House of Blues
May 8, 2019
We’ve written enough times about the Old 97’s here at the Houston Press that you could probably cobble together a passable write-up of last night’s show by cutting and pasting relevant passages about coming *that* close to mainstream success and front man Rhett Miller’s solo career (he recently toured Europe with Steve Earle). The band’s been doing what they do now since the early '90s, outlasting alt-country contemporaries who are often nonetheless more critically acclaimed (Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown).
But the 97’s endure. The occasional album hiatus aside, the band still tours semi-regularly, playing several Texas dates every year. Last night was the 10th or maybe 20th time I’ve seen them live (in my defense, some of those early shows are a bit hazy), and in spite of bassist Murry Hammond’s insistence that they never rehearse, they’re as reliable a live act as you can hope to find these days. An Old 97’s show is both a nostalgia trip and an opportunity to see how much your increasingly brittle ass is able to tolerate a full-blown rock show.
The big question before the show actually started was: how many occasionally fickle Houston music fans would brave potential downpours – on a Wednesday night, no less – to come downtown for the show? As it happened, the expected rains never materialized in force. Unfortunately, neither did the fans.
Wednesday nights are just about the worst for club shows, and last night wasn't much of an exception. And whether because of anticipated thunderstorms or general apathy, the sparse audience responded enthusiastically to the show, as the set list swung between albums of the band’s early heyday (Fight Songs and Too Far to Care, especially) and their two most recent releases (Most Messed Up, Graveyard Whistling).
“Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” was a newer-ish live staple, as are “Good With God” (though necessarily missing the Brandi Carlisle contribution) and “I Don't Wanna Die in This Town.” If nothing else, the 97’s know how to mix it up, sprinkling the newer cuts alongside singalong faves like “Bel Air” and “Big Brown Eyes.”
Would it have been nice to see a more sizable crowd screaming along to "Timebomb" or "Doreen?" Sure, but sometimes life gives you Coachella, and sometimes it gives you a couple hundred weary suburbanites glancing at their watches while reminiscing to "Four Leaf Clover." And there's nothing wrong with that.
What About The Opener? Here's a thought: when the guys opening for your headliner happen to be alt-country greats the Bottle Rockets, maybe advertise the fact? Nowhere on the House of Blue's web site or promotional material was it mentioned. Not saying it would've boosted crowd numbers appreciably, but it couldn't have hurt.
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Personal Bias: If you’ve ever seen/heard someone driving around town with his windows down and screaming along with “Barrier Reef,” there’s a good chance it was me.
The Crowd: Possibly the only people in Houston not interested in the Golden State game.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Is anybody *really* good with God?"
Random Notebook Dump: "I respect Murry for allowing his hair to go as gray as mine."