Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Bark at the Wind, Chase the Moon

The Drive-by Truckers will be in town this Thursday. The reason I know that is because the bf and I went to the record store over the weekend and threw the biggest hissy over a rumpled piece of paper tacked up behind the register advertising "An Evening with the Drive-by Truckers." I wasn't afraid to shriek and point, and the bf was completely uninhibited to employ the saucy 'head-sass,' raising his eyebrows and haughtily stating, "We're totally buying tickets for that immediately," glasses askew in his fervor. Now, I'm not as much of a show whore as I once was. Times were when I would go to watch a ratchety old man in a wheelchair beat a Coke can rhythmically with a crack pipe, in the name and glory of live music. Those days are over, though, proven by the fact that I once bought tickets to a Postal Service show, arrived at the venue, took one look at the line of pimply scene kids, and promptly gave my ticket away to a friend, opting instead for a cocktail and an early bedtime. Not going is the new going, I said, and it still rings true. So the fact that I could so soil my usual cool and collected demeanor by acting like an audience member at a Def Jam comedy event in the middle of the only great record store around speaks volumes about how badass the DBTs are.

I first saw them about a year ago; on a whim accompanying the bf to a show headed by some band I had never heard of, merely so that I could wear my new red pointy shoes and vintage Veruca Salt shirt. That unknown band turned out to play the most amazing show I had seen in years. There were about thirteen people in the audience, bar-backs included, yet the DBTs bled their lives out with each song. They were singing things like "It's the same old shit that I ain't gonna take off anyone," and "Don't act like your family's a joke," and "I'd rather be your fool than go off somewhere and not be anyone's," and "It breaks my heart in two to know it ain't meant to be but it ain't me. It ain't me." They sang songs about brothers and sisters getting hitched and going on the run, about young men leaving their betrothed for her best friend. They really believed what they were singing. It stuck with me, that image of five sweaty Southern men rocking so hard, hard enough that I wanted to pluck the ridiculous red shoes off my feet and impale myself with them as a message of solidarity in down home heartbreak. We saw them again at the Austin City Limits Music Festival last year, first when they did a Cash tribute, then at their own set, where I got the urge to run onstage and hook an arm around any band member I could reach and cry raggedly into the microphone. I wanted to build things with my hands. I wanted to take apart the engine of an old truck. I wanted to pick up a man in a biker bar and marry him the next day. I wanted to change my name to Mary Lee. I wanted to start drinking whiskey directly from the bottle while driving nowhere down a dusty road. When the show was over, the reverie stayed, and I had this thought: If the DBTs had a mascot it would be Sean Astin, and he would be crying chubbily, looking searchingly into the sky, while carrying Frodo triumphantly into the endzone, where a big pirate ship filled with gold awaited him. What I'm trying to say is that the DBTs have heart , so much so that they can bleed all over the stage one night and the heart pumps twice as hard the next night.

The DBTs are from Athens, Georgia, and one of the singer/guitarists is married to the bassist. That's about all I know about them, and all I care to know. In my experience, the less one knows about the personal workings of each member of a band, the more it becomes about the music, and not the individuals. They are mythical, in that hundred-years old tree sort of way; they're gnarled and hideously beautiful, they've seen it all but are still reaching up and finding inspiration to keep going from somewhere. They've been through all kinds of weather and all it amounts to is more stories to tell. They are the fairy tale rock band, like their idols (the original) Lynyrd Skynyrd, like the (original) Allman Brothers. And if the fairy tale isn't true, it doesn't show through all the grimacing and the heartbreak, the hoarse resignation of the damned, the pulsing vein of raw emotion that the Drive-by Truckers call music.

Therefore, don't be surprised if, in a moment of sheer expectation-induced frenzy, I decide to 'accidentally' bring my banjo with me to the show and get up there to pluck a mean "Bile Dem Cabbage Down" as the self-inflicted opening act. It's Wednesday and I already think this idea is completely plausible.

No comments: