And so it ended. Last night almost two decades of brotherhood came to a close at sold-out Dan's Silverleaf amidst cheers, tears, smiles and hugs. It's hard to sum up the importance of Centro-matic to Denton (and to North Texas as a whole), but I think the clearest indication is how quickly the shows sold out -- that is, so quickly that they had to expand from two nights to three due to fan demand.
And it's those fans that made last night great. They cheered with wild abandon, never wanting the show to end, because they knew that once it was over, it really was over. The band didn't seem too eager to leave the stage themselves, as they gleefully played encore after encore.
Yes there have been attempts to grow Denton beyond what she is, but the prodigal sons in Centro-matic never wasted their time on such follies. Through tireless recording and endless touring Will Johnson, Scott Danbom, Mark Hedman and Matt Pence took a bedroom project and made it an international success. Not many bands can manage that feat, and that's why last night's final song was so bittersweet. Those four men reached a level so many others chase, so many dream about, and they decided to move on, and create something new.
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So the drinks flowed freely, and the hugs were given out with even more gusto. A song and a half into their set I locked eyes with someone in the crowd and shared a knowing nod. Behind me two young ladies held each other swaying. I lost count of the sheer number of beards that connected as grown men cried while singing along and embracing. A friend admitted to me that he basically moved to Denton because he was at a crossroads in his life, and Denton was where Centro-matic was.
He wasn't the only one with a story like that. Throughout the night memories were shared, everyone recalling their first show with Centro. The few who counted the farewell show as their first lamented never having seen them before.
At the end of the night after a few too many drinks I found myself talking to Will Johnson, and apologizing for any typos in my review, to which he responded "It's ok, it's just like our show, it's live." (Editor's note: I guess that makes me post-production.)
For a band that just played their last show, the predominant emotion seemed to be relief. They'd been on the road all December, playing old haunts with old friends, and saying goodbye to longtime fans at every stop, but on stage in Denton they didn't look weary, just content. Sharing songs with Drive By Truckers' Patterson Hood, Daniel Markham and Slobberbone's Brent Best, the band made sure to give the crowd a taste of their whole catalog, so that they'd have something to hold on to. And, so it's over. It's done. It's time to undo the stacks.