Thrilled to see one of my favorite bands, Old 97’s, at my local venue, Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA, on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 and with an opener I’d heard of before, Ha Ha Tonka! Doors opened at 6pm, but the show wasn’t scheduled to start until 8pm. This is a small venue and it is absolutely fantastic to see the Old 97’s play here. There was still plenty of space open in front of the stage when I arrived at 6:45pm, but by the end of the night the place was packed and pulsating.
Ha Ha Tonka opened with a solid batch of songs, and though the crowd was slow rolling in and had that laid back Beach Cities vibe, the band effectively pumped up the people by the end of their set with their driving roots rock. Lead vocals and rhythm guitar (a 12-string) were handled by the personable Brian Roberts, who while up front, never upstaged the other band members. This is one of the more cohesive bands that I’ve ever witnessed play. Brett Anderson commanded the lead guitar and sometimes swapped over to mandolin. Curly-haired bass player Luke Long steadfastly covered the lower end of the music while looking a bit like Slash minus the hat, while drummer Mike Reilly kept the train on its tracks, though it sometimes felt it might jump the rails at any moment as momentum was built. A special shout out for the versatile James Cleare for his work on keyboards, additional guitar, and backing vocals. In fact all the guys in the band joined in the singing at some point in the night, leaving me impressed with their tight harmonies and vocal blending. They’re on the road promoting their new album Heart-Shaped Mountain. The set list was as follows:
- “Race to the Bottom” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
- “St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor” from Buckle in the Bible Belt
- “Everything” from Heart-Shaped Mountain, link is to the recently released official video for this song
- “Arkansas” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
- “12 Inch 3 Speed Oscillating Fan” cover of a Red Meat song
- “Hangman” an old folk song, sometimes called “Gallows Pole,” sung a capella, from Buckle in the Bible Belt
- “Height of My Fears” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
- “Usual Suspects” from Death of a Decade
- “Proud Mary” cover of the Creedance Clearwater Revival song, began as a slow grind, then kicked up the tempo including a drum solo, during which all the other band members amusingly made quick dives for their drinks.
I’ve written about Old 97’s once before (one of the first concerts I saw after starting this blog) and a bunch of times about Rhett’s solo shows, so if you come across this post and your a fan, please feel free to check out my other posts. I don’t have lot to add about the band. I love their music: Rhett’s smart, storytelling, image-painting lyrics, dynamic vocals, and enthusiastic performances, Ken’s delicious lead guitar licks and his attention to tone and guitar choice for each song, Murry’s harmonies and thumping bass line, and Philip’s relentless drumming. This was Philip’s first show back after his recent accident in which he fell over in a parking lot and cut his head open. Very pleased to see Philip back on drums and wish him well, because head injuries can come back to haunt you for months afterward. Be well, Philip!
The band is touring behind their recently released album Graveyard Whistling. The album follows their no-holds barred, instant classic album, Most Messed Up, which featured a number of songs with degenerate characters careening out of control. An apt sequel, this album sounds like it is illustrating the characters reactions after reaching rock bottom. For example, one can easily imagine the guys portrayed in the song “Nashville” or “Intervention” or “Most Messed Up” following up the narrative with some of these new songs: “I Don’t Wanna Die in this Town” or “Good with God” or “Turns Out I’m Trouble.” The set list from the Saint Rocke show was:
- “Four Leaf Clover” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Too Far to Care
- “Dance with Me” from Blame it on Gravity
- “Nashville” from Most Messed Up
- “She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling
- “Salome” from Too Far to Care
- “W. TX Teardrops” from Too Far to Care, old video at the link
- “All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling, video I shot at this show, though the sound quality isn’t great because of my close proximity to the stage, but I wanted to include it to give people an idea of this show. This is one of my favorite songs from the new album and I’ve borrowed a line from it for the title of this post.
- “Big Brown Eyes” from Too Far to Care and Wreck Your Life
- “Good with God” from Graveyard Whistling
- “Longer than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
- “Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome
- “Valentine” from Fight Songs
- “Buick City Complex” from Satellite Rides
- “Bad Luck Charm” from Graveyard Whistling
- “Barrier Reef “from Too Far to Care
- “Nobody” from Graveyard Whistling, this might be my new favorite song that Murry sings.
- “Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides, hurrah, my favorite Old 97’s song made the list!
- “Jesus Loves You” from Graveyard Whistling
- “Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from Most Messed Up
- “Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life
- ENCORE “Question” from Satellite Rides
- “The Other Shoe” from Wreck Your Life
- “Timebomb” from Too Far to Care
I don’t usually write much about what gets talked about if I speak to band members after a show, but I’m doing it this time. I had the chance to talk to Rhett afterward and he very sweetly apologized that it was unlikely they were going to change the set list for the following night’s show at the Fonda (see post “Do You Want to Dance With Me“), just in case they needed to switch Philip out last minute for their replacement drummer. Also, Rhett had seen during the show that I was taking notes and seemed curious if I was reviewing them. No worries, only the set list and a little love here on this humble blog! Just trying to record the memories before they fade from my memory (see title of post).