“This is our third time doing this,” lead singer Brian Henneman announced to begin the night, “you know how it works.” That way is that we request songs, they play them. Pretty simple, though beware that Brian will chide you if you waste your request on “Gas Girl,” the shortest song in a catalog that spans seven records and twenty years. In fact, on the eve of the biggest party of the year, he asked that at midnight tomorrow we take a moment at midnight to celebrate their two decade milestone. And they’ve weathered it well. “When we first got into this business, they said we weren’t attractive enough to make it,” he recalled, “but I think we’ve grow into it. We’ve gotten better looking over the years.” I had to smile thinking back to first time I saw them and a friend turned to me dismayed, “Kiki I can’t be attracted to any of them.” It’s surprisingly true though. Gone is the long hair and metal band T-shirts, replaced by hairstyles and button-ups. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the new guys (both who have been in the band eight or more years) are the adorable John Horton on guitar and the very handsome Keith Voegele on bass.
There weren’t many surprises, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Bottle Rockets show, request or otherwise, where they didn’t play “the big three” of “Indianapolis,” ”$1000 Car” and “Radar Gun.” Despite having seen them more times than I can count, I’ve never gotten sick of that trio. They’re all catchy, clever and memorable, which is probably why they were some of the first requests called for. I realize they want to slow it down sometimes, but I don’t always need to hear “Get Down River,” and I wouldn’t miss “Smokin’ 100’s.” This time I echoed Michelle’s call for “Hey Moon,” one of the catchiest break-up songs I’ve ever heard, and it worked. The last time I didn’t make any requests, figuring they know what I want to hear. Well, they do, but that didn’t mean they remembered to play it. I made a point of mentioning that at the beginning of the night. It worked. Toward the end of the night, John whispered “WIWD” to Brian, who responded with “what would Kiki do??” He continued, “This just goes to prove that if you are a total pain in the ass about us playing a particular song, it becomes your song.” It might not sound like a compliment, but I’m pretty proud that “When I Was Dumb” is now my song, no matter if I’m there or not.
In the course of the night they ended up playing most of their debut record, home to “Moon,” “Rural Route” and the devastating “Kerosene.” But there were also requests for more recent material. “The Long Way” and “Get on the Bus” from Lean Forward were both popular, and it was great to hear the title track of the unfairly forgotten Blue Sky.
It’s hard to imagine a more solid and entertaining live band on the planet than the Bottle Rockets. I sure am glad that they like playing at my house, because, yeah, I do know how it works, and I really like it.