Old 97s w/ David Wax Museum @ The Pabst Theater
July 15, 2010
As the Old 97s brought an hour and a half long set
of their best known songs, several covers and a new song Thursday night, it was
clear that the concert held extra meaning for the band. In between songs, the
band's charismatic frontman Rhett Miller threw out nuggets about the previous
times the band played Milwaukee.
The band's first show in the city, a performance at the Rave way back in 1994,
was more than a bit humbling. The attendance was sparse and the band ended up
$30 out. Another time the band slept on the floor of a sausage factory.
Regardless of these experiences, the band kept at it
and this time in Milwaukee, with considerably more in attendance, they showed
how much they've perfected the art of taking sweaty, drink-along hard-edged alt-country
songs, throwing the crowd in a near-drunken joyful hysteria.
With the furious energy of a charging bull, Miller
and the rest of the band offered up a good helping of songs from their first
album Hitchhike to Rhome (including
“St. Ignatius” where Miller's lyric “I'm not a big star, but I've got a big
car” has a bit of irony now) through their last two efforts, Blame it on Gravity and the EP Mimeograph. The band also offered a
sneak peek into their upcoming double album tentatively titled The Grand Theatre with a song about Champaign, Ill.
There were plenty of messy and greasy country songs to be danced to and tales
from the dusty roads of Texas to Wisconsin.
Opener the David Wax Museum certainly also had an
interesting stories to tell and offered a charming, intimate and compelling set
of their Americana and folk songs, many radiating with the drenching heat of
Mexico and driven by instruments such as fiddle and accordion. There's good reason for the Mexican feel, as
David Wax spent months studying there and in the process added related and
intriguing instruments to his band such as jarana and a donkey's jawbone. The
band grew more energetic as their set went on with everyone joining in the
celebratory, playful atmosphere.
Photo by CJ Foeckler