When I go to shows at the Town Ballroom, I usually go with the mixed drinks; high balls during the fall and winter, gin and tonics ("a golfer's drink" according to Gord Downie) when it's hot out, and rum and cokes anytime. Wednesday night however after a long day at work, the Lucero show downtown with Two Cow Garage had me seriously in the mood to drink beer. I also had the strong urge to drink whiskey, but I was responsible and resisted and focused on the beers and the matter at hand, which was an excellent night of honest American rock, the kind they just can't make anywhere else no matter how hard they try.
I got downtown in time for 20 minutes of Two Cow Garage's set and immediately regretted not getting down there for all of it because they pretty much destroyed it with their high powered garage rock. Tastefully heavy, singer/guitarist Micah Schnabel in particular blew me away with his earnest Rod Stewart on steroids vocals, which fit perfectly with the intense but loose thrash of their garage sound and pleasing earnest, populist lyrical leanings. The modest crowd ate it up to such an extent that the band totally didn't need to butter us up near the end of their set, although that too was of course appreciated. Indeed like fellow Ohioans The Black Keys (who've stiffed us for a show this year), Two Cow Garage definitely seemed to be very simpatico with the enthusiastic local audience. They'll be back, and next time, I'll be there for their whole set.
Getting to a taping of Austin City Limits is on my to-do list; so much great, pure American music has been played on that stage (and show) that in many ways it's one vital pulse points of American music where you can see it all, but in particular country, rock, and soul, the pillars of American music (along with jazz). Well, last night the Town Ballroom felt like the best episode of ACL ever, but even better because I could drink beer while I savored live for the first time Lucero, and band that channels country, rock, and soul sublimely. Shifting blithely from muscular Memphis soul to country rock to country and back, these guys from Memphis Tennessee (hometown of Kaufman "nemesis" Jerry Lawler) are like Nashville's boozy, rambunctious older cousins, the guys most likely to put you in a headlock, sneak you some beer and/or a dirty magazine behind your parents back, and introduce you to juvenile delinquency. Fun, and not of the family variety.
A bunch of dudes who looked like they just came from grabbing a few beers after a shift down at the plant, Lucero put on a show that could be considered the polar opposite of pretentious. They bantered with the crowd, thanking us for being at their show on a Wednesday night- the middle of the working week; they took a few requests; singer/guitarist (and young Billy Bob Thornton impersonator) Ben Nichols graciously accepted free drinks from fans who knew he preferred whiske; and their soulful and occasionally Springsteenesque vibe made everything feel copacetic and all right. There was even a country polka ditty before the big finish, a polka that of course went over well with the Buffalo crowd. Like I said, unpretentious, and warm, and joyous... Lucero with Two Cow Garage was almost like a primo episode of Austin City Limits, but with booze.
Here's an approximate taste of what transpired...