By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
For a second there at Adair's Saloon on Friday night, the band onstage recalled another country-rooted local product, one also known for its boozy sound, swaggering stage presence and smart lyrics.
Nope, Macon Greyson ain't the Old 97's. But, if only for a moment or two this past weekend, the band sure channeled the spirit of that other storied local act, performing songs that sounded like they could have been lifted straight from Rhett Miller and Co.'s early catalog—sure, if they were given a swift kick to the butt, injected with a healthy dose of steroids and told to quit it with that surf-rock junk. But they were reminiscent enough.
Maybe it was just the booze. Dunno. But as the band sweated out nearly three hours of nonstop performance on Friday, it sure made for a good time. I can tell you that much.
To hear the members of Macon Greyson tell it, that's all they're going for with their hardened country bar-rock and its serious Southern rock bent. A good time, that's all.
"Hey, we just wanna get the music out there to people," guitarist Harley Husbands explains earlier during lunch, over a burger with his bandmates at the same venue they'll play a couple hours later. That, too, explains why the band, even while still riding the high of having its song "Blacklight" appear in the movie The Wrestler last year, is releasing its phenomenal new four-song EP, This Machine Kills Hypocrisy, as a free download on its Web site. And why, as he'll likely do at all future shows too, frontman Buddy Huffman addressed the Adair's crowd and said, "Hey, if you're enjoying yourself and liking the music, stop on by our merch table and grab a CD. Pay whatever you want for it. We just want you to have it. You have no excuse not to leave here without our music."
The hope, the band says, is that this kind of an offer builds a better rapport with fans. Audiences, they say, are more likely to return for future performances if they're spinning the disc at home.
Gotta figure there's more to it, though, at least with this outfit. Gotta figure they're hoping for something more as crowds listen to their catalog. Because, after the sheen of Husbands' crunchy riffs and Huffman's snarling voice rub off, there's something hidden beneath that gloss—a surprising depth of thought and intelligence.
See, though they're camouflaged by Huffman's honky-tonk hero intonation, blocked by Husbands' teasing licks, and masked by bassist Fred Kousal and drummer Brian Bowe's bouncing rhythm section, it's the words that Huffman sings that make this band worth listening to while sober.
"With all the yelling and screaming out there, no one's really listening to the lyrics," Huffman acknowledges. "But, lyrically, we're doing more than that."
Indeed. 'Cause, go figure, the EP-opening "Pushing Strings" isn't actually a song about a prostitute looking around the bar for "the richest man in the room." Actually, Huffman explains, it's a play on the story of troubled Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, currently in hot water for a number of missteps, not the least of which is his company's acquisition of financial firm Merrill Lynch. In this case, Lewis is the hooker, and her trick is Merrill Lynch. Knowing that much while spinning the record in your favorite player, and the song (which just might boast the best recent guitar and bass line pairing produced by any local rock outfit not named The Toadies) borders on genius. Meanwhile, track two on the EP? It's about separation of church and state—or, more specifically, the band's fear that such a separation is falling by the wayside.
Point is: It's all pretty heady stuff for an otherwise seemingly boozy outfit like Macon Greyson.
"We're hoping—not expecting—but we're hoping that some people get it," Huffman says toward the end of lunch.
Of course, Huffman and the rest of Macon Greyson "get it" too. At a gig like the one on Friday night at Adair's, people don't usually want to hear some band pontificate about Bank of America's issues.
"Obviously, I'm a far-left socialist, communist, whatever," Huffman says. "When you're dealing with art, that's fine. What I don't like is being hit over the head with all that stuff."
As such, when the band launched into its performance of "Pushing Strings," it made no mention of its meaning. And the crowd didn't seem to pick up on it.
If one or two crowd members had, well, that'd be great, the band says. And if the allusion didn't sit well with the crowd's politics? Well, that'd be OK too.
"I'd rather piss people off," Huffman says, "than have someone walk away from our show and say, 'Eh.'"
Tough to imagine anyone at Adair's on Friday night offering up that assessment, though. 'Cause, even if the underlying message went over the audience's heads, the overlying one of rock 'n' roll didn't. And that's a credo booze can't blur over.