The Bottle Rockets; June 11, 2010; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
The Bottle Rockets booking agent had told me they were going to play a ninety minute set. Now, I’ve learned that booking agents aren’t always the authority on what a band is going to do, but I don’t think anyone expected the nearly three hour, all request marathon show they did tonight. Not only was it all request but they played every request they heard, never once making excuses about how they didn’t remember a song or how it had been too long since they played it last. I can’t remember the last time I heard “Financing His Romance” live, if in fact I’ve ever heard it live. It’s been years since I even thought about “Pretty Little Angie,” which Rocky convolutedly requested as “the song about the girl and a horse.” Lucky thing they knew what he was talking about, because it wouldn’t have surprised me at all if they’d been able to pull 70’s soft rock hit “Wildfire” out of the air. In fact the only request they did turn down was the inevitable call for “Freebird.” “Nope,” lead singer Brian Henneman smiled, “that’s only gonna happen once and it was in Neenah WI.” I smiled smugly since I had been there.
Over the years my request has been become a given. After years of literally begging for “When I Was Dumb,” all of a sudden they just started playing it without a word from me. I figured tonight was the one night I could make a second request. “I have two requests,” I told them between songs, “you already know the first one.” They smiled acknowledging that they did, “the other is “Hey Moon.”” Tonight we got a little background on the bounciest of their broken-heart songs. Turns out that Brian was a bit smitten with Moon Unit Zappa in the early days of MTV when she had her own show. Deciding it was creepy to write a song naming her, he wrote an entirely different song instead naming the Earth’s satellite. After nearly two hours, the band took a well-deserved break. They returned to play an extended encore. It seemed they had forgotten my second request, heck I almost had by that time. Then I heard drummer Mark Ortmann stage whisper the title to Brian. “Oh yeah,” he grinned, “we have to play this one or we don’t get paid.” It may have just been me, but that was the best version of it I have ever heard.
All the hits were there of course, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Bottle Rockets show where they didn’t play “Indianapolis,” “$1000 Car” and “Radar Gun.” The latter Brian dedicated to Paul Kegler who we had taken to see the band at Shank Hall in Milwaukee when he was somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve. There were also a few from their excellent new record Lean Forward, most notably “The Long Way” which sagely notes “the long way isn’t the wrong and a wrong turn isn’t the end when it’s understood something good is coming up around the bend.”
I’ve had shows sell out in advance before, well, OK one show actually. I thought this one would, but I certainly didn’t expect it to do it in six days. I spent the next month turning people away. I wish all my shows did this well, or even half this well. I set up chairs on only one side of the basement, leaving the other side open for the anticipated rock show. It worked well, to the point where a couple people suggested I probably could have fit a few more folks in. As it was there was room to move around, and to get to the coolers or the bathroom. I though it was a perfect amount of people and I am pretty sure they all left happy, feeling like they had just been a part of something very special.
The Bottle Rockets