Saturday, August 13, 2016 I was at the Troubadour to see Rhett Miller, lead singer of the band Old 97’s, perform a solo show. Trapper Schoepp was handpicked by Rhett to open the show. Trapper, a self-acknowledged Rhett wannabee, noted half-jokingly, half in vexation at the start of his set that night, “I can’t do all the stage moves I stole from him!” However, he had the talent to successfully assume the position of Rhett-lite, as well as demonstrate his own charm and talent for laying down some catchy, story songs and clever lyric phrases spun over straightforward chord changes. Trapper brought along fiddle player, Gina Romantini, who looked like she borrowed her fashion-sense that night from Sara Watkins. They performed a perfectly entertaining set of roots rock, barreling through 11 songs as Trapper had a late night flight to catch back to his home state of Wisconsin immediately after the show.
Trapper began his set by covering the old Jimmie Rogers song “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas).” The next song Trapper played he introduced saying that he had written it “on a hospital bed in Rochester, MN before having spinal decompression surgery.” With lines such as “I’ve got a bad, bad back; Pins and Needles in a stack; won’t you please tell the nurse; medication makes it worse,” you believe it. The song can be found on his album Run, Engine, Run recorded under the name Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. Another original song followed that he had written last Valentine’s Day, “Talking Girlfriend Blues,” which is on his most recent album Rangers & Valentines. He played another from Run, Engine, Run, “Tracks.” Having come to this concert in a familiar venue and meeting up with friends and seeing other concert-goers there that I’ve seen before at Old 97’s or Rhett’s shows, I identified with his line, “When you feel like you know everyone you meet and your walking up and down the same old street.”
Trapper played a few more songs from Rangers & Valentines, including one called “Tornado Alley.” He was loosening up by this point and was more talkative about his songs, giving a long introduction for “Dear Prospect” about letters his friend, baseball player Paul Hoenecke, got from MLB scouts. The next story was about Trapper being stranded in Ogalala, Nebraska during bad winter weather when a jack-knifed truck blocked off the highway and inspiration came to him after taking Nyquil and watching The Hobbit movie to write the song, “Ogallala” about his experience. Next up was “Lost Cowboy,” which he referenced as part two of the Ogallala story. He then delivered some family history and played, “Ballad of Olof Johnson.”
Keeping with the theme of family history, he talked about his grandfather and his classic Mercedes Benz before playing the song on that subject, “Run, Engine, Run” from the album of the same name. He closed his set with a Merle Haggard cover, “Sing Me Back Home.” He also hopped off the stage and sang among the crowd briefly. His set was enjoyable and he got the crowd nicely warmed.
Rhett is one of my favorite lyricists and he is so much fun to see live. Rhett descended to the stage from the upstairs green room bursting with energy that he conducted into his songs with gusto. He is such a powerhouse of a player, by the end of the show he had broken three strings on his guitar. I’ve done a few blog posts on Rhett’s solos shows during this past year, so I’m going to keep this section short. Please enjoy the photos as Rhett gets progressively sweatier. The set list was skewed toward Old 97’s songs, but he mixed it up pretty well among various albums:
- “Melt Show” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
- “Book of Poems” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides
- “Nashville” from Old 97’s album
- “Lucky Star” from his album The Traveler. He prefaced this one with “There are a few songs I never play; songs that should have been huge hits.” He then referenced Elvis Costello, “They all sound like hits to me.” I’ve used the phrase “beam of light” from this song for the title of this post.
- “Rollerskate Skinny” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides. Link to video I shot at the show. One of my favorite songs by the Old 97’s. One of his “Hollywood” songs, written when he lived there. “This one was born at the top of Doheny.”
- “Just Like California” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
- “Things That Disappear” from his album The Instigator. Link to video I shot at the show. He introduces it by talking about how he and Jon Brion played the song on Zach Galifianakis’s show, which had just been cancelled.
- “What We Talk About” from Old 97’s album Fight Songs
- “Bad Luck Charm” This is a new song listed on the set list as “Charm,” that was done with Caitlin Rose for the Old 97’s next record. Lyric: “You know I was trouble from the start.”
- “Big Brown Eyes” from Old 97’s album Wreck Your Life
- “A State of Texas” from The Grand Theatre Volume One. Rhett remarks about his merch and his new “I Texas New York” shirts (because he’s from Texas but lives in New York).
- “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Old 97’s album Most Messed Up. Rhett dedicated this one to a fan and his so-called Astral Queen.
- “Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome. Rhett asks the audience if we know who John Doe is and then comments that he had received advice from John, “Don’t ask the audience, ‘How y’all doing?’ because it’s insincere.” Rhett said he was just going to intuit how we were.
- “Lonely Holiday” from Old 97’s album Fight Songs
- “She Hates Everybody” Link to video I shot at the show of this new song.
- “Most in the Summertime” from his album The Traveler
- “Lost Without You” from his album The Dreamer
- “Jesus Loves You” Link to video I shot at the show of this new song (I had heard him perform this one in 2015 at Largo not too long after he had written it).
- “Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On” from Old 97’s album Most Messed Up. First broken string happens on this song. He changes this one pretty quickly.
- “Our Love” from his album The Instigator. Second broken string. Tells joke while changing strings as he’s having problems getting the strings unwound.
- “Question” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides
- “Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome,
- “Designs on You” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides he asked a girl in the audience for a request and she chose this song. He noted that he had written this one when he lived on the corner of 6th and Hauser in L.A.
- ENCORE: “California Stars” from his album The Interpreter
- “Timebomb” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care. Third broken string and he just plays through almost the whole song while it is dangling from the guitar.