Boys Named Sue
What can be said now about the Boys Named Sue that hasn't been said already over their rabble-rousing course of recent history? Not much, really, but we'll give it a shot, since they managed to basically set theoretical fire to the stage of La Grange with their tight, and intensely showy set.
John Pedigo is as well-known (and beloved, maybe?) of a front man as there is in Dallas, these days. His stage persona is that of a snake oil salesman who doesn't mind telling you that the snake oil is indeed, a scam, while still peddling the faulty oil all the same. Instead of growing tired of his antics on stage, one is easily pulled into the good times that he and his chief, bass-playing sidekick, Ward Richmond, preside over. And, last night wasn't any different for the uncomfortably packed room. While their set list didn't contain anything that would shock anyone who has seen a Sue show before, that isn't to suggest the performances were sterile.
The amped-up brand of honky-tonk being displayed was the kind of country music that even haters of twangy tunes seemed to find themselves bouncing along and high-fiving to--especially when the mélange of the band's somewhat iconic songs were belted out. A former DOMA Best Song honoree, "Honky Tonk if Yer Horny," as well as "Whiskey Talkin" and "In Tha House," were only a few of many boastfully irreverent numbers that earned squeals of laughter and whistles of appreciation throughout the 45-minute set. To be sure, by the end of their set, both the roof and some hell were most definitely elevated.
The Naptime Shake
First things first: the lead man of The Naptime Shake, Noah Bailey, is an esteemed member of the Dallas Observer crew. OK? OK. Moving on.
Judging by last night's exuberant set, Bailey is also a writer of some damn fine tunes that know when to twang, know when to rock and know exactly when a little of both are appropriate. The nominated band, who had the cumbersome task of following a particularly raucous set from the barn burners in Boys Named Sue, effectively kept the still-packed room engaged towards the stage. And they didn't even have to implement the word "pussy" numerous times in any of their songs in order to do so (which had helped the previous band get more than a few laughs).
Drawing mainly from their debut full-length effort, Blood and Panic, Bailey and his crew started off rollicking then progressed into a mellower zone that was a perfect fit for Bailey's Townes Van Zandt-fed storytelling. Make no mistake, the band as a whole is righteous, and after a technical glitch was cleared up, the players were simply on-point. Sharing the stage with Glen Farris on keys (who also happens to be up for a couple of other awards) and Chris Mayes, the multi-instrumentalist who threatened to hijack a couple of tunes with both his bold employ of the trombone and his dreamy steel guitar handy-work, Bailey wasn't ever in a position where he had to solely handle all the heavy lifting.
Tunes such as Blood and Panic standout track, "Texas City," a cover of the great Alejandro Escovedo's "Wedding Day" and the heart-stopping album title track--which happened to close the set--all displayed a delicate, and an at times quiet, touch that seemed to make those songs even more epic. In a live setting, the ability to slow the pace of the show without allowing the evening's joyful, celebratory and communal vibe slip away into sleepiness isn't a talent commonly held by many acts, yet the Naptime Shake seem to have that special quality down cold.
Fox & The Bird
If it was daunting for the country-rocking Naptime Shake to follow a wild-ass set by another rocking twang outfit, it was surely even tougher for the sweet, soft sounds of folk act Fox & The Bird to follow up all that electrified rowdiness.
When the earnest group began their set, well, in earnest, there were five band members lined up in a sort of half-moon near the lip of the stage while the drummer was nestled in the back behind the wall of folk (instrumentation for this number included a jazzy, supper club trumpet, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, violin and drums). Offering up the swelling, yet still tame by the evening's previously set standard, "Rome", it was clear that the collective understood its task and that being phased wasn't an option, as they admirably began to pick up the pace amidst a slightly distracted throng.
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The energy of the room began to shift back, away from individual chatting and to the stage, as the beat from behind the folk wall began to announce itself more and more. Interestingly, the male members of the half-folk-moon would alternate lead vocals from time to time, lending the proceedings an air of togetherness. The togetherness inside of the club became much closer itself, after the line-inducing Ishi show at Trees, located across Elm from LaGrange, ended and sent many wristband wearers to see what all the folk was about.
Perhaps buoyed by the newly enlarged Dallas thirst for folk, Dan Bowman and his gang produced some sterling moments to round out their pastoral, post midnight set. The song that is seemingly a local shout-out, "White Rock Lake," was whimsical and memorable. Yet even more memorable was when the wall of folk came down to end the band's night. To fully let their folk flag fly, each band member hopped off of the stage and onto the main floor to perform their closing number as they were ensconced by a surprised and appreciative crowd.