Some months ago my penpal (yes, penpal – we’ve been writing to each other since the third grade and until recently had only met face-to-face twice with the first time when we were 17), who is from Iowa and currently living in Des Moines told me that Lucero (my boys!) would be performing there. I thought it would be fun to go but I couldn’t afford the trip and had forgotten about it. But then I got a great job (Yay!) and while looking over their tour schedule I saw the Des Moines gig again. So I emailed Sue and asked her how many tickets I should buy for the show. She was excited and I was excited, even it was Des Moines. Turns out I know another couple in Des Moines (former co-worker and her husband) and another person (ex of former boss). I’m still not sure how I ended up knowing five people from Des Moines but there you go. And Lori (the former co-worker) could join us, so I was doubly excited.
Sue, Todd and Lori, Brad and their daughters, and I met up at Eatery A, which a very nice Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with wood-fired pizzas, fun appetizers, and a happy hour where you can get the pizzas at half-price in addition to the wine and beer. It was great to catch up with everyone and for my two sets of Iowa couples to meet each other and get to know each other. (Every meal out in Des Moines was excellent. I had no idea they had such good food there.)
It was just Sue, Todd, Lori, and I going to Wooly’s. Capacity is 700, so it’s larger than Bowery Ballroom and doesn’t have a balcony. By the time the band got on stage, it was packed. I found a spot in front of the stage (there was a metal gate keeping us about a yard from the stage) that was unfortunately right in front of the stack of stage left speakers. I don’t know why they didn’t fly the speakers. And the lights were the old ones with gels in front – every club in NYC has switched over to the softer colored lights. When I bought three drinks at the bar the tab came to $15.50 and I knew I was not in NYC anymore.
John C Stubblefield (bass) came out to introduce the opener, Jake La Botz, in his own inimitable way. La Botz played electric guitar and there was Phil Leon playing half a drum kit (bass, snare, tom) and Brad Tucker on upright acoustic bass. Both La Botz’ look (blue workshirt, jeans, hair slicked back) and the type of band said rockabilly to me. What I read says he’s a blues and roots singer. He’s also an actor (discovered by Steve Buscemi and has appeared in Buscemi-directed films and Ghost World and Rambo are among his other film credits). He did sing some blues (one song as a joke about his magical comb for sale at the merch table) but the one song that he looked most comfortable singing was the one rockabilly song and the other (the last song, which I think was “How I Wish She Was Mine”) was rockabilly adjacent. “Hungry Again (Put Me in a Hole)” was a pretty ballad. La Botz asked if the “s” was pronounced in Moines and then if it was pronounced in Des, so it was running joke to say, “Des Moines where you don’t pronounce the ‘esses’” every time he mentioned the city. Some songs I remember are “Everybody Got to Fall Down,” “Hobo on a Passenger Train,” “Feel No Pain,” and “For Nickels and Dimes.”
I enjoyed my time with the band but I’m not running out buy any of his records.
I caught a glimpse of Ben Nichols (singer/guitarist) watching La Botz from backstage and during the show he said how much he enjoyed having La Botz on tour with them. It was their first time at Wooly’s and the crowd was ready for them. About halfway (I think) Todd had to leave and then Lori left (which I knew she had to leave early) and only Sue was left with me but she went to the back because it was getting too loud for her. But I was okay by myself because my boys were playing. The crowd was drunk and a little annoying in spots but it was mostly well-behaved as most Lucero crowds are nowadays.
They opened with “The Last Song,” which was a surprise for me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard them open with that. And then they went right into a new song, “Bottom of the Sea” and then “Sweet Little Thing.” At this point some guy behind us kept yelling out, “Jawbreaker!” Ben answered, “Yeah, Jawbreaker are back together. Think they’re playing the Hollywood Palladium tonight. Wonder if they’ll play any Lucero covers.” And then the band played “Chain Link Fence.” I filled in the rest on what was so funny – that Lucero used to always play a Jawbreaker cover, which they don’t perform much anymore (at least not the last few times I’ve seen them). And the guy was yelling out the name of the band instead of the name of the song.
The night was a great mix of the old and new. I got to hear “Hello My Name is Izzy” and “One Last Fuck You” again – this time with the full band. It’s still one of my favorite songs of Ben’s – like him, I love the slow sad songs.
Ben switched to an acoustic guitar before “Texas & Tennessee” and then back to an electric for “Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good.” Before his solo spot (with the brilliant Rick Steff on accordion and keyboards) Ben indicated with hands how the whisky gets him up here and he had to sing those songs before the whisky brought him down here. “The War” was dedicated to his grandmother, who had recently passed away (the band cancelled two dates while Ben flew south for the funeral). The song is based on stories that his grandmother told him about his grandfather.
The band returned to the stage and were playing “Nights Like These” and John C was late. Ben looked over to his left and said, “He’ll be back soon.” Before “Everything Has Changed,” he said they’d have to play the new songs because they’d already played their closers. Ben played acoustic for “Loving” with Rick on keys and said there will be a full band version on the new record.
The guy behind me was still yelling, “Jawbreaker!” as he did at every opportunity and Ben told him the band was probably on stage by now and he could probably livestream it. For the very last song of the encore, Ben started the riff and Brian Venable (guitar) looked surprised and the band performed “Kiss the Bottle.” As Ben walked off stage he said, “There’s your fucking Jawbreaker,” which cracked me up.
The only person I haven’t mentioned is Roy Berry (drums), who played as brilliantly as always. I’m fascinated by how lightly he seemingly taps the drums and cymbals and yet we get a nice full drum sound.
It is impossible to add anything new to what I’ve said about my boys before. They’re fun. We (the crowd) know the words to all the songs. I even knew some of the words to the new songs having heard them a couple of times. Lori seemed to have liked them the best of the three others in my group. I was happy that I could bring some more people to share my Lucero joy.
The Last Song
Bottom of the Sea
Sweet Little Thing
Chain Link Fence
Downtown/On My Way Downtown
To My Dearest Wife
It Gets the Worst at Night
Here at the Starlite
Texas & Tennessee
Hello My Name is Izzy
All Sewn Up
Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good
One Last Fuck You
Nights Like These
Tears Don’t Matter Much
Drink ‘Till We’re Gone
Everything Has Changed
Kiss the Bottle
By Carene Lydia Lopez