Sir Douglas Quintet
Friday, December 2
The Fabulous Satellite Lounge
The Sir Douglas Quintet, the band that taught the Beatles some chops, are back on the road. To their credit, they avoided most of the pitfalls of Memory Lane tours by sticking close to their Tejano bar-band roots. The mostly older crowd ate it up; the guy next to me even managed to stop making out with his girlfriend long enough to explain, "These guys are legends, man. They're the real thing."
When you've been around for 30 years and are still playing two-and-a-half-hour shows, you do qualify as the real thing, if not necessarily legends. Frontman Doug Sahm, supported by the redoubtable Augie Meyers on keyboards and accordion, led the seven-piece Quintet through greatest hits, obligatory covers, knowing tributes and a little filler. The 30-year-old "She's About a Mover" still manages to sound fresh, while "Mendocino" has improved with the aging of Sahm's voice. "Crossroads," another Sahm original, gave the band a chance to wail in its best Mad Dogs & Englishmen imitation.
Introduced as the "King of White Boy Conjunto," Meyers strapped on an accordion and kept the party spirit going with "Velma From Selma." Later, his muscular keyboards propelled the raucous Jimmy Rodgers' tune "In the Jailhouse Now" into classic territory. After a truly inspired rendition of Roky Erickson and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' "Don't Miss Me Baby," which launches from The Who's "Can't Explain" riff into a psychedelic rave, the Quintet came down from their trip for a perfunctory show-closing medley of "96 Tears" and "Woolly Bully."
-- Peter Kelly
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The Dixie Chicks
Thursday, December 8
Houston, 1994. Waiting in line, a couple have a caring conversation about the recent failure of the ejector on his deer rifle. Down the sidewalk, some office Christmas-party refugees have a quick cig before a smoke-free show. Damn, it's good to have the old bank back, something familiar in weird times. Rockefeller's feels like a favorite blazer you thought you'd misplaced, and then remembered it had been at the cleaners for a year.
The Sisters Morales opened, with picker David Spencer showing his orchestral capabilities on three-neck table steel. Then the Dixie Chicks took the stage to remind us once again that country music is just a pagan shrine where men worship the power of women. And inspirational reminders they are: a Miss Texas turned dangerous fugitive on fiddle and mandolin; a barrel racer who left broken hearts all over the PRCA circuit picking banjo and sliding Dobro; and a sassy, sexy, headed-for-trouble daughter of a truck-stop waitress singing lead. Not in real life, of course. Back in reality's where they proved Bob Marley wrote at least one good country song, sang harmonic originals about everything from blackberries to pink toenails, paid homage to Peggy Lee and Bob Wills and even got away with a drum solo during a bluegrass breakdown, which there ain't a hat act in Nashville can pull off without looking stupid. The Dixie Chicks (and the guys in back) made it look natural.
-- Jim Sherman