Aftermath: Mark Germino at Heritage Place, Conroe

Photos by Michael Pittman

After an extended hiatus from gigs with a band, it didn't take veteran Nashville songwriter Mark Germino long to knock the rust off. A larger than usual crowd packed Conroe's open-air Heritage Place THursday night to hear Germino, and he didn't disappoint from the opening strains of pedal-to-the-metal blue-collar rocker "Radartown" to the equally explosive closer, "Odessa Queen," from 2007's brilliant Atomic Candlestick.

With members of The Gougers, South Austin Jug Band and Small Sounds in his troupe, Germino raced through an hour and a half of stellar material from a storied 25-year career, and only slowed the pace a few times to take a breath and grab a quick drink of water on a sweat-soaked night.

In the rocking category, the band blew the roof off the outdoor theater with torrid versions of "Burning The Firehouse Down," "Finest Brand of Southern Degeneracy," "Married Man" and the hilarious "She's a Mystery."

She peels off a line about Mr. Karl Marx

About unitin' all the workers and their parkin' lots

Then lights a cigarette and waits for me to disagree

She's a mystery to me

When Germino did take it down into the quieter parts of his work, the crowd seemed to hush in order to catch every word of "Black Angel Cure" and "Economics (of the Rat and the Snake)," which Germino introduced with, "I wrote this back during the first Bush administration. Funny how some things never change."

Afterwards, Germino, who hosts writers-in-the-round gigs at Nashville's Bluebird Café with the likes of Vince Gill, stood with a towel around his neck, visibly drained by the exertion of playing with a band for the first time in years on such a hot evening. When I asked him how it was, though, he smiled and said, "Fun."

He'll do one more area band show Saturday at the Continental Club with the Gougers and Dustin Welch.

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William Michael Smith