Drive By Truckers; July 11, 2010; Otto’s, DeKalb
I had a secret hope that no one would be at this Drive By Truckers show in DeKalb. It was a Sunday night after all, and DeKalb is not really a major music market, especially during the summer when all the Northern Illinois University students are gone. It was a hope that went unfulfilled. The floor was pretty much packed by the time we got there (ten minutes after show time due to an incredibly slow, but ultimately delicious, pizza). Not that it really mattered, I’d lost the desire to be close to the stage at a DBT show a long time ago when it proved to ruin more shows than it enhanced. Standing at the back of the crowd on the floor with some friends still gave me a fine view and kept me well out of the way of the fight that took place. Given the typical DBT crowd it didn’t really surprise me, but that didn’t mean that lead singer Patterson Hood was going to stand for it. He stopped the show with an exclamation. “Get out of here, both of you,” he bellowed, “I don’t care who started it.” “There’s no fighting at a Drive By Truckers show, it scares off the ladies… and we like the ladies.”
Over the years the Truckers seem to have become a gentler band. Their new record The Big To Do is good, but it lacks the sort of tear it up rock songs that made Southern Rock Opera and Decoration Day such revelations. The addition of bassist Shawna Tucker has certainly helped soften their image, even though I’ve seen her lift the ever-present bottle of Jack with the rest of them. She’s also contributed songs to the last couple records. In a set that sadly lacked some of my favorite songs (which I can’t really blame on them) her “(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So” was a definite pleasure. Cooley’s “Carl Perkin’s Cadillac” early in the night and “Marry Me” later, as well as “Birthday Boy” the stand-out track from the new record, were all highlights. “18 Wheels of Love” has always been a live favorite as Hood tells the story of how his divorced mother fell in love with an actual trucker named Chester whom she married in Dollywood. A few years back Chester was so ill he had moved to hospice, but had somehow recovered and was back on the road. Tonight however he said he that Chester’s memorial service had been the day before. Since he’d been unable to attend he dedicated it to him, complete with story. Since it had been written as a wedding present, it was as if it had come full circle.
The weekend with two shows in two states and an all-day art fair excursion had taken its toll on me or I would have been outraged that the show was only two hours long. I’ve grown to expect two and a half as the norm, and three isn’t uncommon. Still, for a Sunday night one should be happy with an encore that included a raucous version of “Buttholeville” with Springsteen’s “State Trooper” slipped into the middle, and a very unexpected cover of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talking About Love.” As with the Hold Steady, I’ve learned to enjoy these shows from a little further away.