Yayhoos – Lynagh’s (Lexington, KY)
The show began not with a moment of silence but with a single loud thrashing guitar chord, followed by a blast of Dan Baird’s vocals (“I got a hankerin'”) and a wild rush of pure rock ‘n’ roll music that continued for nearly two hot and sweaty hours. It may not have been an officially sanctioned ceremony of public grieving, but the Yayhoos did more than any number of prayer nights and quiet tributes to counteract the events of the previous week.
And this came without an ounce of pretension or sanctimoniousness. Even though the band was in New York City on September 11 (and watched the towers crumble from the roof of guitarist Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s East Village residence), they didn’t talk about loss or war or hand out candles. Instead, they just played the sort of straight-ahead rock that makes their recent Bloodshot Records album, Fear Not The Obvious, both a throwback to better days in American music and one of the year’s most surprising and satisfying releases.
The Yayhoos are a sort of side-project turned alternative supergroup, featuring Ambel, former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird, well-traveled bassist Keith Christopher, and drummer/singer-songwriter Terry Anderson. Originally, they hooked up to record some demos of songs they had written, but what came out of that legendary recording session five years ago was the album that finally came out in August.
Onstage (and on record), the foursome share lead vocal duties and at times even trade off instruments. All the while, they seem to be having a blast, and their joy was clearly contagious in Kentucky. At a pre-show visit to a local radio station (WRVG), Ambel played a borrowed acoustic guitar, Christopher a borrowed bass, and Anderson beat on a bucket, while Baird orchestrated. It was thrown together in a matter of minutes but sounded great.
Later, at Lynagh’s, they played nearly every song on the album, bringing out the middle-aged angst/humor of songs like “What Are We Waiting For”, “Get Right With Jesus”, and “Baby I Love You”, a catchy “marriage” song written and sung by Ambel sporting the memorable chorus: “Baby I love you, just leave me the fuck alone.”
Baird was in excellent voice and clearly dominated the stage with his singing and between-song storytelling, but Ambel, Anderson and Christopher were not mere supporting players. “We’re a band,” Baird said in a pre-show interview. “We each get our moment to step up front.”
And they indeed did just that, each in turn knocking out a new rock ‘n’ roll moment to savor. The show was loud, raucous, honky-tonk fun that seemed to bridge the decades between rockabilly and roots-rock.
And, suddenly, people were smiling again, and all seemed nearly right in the world.