Lucero: Mercury Lounge 23 July 2011

An announcement this past Tuesday on Lucero’s Facebook page: Nobody’s Darlings would be playing a late show at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday – tickets go on sale Friday and they’ll probably sell out quickly. Since Lucero would be playing the Vans Warped Tour at Nassau Coliseum earlier in the day, this secret show was not so secret.

Doors were at 10:30pm. I got to the club about 10pm and was on line behind one couple. Turned out they didn’t have tickets so they had to move to the other line and now I was first in line. Everyone was giving the bouncer a hard time – people leaving the Heartless Bastards acoustic show, people showing up for the Lucero show, people just walking by. I learned very early to smile in sympathy and roll your eyes at the annoying people so that the bouncer takes you into his confidence. So he talked to me some while we waited for the okay to start letting the people in. While standing there I could see various band members come out to smoke cigarettes and/or talk with fans. I kept wishing I were brave enough to say hello to one of them.

First in the club and now another line. The show was sold out and it’s a small club so I knew what spot I wanted so I could see everything. Since the band had come over from another gig, they were just doing their soundcheck. As the bar got crowded and people had their drinks and were ready to go inside, they’d make their way up front. Several women tried to get ahead of me but I was clear – I’d gotten here early and if they wanted that spot then they should have come earlier. The thing is I knew where they wanted to be in the club – right in front of the stage. I didn’t want that spot – especially at a Lucero show with all the beer throwing – I wanted a seat on the bench on the side where I could stand and see over everyone’s heads. It was the principle. It was also so crowded that a guy in a wheelchair, who’d been inside, came out to use the bathroom and people would not/could not get out of his way. They let us in a little after 11pm and the band was on stage by 11:15pm.

The couple who had originally been in front of me on line were now on the bench next to me. I was standing on the end of the bench and they kept moving back so at one point (later in the set) I had to ask them to not do that otherwise I’d be falling off. He told me others had sat so they had no choice. By that point they’d been talking instead of listening and decided to leave. They were part of the hipster crowd. There was the frat boy bunch. The southerners. The Jersey Shore kids. And me. Some more devoted than others but almost all delighted to see a great band in an intimate setting.

Nobody’s Darlings couldn’t make it so we’re playing instead. Lucero launched into “That Much Further West” and we were on our way. Ben Nichols (vocal/guitar) mentioned that it’s been a long time since anyone had clapped for them. Five weeks on the Warped Tour where they never played after 7pm and they didn’t serve whiskey. They’ve been playing sober for five weeks. There were shots and a bottle of Jamesons handed to the band. Beers on stage. And, as usual, Ben went from sober to drunk in what seemed like a matter of seconds. His punching himself in the head only happened for the last song before the encore though.

During the entire show Ben had this huge grin on his face. We were singing along and the band was feeling the love. There were few beer throwing incidents and for the first there was an audible disappointed “Awww” from the crowd. Ben said that usually they had 14yo kids staring up at them in confusion. “You look like my math teacher.” Brian Venable (lead guitar) shook his head – “No you don’t. No you don’t.” Ben laughed. “Then you have one fucked up math teacher.”

Ben was doing a lot of talking. He explained that they’d been playing for a half-hour for five weeks and were out of practice. Ben wanted to wait to play the songs they didn’t know so well later in the set when the alcohol had set in but the band gave in to crowd requests. They play without a set list and who knows where we’re going to land? Ben wanted to perform many of the pretty songs and I’m so happy they did. Both “Goodbye Again” and “Darken My Door” gave me chills – during the former it was just vocals, keyboards (Rick Steff), and pedal steel (Todd Beene almost invisible in a dark corner of the stage). I almost fell down on my knees in gratitude for songs so personal and universal and beautiful.

John C. Stubblefield (bass) (with a very short haircut) also had a lot to say to the crowd. He joked that they’d just spent 30 days in the hole. Ben said that there were going to be a lot of bad jokes on the bus based on that comment. Brian started blushing. “One drunk show in 2 months and you guys won.” Ben wanted to keep talking because “playing all these songs is getting in the way of me being a drunk asshole.”

For “Drink ‘Til We’re Gone” – Thirteen motherfucking years and we still can’t drink enough. And towards the end of the set – When I get drunk my fingers don’t move so fast, I think everyone is making fun of me, and I get mean. Except he didn’t get mean. He couldn’t wipe that smile off his face.

We heard two new songs – there’s going to be a new album early next year. “Like Lightning” was played for the first time in NYC (per John) and “Women and Work” they seemed to be working out on stage while they were playing (they have played it in other shows). Ben said he’d showed Brian the chords the night before.

Mercury Lounge is set up so that the band has to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. This makes encores awkward since the band has nowhere to go except to step off to the side and pretend they’re backstage. Earlier there was a huddle while the boys tried to figure out what time it was and thought they could only play until 12:15 but it was already 12:40. When Ben announced the last song, I believe they thought it was the last. He was in the crowd and talking to fans when it was over. Roy Berry (drummer) was shaking and spraying his beer. Instruments had been set aside and were being broken down. The crowd refused to move and soon the boys were back on stage. “Fistful of Tears” with vocal, piano, and hand/dance movements by Brian and Todd. Ben thanked them – Thank you Laurel. Thank you Hardy. – and then everyone got their instruments for “Hold Fast.” And around 1:00am it was all over.

Since it was packed I waited for people to leave before I attempted to squeeze through the doors with them. Ben had already announced that he was going outside for a cigarette and would talk to people and try to get as drunk as possible in 15 minutes and then be loading out. I have a history of speaking with Roy and, as usual, he was surrounded by fans and he spent some time talking with them. It looked like a long wait. Other band members were in the hallway between the green room and the exit. I went outside and saw Ben talking with a few people, all of whom were getting photos with him. Rick was apologizing for the keys being out for the last song because they couldn’t find the problem and hugging Ben. I watched for a bit and then an alien took over my body as I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and I put out my hand – I had a great time. Thank you. He shook my hand (and what a great grip) and never let go and had a big smile on his face – Awww, thank you. We had a great time. Awww, thank you.

Thank you, boys.

Set list

  • That Much Further West
  • Can’t Feel a Thing
  • What Else Would You Have Me Be?
  • Across the River
  • Like Lightning
  • Goodbye Again
  • Dangerous Thing
  • Joining the Army
  • Last Night in Town
  • Sixes and Sevens
  • Chain Link Fence
  • Sounds of the City
  • [It may be too late] (I have this written in my notes and I’m not sure if this was a cover or what it is)
  • Women and Work
  • Darken My Door
  • Drink ‘Til We’re Gone
  • The Last Pale Light in the West
  • Mom
  • All Sewn Up
  • Encore

  • Fistful of Tears
  • Hold Fast
  • By Carene Lydia Lopez