Wheeler Walker Jr., Birdcloud
House of Blues
June 18, 2016
Some words always stick out, no matter what the situation is. Whether they're from a sea of chatter or coming out of a muffled PA, our ears catch these words and home in on them. Expletives are magic like that.
Wheeler Walker Jr. knows his way around a curse word or seven. There is no missing them, even if you’re completely unfamiliar with his work. They’re the mile markers on the highway to his version of Nashville, guiding you to his take on country music.
As someone who loves overanalyzing music, I would love to fill up this post with 600 words of a hot take on Walker’s output, whether or not it's actually problematic and the like, but fate conspired against that. Wheeler was the victim, like so many others, of a weird, muddy audio mix that made understanding his lyrics nigh-impossible unless you were already familiar with his work. I wanted Wheeler’s words straight from the source, but thanks to technology, all I could catch were the curse words.
What I can say is that Wheeler Walker Jr. knows what his crowd is looking for, and those packed into the Bronze Peacock looking for a rowdyish night did seem to walk away pleased. Musically speaking, his songs have the chops, and on that end there wasn’t a bad apple in the bunch. He got in his kind words for Houston and his antagonistic ones for the Dallas Cowboys. Wheeler Walker Jr. wants to be the champion of the people in the room with him, and he knows how to get that point across.
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Judging from the crowd, there are folks out there tired of what goes for country music these days and looking for someone to save them from the Sam Hunts of the world. What surprised me was the purity of the crowd. I get that there are country music fans looking for what Wheeler offers; I'm just surprised that more non-country fans weren't in the building. Not for nothing, but you’d think that Wheeler would have more fans who are either hipsters, people who pretend they like country music because they own a best of Johnny Cash record, or people who wish Ween had done more country stuff.
His stuff might not be as sublime as “Piss Up a Rope,” but it certainly seems like he’d be a solid enough addition to any festival looking for afternoon acts that won’t put the crowd to sleep. If nothing else, the curse words would at least catch a few folks' attention. They’ve got a way of doing that.
So, How Was the Opener?: I thought Birdcloud was awesome. The songs are tight, catchy and magnificently constructed, not to mention damn funny to boot. I’m at a bit of a loss that more people aren’t talking about them. They also gave us a shout-out from the stage.
Personal Bias: I do wish Ween had done more country stuff. I probably would have enjoyed the Deftones cover band playing in the big room more.
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The Crowd: It’s been a minute since I’ve been to a show that had a crowd with actual lighters to hold up when requested, as opposed to the cell phone lights that are much more commonplace. There was also a dude who held up a video of a penis, because it was that kind of night.
Overhead in the Crowd: “Can you believe this guy thinks I’m 30?,” written the way it is here, doesn’t adequately display how annoyed the lady who said it was, but even with italics, this post doesn’t have the capacity to hold the amount of question marks necessary.
Random Notebook Dump: After the show, I stuck around for a bit so I could introduce myself to Wheeler. While his beef with us might have started with the original article we posted, it’s been pushed along by my needling him on social media, which judging from the crowd was good for business. Understand: I don’t dislike Wheeler, but I will defend my place of employment against any man or woman who says he or she is going to buy our newsroom and use it to shoot granny porn. That’s a little thing called loyalty. In any case, we shook hands and he kind of took a shot at what I do for a living, and that’s perfectly fine. At some point this story will go live and I’ll tweet it out and he’ll have something insulting to say, and this time I think I’ll let him have the last word. Not because I’m the bigger man, but after 762 words, there is nothing more to say, other than that we’ll never see eye to eye because he never takes off those sunglasses. It is, like so many things in life, what it is.