Drive-by Truckers – Live at the Tabernacle 2012

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Megafaun, a Durham, NC based folk-rock group, opened the evening.   I’m not familiar with their songs, but as openers, go, they were a solid choice.  Though some songs were fairly straightforward, they appear ready to move into jam band territory, which might suit them well.  On the other hand, it’s almost as if they seek to find zones where discord takes over, so that when they pull out of it they sound that much the better.

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It was a night that reflected on the recent passing of The Band’s drummer/singer Levon Helm.  Megafaun covered “I Shall Be Released,” and did a fine job of it.  Their drummer even has more than a passing resemblance.  When the lights went down for the Truckers, the house sound switched to a Helm song in its entirety before the band took the stage.  Helm would later have a dedication during “Uncle Frank,” as well as a fuller tribute in the encore with both bands covering “The Weight,” taking vocal turns on the stanzas.  The passing is a loss to music for those in the know, but it added a nice change of pace to the evening.

And what an evening it was.  The sound was simply hellacious.  Not hellaciously good, but that of tormenting demons.  Megafaun was enjoyably loud.   Crisp guitars, bass, drums, vocals.  Good!

The Truckers cranked it up a notch (or three) too many.  I’ve been to DBT shows before.  I know loud, and I can deal with it.  I know that given a few songs, my brain will sort out the aural mess and will make what was seemingly “not ideal” into an enjoyable concert experience.    I’m also a realist on what concert sound is (per many audience recordings via bootlegs) and what it can be (from attending quite a number of venues). 

This was unnecessarily bad.

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The venue itself is loud.  The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne mentioned during their last stop that they’ve played all over the world, and The Tabernacle is “the f***ing loudest.”  But he was talking about the crowd noise directed towards the band.

After the initial assault did not diminish, and either my brain or the sound board operator was proving not to make it better, I became fully convinced that Mike Cooley’s mic was blown.  Seriously.  To the point that I thought a techie would come out and replace it.   No, apparently the sound was properly set at “Max.”  While Hood’s voice sounded somewhat better... this was apparently the way they wanted to be heard.   And that isn’t fair, because I’ve sat in near identical seats (off center, first balcony, three rows back) and had very enjoyable (loud) sound.  Looking around, I wasn’t alone.

My son and and his friends would later comment, when they could understand what I was saying during the drive home, that they could only make out some of the words.  I had the advantage of knowing the songs, and I could barely follow along.  Add in The Tabernacle’s pedestrian lighting system, and hell no, I ain’t happy.

Which is a shame.  DBT’s performance was awesome, particularly as the evening wore on.  The band covered a generous 7 song helping from “Southern Rock Opera” and three each from “Decoration Day” and “The Dirty South.”  That’s their best stuff, and there was a lot of it.   Add in four songs from their older recordings, and that, interestingly, leaves only 1 song each from their last four albums.  I’m wondering (and hoping) if the emphasis on their best stuff isn’t just playing to “crowd favorites” but a recognition that they need to write more of them.  Probably not, as they bring 80 or so songs from which they choose to play each night.

Highlights included whenever leader Patterson Hood interacts with the audience – such as intros to “Box of Spiders” or “The Southern Thing” as well as whenever he talks in the moment, such as to an attendee who was outed when he threw a cup in the audience.  Hood remains the heart and soul of the band, and this being my third DBT show, he always seems to be having a genuinely good time.   In the other two shows (2005 and 2010), the band used to pass around a jug presumably filled with whiskey.  The jug is smaller, the liquid is clear, and it doesn’t get passed around anymore.  I guess they’re maturing.

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Musically, “Puttin’ People on the Moon” was strong, “Let There Be Rock” pushed the crowd into fist pumping territory, and “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy” was a raucous, guitar wailing rendition.  At 2.5+ hours, I thought that would have been the last song, but they continued with SROs “end of the road” classics, with each member leaving the stage while leaving their instruments sounding loudly, a tradition when they close with “Angels and Fuselage.” 

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As bassist Shonna Tucker left the band, current touring bassist Matt Patton took stage right, leaving singer/guitarist Mike Cooley near the center. Cooley’s always been content on the wings, but it was good to see him share the role of center stage rocker, with all the adulation that comes with it. It seems right.

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Otherwise, the star of the show was John Neff, an unassuming side-man who happens to play lead guitar.  Cooley and Patterson can bash it out, which fits many of their songs, but whether soloing, playing slide, or pedal steel, Neff is the one who makes it all sound better.

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Below, near the end of the concert, perhaps the front row fans are getting a better capture of whichever dimension Hood’s arm is entering.

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This guy didn’t make it.   I think the people who were in the missing seats left to search for medical attention for their ears.  I’ve tacked on a few interior shots of The Tabernacle after the Set-list below.  If you go, it’s an interesting place to explore.  Aside from the art, it also has the highest bar to patron ratio in Atlanta.

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Setlist

The Buford Stick
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
The Southern Thing
Gravity’s Gone
Sinkhole
Uncle Frank
Buttholeville / State Trooper (Springsteen)
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
My Sweet Annette
Women Without Whiskey
The Living Bubba
Cartoon Gold
Box of Spiders
Three Dimes Down
Puttin’ People on the Moon

Encore:

The Weight (w/ Megafaun)
Get Downtown
Let There Be Rock
Zip City
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
Shut Up and Get on the Plane
Angels and Fuselage

Photos from within The Tabernacle, previously a church.

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1 comment :

  1. I agree totally. It was entirely too loud. I started to wonder if the sound man had any idea what he was doing. He really needed to be in front of the the stage so he could really tell what it sounded like. We were on the first balcony center stage fourth row. My ears are still ringing. LPT

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