"Do they play any of their own songs?" I asked the fan dancing in front of me. "This is one of their songs," she replied. But it wasn't. Local act Macon Greyson was playing "Monopoly on the Blues," a great song written and performed almost 10 years ago by the Hangdogs, a New York alt-country group formed in the second or third wave of the Uncle Tupelo-inspired, return-to-roots semi-movement. Next came the Old 97's "If My Heart Was a Car," another good song competently performed. Next was "Indianapolis," from the Bottle Rockets, and I started wondering if this foursome was simply going to perform every song from the Barley House jukebox. I wish. When I heard the opening notes of the Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight," I figured it was a tongue-in-cheek mockery of the song, but the longer it went on, the more the band sadly embraced it. The 50 or so in attendance jigged and hooted, perhaps somehow mistaking the ancient dreck for modern fare. Macon Greyson's animated front man, Buddy Huffman, did get around to some originals from the band's new CD Uneasy, but, not surprisingly, the songs paled next to most of what preceded them. It's one thing to be inspired by some genuinely great music, but it's another thing to be obsessed with it, reducing your own efforts to end-of-set filler, the disposable songs done after the tribute to alternative country is finished.
Opener Austin Collins understood this better, injecting toward the end of his solid set a nice take on "$1000 Car," another Bottle Rockets number, done as something on par with his own work, a bonus: icing, but not the cake.