New (to me) venue, new (to me) band, favorite band, and good friends – I was hoping this evening out would be the cure to my curious sleeping sickness. A combination of physical and mental ailments have prevented me from getting any rest or my sleeping at odd hours or from even leaving the house for full week. Maybe music will heal me once again.
The Capitol Theatre is in Port Chester, a suburb of NYC in Westchester. violaleeblue was meeting her friend there so rtb and I made arrangements to meet in Port Chester for dinner before the show. I got to Grand Central Station early and was, as always, overwhelmed by the number of people and how confidently they walked. I bumped into rush-hour commuter after commuter as I attempted to buy tickets at the machine and then figure out what track I needed to be at. We were supposed to take a 5:30pm train but it was only 5pm so I got on the 5:15pm train just to get the hell out of Grand Central. The car was half-empty and I couldn’t tell which way was facing front – half were facing one way and the other half the other way. I choose the wrong way. Just before we left the train was packed – a lot of husbands with flowers and almost everyone had a drink or a beer. I was sitting in a corner and a guy sat next to me and immediately said hello and asked how I was doing. We were still in NYC – did I have to put up with friendliness already?
Port Chester’s village center and main streets look like that of many small towns – a little rundown, some empty storefronts, established businesses, and some newer businesses from the latest immigrant community. In this case, Brazilian and Peruvian. I found what appeared to be a Brazilian restaurant (at least that’s what it said on the outside) and texted rtb where to meet me. I opened the menu and discovered I was at a Peruvian restaurant. That was okay because we both enjoyed our meals.
We walked a few blocks over to the Capitol. It’s a Thomas Lamb designed theater that was used for vaudeville and then movies so it has that beautiful classic palace look. My ticket was in my office so all I had was the pdf on my smartphone. The door person told me to go to the window. Where the clerk was restarting his computer so he told me to go to the other window. They were helping someone who had the same problem as me (no printer at home) and the female clerk was scolding the customer for choosing ‘print at home’ when he didn’t have a printer. I turned to the customer and said, “Don’t you love when people in service industries scold you?” The male clerk suggested I try the other window and I told him that clerk had told me to come here. The customer was very good-natured about it all and then the female clerk told me that some venues would make you go home instead of re-printing the ticket. I told her that that had never happened to me and she responded that it had happened to her and said Live Nation. Oh no, she didn’t. I told her not to diss Live Nation; they are number one when it comes to customer service. When the female clerk was done with the male customer, she ran out and left the male clerk to deal with me. He printed my ticket and I thanked him.
Inside the lobby were violaleeblue, her friend, and rtb waiting for me. I was still a little pissed so I immediately went into what had just happened, realized I’d never met violaleeblue’s friend before, turned to her and said, “By the way, I’m Carene,” and went on with my righteous indignation.
We went inside the venue. The show was not sold-out and there was plenty of room around us. The show was starting soon and I had purchased a seat up in the Loge – first row, center – and I was just sitting in my seat when The Old 97’s were taking the stage.
Rhett Miller (lead vocals, guitar), Murry Hammond (bass, vocals), Ken Bethea (lead guitar), and Philip Peeples (drums) went right into “Barrier Reef” and the show was pretty much high-energy music for their entire set. There was very little talking. Ken did a signature leap or two and Rhett looked for someplace to leap from for “Timebomb” and when he couldn’t find one he just jumped up into the air. Rhett did mention that they will be releasing a 7” of songs they recorded with Waylon Jennings. Murry gave a shout-out The McCoys and “Hang On Sloopy,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time.
Their set was an hour and 15 minutes of great music. Ken’s playing was preternaturally fast, Murry’s electric bass sounded like an upright, Philip’s drumming was tight, and Rhett’s vocals were loud and sincere. I don’t know what else I can say. You know that I love them and you know why.
The sound in the theater was a bit muddy and obnoxiously loud upstairs. I didn’t mind the muddiness so much for the 97’s since I know the lyrics but I knew it would be a problem with the Drive-By Truckers since I’m not familiar with their music. The band has gone through several line-up changes through the years and, despite the consistency of founder Patterson Hood (vocals, guitar) and co-leader Mike Cooley (vocals, guitar), I think you can hear the influences of many of the past members. In addition, you can hear Southern rock, The Replacements, The Hold Steady, and Lucero in their music. DBT’s position as pioneers of the alt-country movement means that the influences run strongly both ways. The current line-up has Matt Patton on electric bass, Jay Gonzalez killing it on guitar, keyboards, and organ, and Brad Morgan on drums.
The crowd upstairs was not as enthusiastic as the crowd on the floor. There was little clapping or movement for the 97’s or DBT. Sometimes I felt like I was the only person clapping and yelling. At first, all the DBT songs sounded the same to me – we were dangerously in jam band territory – and I wasn’t happy. “Tornadoes” and “Birthday Boy” are two songs that stood out for me during the latter part of their set.
At one point there was some tension in the crowd as a fight started its buildup. The roadie saw it from the stage, alerted the venue staff, who located the trouble, and it was broken up and handled before it even began. I was very impressed.
They ended their set with “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy” and when the roadie came on stage to tune the instruments he had to encourage the crowd to clap loudly for an encore. The people who were there were definitely into the band. It’s just that there weren’t a lot of them.
There was a lot more singing along for the encore songs (songs that I enjoyed a lot more). “Gravity’s Gone” “The Night GG Allin Came to Town” “Panties in Your Purse” “Let There Be Rock” and “Marry Me” were all big winners with me and the crowd.
At the end Hood had his guitar laying on the stage he was swatting it with a towel. He let it echo on and on as each member did similar things with their own instruments until there was only Morgan keeping the beat. At the end it was only the instruments playing themselves.
rtb and I caught the last train to Grand Central. Then I waited for the 6 to take me one stop. That was a mistake. The train skipped my stop and I had to walk to the 53rd Street station anyway. I should have just walked there in the first place and saved myself 45 minutes. When I got home I took off my Converse and my feet were killing me. Since I’d sat most of the night that didn’t make any sense.
So the music didn’t cure me but it sure as hell made life a lot better.
By Carene Lydia Lopez