Concert Reviews

Last Night: Hayes Carll at The Double Wide

Hayes Carll
The Double Wide
February 22, 2011

Better than:
standing around, watching a show in a cramped space four times the Double Wide's size.

A little more than halfway through his two-hour performance at the Double Wide last night -- the first of his five-day small-club jaunt through North Texas, which, in turn, kicks off a total 15-date tour through small clubs throughout Texas as a whole -- Hayes Carll, as he did so many times throughout the evening, paused between songs to share a story with his captive audience.

This one focused on Todd Snider, Carll's alt-country singer-songwriter contemporary and friend, who recently released a live album called Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. Funny thing about that album, though: To hear Carll tell it, one of the stories Snider tells is actually his -- a quip based around a bill the two shared once upon a time in a hoity-toity venue that provided the performers with an abundance of vegetables to munch on. Recalls Carll, upon seeing the buffet of carrots and the like, he turned to Snider and said, "I guess, once you become a rockstar, you get all the vegetables you want." Amusing stuff, sure, but certainly Carll's bit -- which is why he was so miffed to hear that Snider used the same line on his album.

No worries: In the end, it's Carll who probably gets the last laugh and the better story out of the deal. Plus, that line would've been out of place at this show: The Double Wide is hardly hoity-toity. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

For that fact alone, it provided a special environment for this performance. It certainly didn't hurt matters that the 150 or so folks crammed in to see this show were among Carll's biggest fans -- they sang along with every song, two-stepped in what little space they could find on the floor and, in the cases of the couples present, canoodled away, likely encouraged by the intimacy of the whole presentation.

And, truly, this was as intimate a performance as one can get -- a vastly different scene from the one offered up at Carll's recent Granada Theater stop. Yet, though different and in some ways less rocking and bombastic, this show in many ways topped that previous one.

Backed by his capable and tastefully not-flashy longtime sidemen, multi-instrumentalist (and TCU alum) Scott Davis and drummer Kenny Smith, as well as "fresh-faced" newcomer and Keanu Reeves lookalike Cody Foote on bass, Carll's songs of woe and drinking and woeful drinking were especially riveting and seemed to ring especially true. Or so it sure appeared to the crowd, whose hands, when not clapping over their heads, were filled with beer cans.

It was a boozy environment to be sure -- even on stage where Carll and Co. even made a few mistakes, like forgetting the name of the opening act (Shovels & Rope, not "Shovels & Dirt" as Carll originally said) and, when Shovels & Rope's Carrie Ann Hearst joined Carll to perform their KMAG YOYO duet "Another Like You," forgetting entire lines.

If the crowd noticed, though, they didn't really seem to care. Rather, they were just content to see Carll, ever the endearing performer, in such a setting. Rightfully so -- after this tour gets done, they likely won't get another chance for some time.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Carll isn't the best vocalist in the world -- his range is minimal -- but his vocal twang, which can be off-putting at first, is mostly charming in the end. Regardless, it's not his forte -- that'd be his lyrics, which are among the most amusing and clever you'll find in today's singer-songwriting realms.

By The Way: You want more proof that Carll's headed for big things? I recognized like four people in the crowd -- maybe -- as Double Wide patrons. And I go to the Double Wide a lot. No, this was not a Double Wide crowd. This was a Carll crowd. And, yes, they sold the place out, which isn't a massive feat, but, considering the tiny size of the venue, a hilariously expected one.

Random Note: Local singer-songwriter Greg Schroeder, who like Carll is originally from the Houston area, was watching the show in the crowd. He just put out a new record last weekend. Interestingly enough, though, Carll backing players Davis and Foote actually played on Schroeder's previous album.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman