right off the front of the stage to the merch table to mingle with fans and move some product.
When it was finally my time to greet the band, I asked Taylor if he ever played football. “Yeah,” he says, “how did you know that?”
“Well,’ I said, “on your way back to the stage on ‘Strike your Light,’ you hit me with a body block out there on the floor tonight that knocked me back for about a ten-yard loss.”
“Oh yeah?” he said, really focusing on me now, wondering if I’m gonna attack him, threaten to sue, or praise him for his gridiron skills. I choose the latter.
“Nice hit,” I tell him, and see him visibly relax.
“Cool,” he says, then quickly hands me off down the line to the rest of the band, who are cracking up over the overheard exchange.
“Thanks for supporting live music,” Colt manages to gasp out between giggles. “We really appreciate you.”
Likewise, gents. Thanks for the memories, and a one-of-a-kind, black-and-blue souvenir I’ll never forget.