Robbie Fulks & Jon Langford; November 28, 2011; The Hideout, Chicago
Robbie Fulks has been doing a Monday residency at the Hideout for the last several years. Most weeks he invites a guest and chooses a theme- Steve Frisbie and the Everly Brothers for instance. These shows have allowed him to explore and indulge many of his musical interests, which are far ranging indeed, everything from classic country to Thelonious Monk to an intriguing upcoming show featuring the music of the Velvet Underground. But when one of Chicago’s most recognized musicians came to visit no one was quite sure what would happen.
Punker gone country Welshman Jon Langford has lived in Chicago for almost twenty years; he’s released a slew of records with many different bands, several of them on the Bloodshot label. Fulks used to be on Bloodshot, which released his first three records, and he’s lived in Chicago about as long. Even so, they had only shared a stage once before, and oddly enough I was there. Fulks used to host a radio show on satellite radio called “Robbie Fulks’ Secret Country.” I had been lucky enough to be there with guests Langford and Cowboy Jack Clement, a been-there, seen-that classic country musician who had a wealth of entertaining stories about everyone from Johhny Cash to Jerry Lee Lewis. The combination was a winning one, and it was a great show. I almost would have predicted that tonight’s entertainment would have also featured the music of some old time country star, or perhaps a seminal punk band, but in fact it was all about Langford. Fulks usually runs these shows, but tonight he gave up the reins as his guest took over.
Instead of the usual format, this was more of a songwriters in the round type of event, with each of them taking a turn (or sometimes two in Langford’s case). They began the night with an original song written just for the occasion before moving into their own material, with the other playing usually along or adding backing vocals. The song choice was impeccable, Robbie dug into some of his earliest material, while Langford played many of my favorite songs. Songs like the hopeless “God Isn’t Real” from Southmouth (Fulks) were followed by the sage advice of “Get the Money” (Langford). The highlight of the night was Langford’s “Nashville Radio” sung by Fulks. The undeniably catchy song vividly chronicles the perils of the road to success. If I were picking I would have cued up Fulks’ “Fuck This Town” next, an equally bitter and jaded look at Music City. Another highlight was the title track to Gold Brick, which Fulks called the best song Jon had written, saying, more or less, “in fact you might as well give up now, because that was the high point.” A cover of “Okie from Muskogee” was just icing on the cake
The music was ridiculously entertaining; the banter even more so, with one-liners zinging back and forth. Too bad it couldn’t go on forever, but in fact it was one of the shorter Monday night residency shows, done just a little over an hour after it began. Still, it was certainly worth the trip, especially when I had the luxury of yet another cheap Megabus ticket. With the show starting and ending so early, I was even able to take the bus back that night. I can’t wait to do it again.