I’m not sure what I can say about Jon Dee Graham that I haven’t said a million times before. After all, this was his seventh time at the house and I’ve been a fan since many years before that. What was new this time was that he had a brand new, not yet released, record with him. The perfectly named Garage Sale finds Graham venturing into new areas that don’t quite fit his Texas singer/songwriter image. The most unexpected of these is the intriguing “Radio Uxtmal (Venceremos)” which is a sort of Mexican dub-step track, yes really. While he hasn’t quite figured out how to play that one live, and I’d be surprised if he ever did, he played plenty of new songs on his way to delivering another of his breathtaking trademark basement shows. For someone who has been in the business as long as he has, it is impressive to see the joy of performing still so strong.
This time through he was accompanied by bass player Andrew Duplantis (a longtime Fighting Cock, making only his second basement appearance) and drummer George Duron (a basement first timer who fit right in) who were given the daunting task of drinking for Jon Dee and me since both of us are on the wagon (long story in my case, longer in his). It was a task they took seriously, and I realized early on that I was going to need more Spotted Cow and called for back-up. These are professionals of course, and you would never guess that they had downed a twelve pack between them by the end of the show. Playing the basement has always given Graham a comfort to try new material, things he wouldn’t play elsewhere. “We’re going to play a song that George doesn’t know at all,” he admitted, “and that Andrew only knows marginally.” “Isn’t that every song?” I asked, and yes, out loud, apparently not drinking doesn’t keep me quiet.
There was a stretch where “Airplane” had gone missing from the set. Those were still amazing shows, of course, but I missed my favorite song, a song so amazing that it frequently brings tears to my eyes. So good it’s like being sucker-punched, you never saw it coming, and so astute I marvel at the lyrics every single time. Happily, it has reappeared as a regular along with its album (and live) lead-in track “I’ll Wait,” an under two minute song about moving on. The first time I saw Jon Dee it was on the Summerland tour and that remains one of my favorite records, so I was happy to hear both “October” and “Black Box,” a pair of rockers so powerful if anything were to actually rear the roof off the basement it would be one of those.
A few friends were seeing Jon Dee for the first time. Judging by how pleased they looked at the end of the night, it was probably a lot like my first time.
Jon Dee Graham & the Fighting Cocks