All words: Jeb Gavin
I am getting old. I know this. I can feel it. I’ve always thought of myself as a dirty old man, even back in high school, but now it’s very real. I’m ending the part of my life people normally refer to as “the best years of their lives”. With it comes the passing of some of my favorite bands. The Drive-By Truckers are all set to go on hiatus. This tour which played Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night may be their last show I see. Hope came in seeing Lucinda Williams, a hope that says you may slow down, you may grow old, but you can still kick ass. On the weekends. If you’re done by 11. The Truckers came on to a less than thrilling response from the audience.
Considering the day saw a wine festival at Merriweather, you’d expect more middle- aged, middle-class, liberal rednecks would have stuck around, even in a drunken stupor, to see the show. The band seemed tired when they played, not unhappy or disinterested, but knowing they neared the end of a long run. Shonna Tucker no longer plays with the band, though her replacement is more than capable. Guitarist John Neff still finds curious little runs in Patterson’s alternate arrangements, and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez keeps picking out curious little minors on the organ. It’s enough to satisfy diehards and titillate anyone presuming to be bored with a band that still enjoy playing together after 15 years. That being said, it’s clear everything is winding down.
After a brief set break while the crew swapped out Marshall stacks and a mess of drums and pianos for the stripped down rigs of Lucinda Williams’ backing band, the woman of the hour took the stage… and everything ground to a halt. Lucinda Williams, known to most as a songwriter, can be a hell of a performer, but it’s not a guarantee. Each record she releases is lauded more than the last, but everything is met with public indifference. It can be discouraging, making it all the more impressive when she marches out on stage, looking like a skinny Paula Deen, ready to destroy people, after a bit of a warm up.
Granted, it took three or four songs to get going that night. Her band looked as though this was normal. The three of them, guitar, bass, and drums plugged along like old hands, playing roadhouses and pavilions alike. They propped her up, kept things running until Lucinda got her bearings and took off like a shot. I don’t mean to make your average, run-of-the-mill, ageist argument here, but that old lady can really belt it out. Mostly her songs, “Essence” and “Joy” among them were standouts, but she also opted to throw in a cover of her own, Gregg Allman’s “Ain’t My Cross to Bear” just about blew my mind.
I get that my favorite bands are retiring, changing lineups or breaking up entirely. I know I’m always going to find new music, new bands to love, but it still hurts. Knowing that sometimes they come back, that they keep playing, it gives me whatever qualifies as hope these days. I’m getting older, but not growing up. Unexpected, to say the least.