I’m a fan of Bloodshot Records, so I am always happy to see one of their artists doing well, and Justin Townes Earle certainly is. He’s moved up the list of Madison venues to find himself headlining a show at the just under a thousand capacity Barrymore Theater. I’m not a huge fan so it was probably a little strange that I went to this show. Surprisingly, I went for the opener, who happens to be a girl. I had seen Tristen and her band at SXSW, and really enjoyed the adorably petite girl singer. I even described her to a friend as being “twice as cute as (the New Pornographers’) Kathryn Calder. “Unpossible” he replied, and rightly so, but she was pretty delightful just the same.
I was running late and arrived at the box office just as they started their first song. Luckily everyone was waiting for JTE before they stood up so I was able to get close. At first I wasn’t quite sure I liked her as much as I had that first day of SXSW (after all, I did drink a lot that day), but by the third song she had won me over again. She had the endearing habit of introducing a song by either telling us what it was about in the exact words of the title or by saying something so cryptic it didn’t make any sense at all. The best song was the last, a ridiculously catchy number that saw her putting down her guitar and plucking the mike from the stand so she could pace around the stage and wave her arm in the air at the same point in the chorus. I believe that most of the songs in the set are slated for an upcoming record, so I’m waiting to buy a CD. Um, especially because I somehow managed to lose the one I bought at SXSW, it never made it home from Texas.
Once I told people that I was only there for the opener they agreed that she had been a very pleasant surprise, and inevitably asked if I was going to stay for the headliner. I’d paid twenty bucks so I was definitely going to stick around for a little bit. As expected, people filled in the standing room in front of the stage between the bands, enthusiastically awaiting Earle’s appearance. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time, so I was surprised how different he looked. Instead of the trademark suspenders I was used to which seemed to make his stickly figure even gaunter, he sported a suit coat and tie. His hair was longer and he appeared to be going for the Rhett Miller look. He seemed to be adopting a Miller-esque stage presence too, though admittedly in slow motion compared to the excitable Old 97’s frontman. He was funny and charming, and it sounded good too. It certainly didn’t change my life, but I’m glad I stuck around.
Justin Townes Earle