Properly kicking off night #1 as their first headlining act was Lucero, the Memphis country/rock band with a weakness for Jameson, motorcycles and the high-heeled women who love the same.
Sold out far before the 29th, many pairs of cowboy boots had already filled the festively lit and decorated club when Lucero took the stage. On their 2009 album 1372 Overton Park, Lucero began to incorporate horns, keys, and pedal steel to their previously traditional rock sound, and as they approach the release of their yet-to-be-titled new album this year, they have continued to amp up the honky tonk on new songs like “Women and Work” and to punch up old stand-bys when playing live like “All Sewn Up.”
The band’s lead singer Ben Nichols embodies many elements of the classic touring warrior: hands and arms covered in tattoos that he got who knows where, a permanently raspy voice from years of smoking and drinking, and worn-in clothes that probably haven’t been washed in weeks. All of these traits suit him comfortably and contribute to the bottom shelf, paper bag scenarios he describes in his songs. When performing “Women and Work,” all he has to say is “Honky tonk and a jack knife, tomahawk and an ex-wife” in his warm southern drawl, and you can’t help but raise up your glass and sing along.
But when it comes down to the overall metaphor, if Lucero is the rebellious young man with tattoos, a Harley, and a slight drinking problem, Drive-By Truckers is his dad that prefers Jeff Foxworthy and Hank the First.
“I got friends in Nashville, or at least they’re folks I know / Nashville is where you go to see if what they said is so” croon the Drive-By Truckers in the song “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac.” The band’s more traditional Nashville country sound is evident but still catchy and tight as ever, as lead singers / guitarists Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood have been playing together for over twenty-six years.
The band knows how to handle themselves on a stage as they swiftly transition between bop-a-long tracks with twang and the slower, contemplative ballads that fill up much of their 2011 release, Go-Go Boots. They also incorporated elements of headlining act showmanship like dropping banners behind them for changes in scenery and a large drum head decorated with the band’s name and logo that drummer Brad Morgan heartily hit when the beat needed extra oomph.
With the faint smells of lite draft beer and Mary Jane in the air, fans danced and sang in front of the stage and hooted and hollered from the balconies for both of these great country acts. If there was an audience member not having a good time at this show, I certainly didn’t see him.
Photos by Ryan Ford