Drive-By Truckers @ Buster’s 10.20.12
October 26th, 2012 by Matt
Photo from DBT’s 2011 Lexington show
Article by Scott Whiddon
On Oct 20, 1977, just three days after the release of Street Survivors, a Conair CV-300 carrying the members and crew of Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed into a Mississippi swamp. En route to Baton Rouge, LA from Greenville, SC, three band members – including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant – died on impact. There’s a story – perhaps true, perhaps not (and isn’t that always the case with good Southern stories?) — about how Van Zant was struck in the back of the head by an on-board Betamax video tape machine as the plane spiraled down into the marsh – a piece of soon-to-be outdated technology colliding with a rock star that stood quite apart from the popular vocalists of the era.
35 years to the day later, the Drive-By Truckers rolled back into Lexington, KY for a capacity crowd at Buster’s. Although the Truckers’ sound draws from a range of influences, their connection to southern rock and the Skynyrd legacy has been well documented throughout their almost two-decade career as a band. Their 2001 breakout record, Southern Rock Opera, attempts to chronicle Skynyrd’s story while exploring traditional Southern themes of race, religion, and regional sensibility. Since then, the Truckers, led by the co-writing team of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, have explored Big Star-esque powerpop, country balladry, and soul music – all products of the American South. Known for their epic live sets and thoughtful, witty stage banter – as well as their keen ability to navigate the complexities that come with a Southern identity — the Truckers have become a well-respected mainstay of national festivals and touring circuits.
I’ve written about the Truckers a few times for YANP (click here for my review of their show from April 2011). One of the many things I love about the band is their varied setlists: how they make each show a unique experience for fans. Although not one to dwell in the past, the band chose to highlight songs from Southern Rock Opera to commemorate the Skynyrd crash – and the school bus driver who delivered the news of the accident to the 8th grader Patterson Hood. Fans got an update of the history lesson offered in “The Three Great Alabama Icons” and sang along with favorites such as “Guitar Man Upstairs,” “Shut Your Mouth (and Get Your Ass On the Plane”), and main set closer “Ronnie and Neil.” As a closer for an already amazing evening, Todd Beane from opening act Glossary (a highly recommended, classic-riff fueled band from Tennessee) sat in for most of the encore, including an extended version of SRO’s “Angels and Fuselage” — a heartbreaking account of the last few moments of that tiny plane falling from the sky.
As fans of DBT know well, the band has had several lineup changes over the years. Last year saw the departure of bassist/vocalist/co-writer Shonna Tucker. As a fan of her lyrics and Motown/Stax inspired playing, I admit that I miss her presence in the band. However, touring bassist Matt Patton of Athens, GA legends The Dexateens brought a classic punk rock feel to the Truckers’ material. His constant smile and solid, smack-on-the-beat style kept the energy high throughout the 2 ½ hour set. It’s clear that the band – and especially drummer Brad Morgan — loves having him onstage. While there’s no plans at present for a full time bassist
(producer David Barbe, according to Hood’s website, will be playing on the next
record), I can see him being a solid fit for the band in both the studio and the live set for the long haul.
DBT is a band that loves history but loathes nostalgia. While certain Southern Rock Opera-era songs have been a mainstay of their set for the past decade, I can’t imagine them including so many of these tunes night after night. And, for that, I’m glad – there’s so much amazing material to mine from each record since SRO. Lexington was lucky to get a rare treat from one of America’s finest rock bands – a night to both celebrate the wealth of music and writing that comes from our region and to get an even finer sense of the duality that’s part of the Southern thing.
Setlist/Oct 20, 2012
3 Great Alabama Icons
The Southern Thing
Where the Devil Won’t Stay
Dead Drunk and Naked
Guitar Man Upstairs
Call on Me
Putting People on the Moon
3 Dimes Down
Ronnie and Neil
Let There Be Rock
Shut Your Mouth and Get Your Ass on the Plane
Angels and Fuselage
Tags: Drive-by Truckers