The Wagoneers Continental Club April 15, 2011
Alt-country pioneers the Wagoneers laid down a crisp, essentially flawless 90-minute set Friday night at the Continental Club. They must've used cases of WD-40, but they showed no rust at all despite a 20-plus-year layoff. And it was unmistakable that they were having a great time being back onstage in their former stronghold, Houston.
And giving more credence to the fact that they intend to keep the project together, they delivered a set that saw quite a few new songs sprinkled among their old repertoire, although to the uninitiated it would have been hard to tell which was which.
Aftermath was expecting a larger crowd than the half-filled Continental, but that didn't dampen the spirits of front man Monte Warden, who simply could not stop grinning like bear in a honey jar all night long.
With a number of longtime fans holding down the front and singing along, Warden and his mates blasted through a set that, sonically, owed much to the Everly Brothers and to Buddy Holly. When we first encountered the Wagoneers over 20 years ago, it seemed to Aftermath that the Holly/Everlys influence wasn't as pronounced, but perhaps that was our own lack of grasp at a tender age.
One thing that was for certain was that all these men are true professionals. Well-traveled drummer and bassist Craig Pettigrew locked it down tight from the first drumbeat, and Brent Wilson showed he can twang-rock with anybody in Austin.
From a performance standpoint, no one could quibble with the show the Wagoneers delivered.
We were standing near the stage stairs when they hustled by on their way to the encore; and there was no doubt they were genuinely pumped; in that moment, you might've mistaken them for the Clash.
In fact, Warden couldn't get the huge grin off his face all night. He talked to us later about how gratifying the Houston reception had been.
And encore they did, wrapping the evening to the red line with a blazing rendition of Holly's rocker "Down The Line," and concluding the festivities with one of Warden's gospel tunes, "Biggest Mansion."
We bet it won't be 20 years before we see the Wagoneers play Houston again.
Personal Bias: Like Junior Brown, these shiny-suited guys just look cool. And that white tie of Wilson's? Well...
In the Crowd From the Stage: Wilson pointed out Houston's own Alice Berry standing near the stage and told the crowd that he still sings the harmonies exactly the way Berry sang them on the band's original demo. Quite a kudo.
The Crowd: Given their history and the Houston roots of three of the four members, just very interesting to see who showed up for a Wagoneers show. And by the way, is it just us or is nobody talking about Houston crowd noise? This was a crowd that came to listen and party. Mission accomplished.
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Random Notebook Dump: We missed them, but according to several eyewitnesses (including the aforementioned Berry), opening band The Carper Family was definitely worth seeing the next time they roll in.