A month ago when a friend invited me to the Drive-By Truckers concert I thought, "I like you, I like music, there will probably be a bar at the venue and I'm generally pro doing things -- Sure!" I had only vaguely heard of the band and had exactly one of their songs in my music collection obtained years ago as part of an elaborate online song recommendation game that one is apt to get involved in when one is unemployed and generally starved for excitement (and when one has such a liberal definition of exciting things to do that "downloading new music" somehow makes the cut). I am a big believer in concert prepartying so to properly prepare for the impending live music event I purchased a DBT cd (Southern Rock Opera) and added them as a station on Pandora. I did a lot of listening but I wasn't really sold on the band -- they seemed ok, rocky, fun, etc but as far as I could tell very few of their songs were about girls dumping them and the crippling depression that followed so I was understandably skeptical about my ability to fall in love. On the plus side the album tells one long story about Lynard Skynard and life in the south and I do love a good theme. (so much so that I preceded the concert with a southern meal at the Delta Grill where I had fried okra and jambalaya and bourbon and ginger ale -- probably the best preparty concert prep ever).
Perhaps it was the thematic alcohol consumption talking but the live show was so amazing that despite all preshow indications to the contrary I totally want to sleep with everyone in the band (even the woman, even though she sort of has a thematic but not so attractive mullet). The band is somehow capable of pulling off without irony rock and roll moves that should be hilarious, especially to a cynical, dance challenged, emotionally walled off girl like me. They're doing the face to face, crotches close together, leaning way back guitar rocking last seen at a Guns N Roses concert in 1998. They're picking up the mike stands and spinning them over their heads and playing their guitars on their knees. At one point a band member walks around the stage pouring Jack Daniels whiskey down the throats of the other band members while they play their instruments. I really should have been laughing and rolling my eyes but instead I was kind of rocking out in my own little awkward half dancing while leaning against the wall because I am too cool/embarrassed to move any body part except for my hips way.
It wasn't just the band that left me wishing for a 40 of PBR, a belly shirt and my very own double wide -- their fans are pretty convincing in their own right. The 55 year old bearded redneck in front of me was entertaining enough in his jumping up and down fist pumping glory that I could have been happy watching just him for 2 hours. Least you think this fellow stood out let me assure you that at least half of the audience appeared to have been imported from 1973 rural Alabama -- I was lost in a sea of full beards, flannel shirts, leather jackets and well worn Wranglers. Every set ended not only with a cacophony of applause but also a sea of cell phone tributes (sadly even in Hicksvillle circa 1970 this seems to have replaced the lighter homage) and devil horns held high. This was a very devil horn friendly crowd. I had to wonder where in New York City these folks hang out during daylight hours, or what neighborhood they live in -- is there a high rise full of time traveling hillbillies with a garage full of Harleys hidden somewhere in the city? I ultimately decided that it might be best that I stay in the dark about the secret biker hangouts since I have no hope of keeping up with their drinking even if they'd let my irony stained ass inside.
The highlight of the show for me was the song "Hell No I Ain't Happy" probably because it is the most cynical song on their roster. Trucker's lead singer Patterson Hood (seriously, awesome southern name there buddy, way to stay on theme) throws his arms out in crucification stance and belts out the title line and like any good singer the message is so much more than the words. "No, I'm not happy and you are an idiot for thinking I might be and double an idiot for thinking life can ever be rolled up into a ridiculous label like 'happy.' Fuck you." And yet through all of that Hood was pretty fucking happy. And so were the seas of angry looking bastards surrounding me. And so was I.