“It’s been a long time since we’ve got to play in our very favorite room of all.” – Patterson Hood
Drive-By Truckers gave DC two more resplendent sold out shows at the 9:30 Club (April 29 and 30). I attended the first show, and was embraced by a thunderous set of 24 songs over a formidable 2-1/2 hours. The band has been around for a long time, and keep coming to the 9:30 Club, so I decided to finally see them live for the first time. Worth the effort, though around midnight and for the last 30 minutes of the set, some in the older leaning crowd either had to catch the metro before it closed or needed to get some beauty sleep. But most people stuck it out to the end. (Set Time: 10:15 pm; End: 12:43 am)
As the band stated themselves, the last time they played in DC was Leap Day (2/29/20) right before the pandemic. And as fortune favors the bold, we also reviewed their show on the day before (2/28/20). They love to play two or three shows every time they visit the 9:30 Club, which has been a lot – 15 years out of the last 20. They are so important to the history of 9:30 Club, that they are also getting one of the 44 opening shows at the The Atlantis on August 10, 2023. Note: The Atlantis opens on May 30th, and is designed to recreate the vibe and band promotion goals of the original location that became the 9:30 Club in the 1990’s. It will be located next door to the 9:30 Club, in the former Satellite Room.
After a solid set by the opener, Lydia Loveless, the stage lights went out, and the crowd started cheering as the Drive-By Truckers took the stage in darkness. Behind them, a giant purple and blue mural of winged demons (that looked like cats), hovered imposingly. They are touring for their 14th studio album, Welcome 2 Club XIII (via ATO Records), so they kicked off the show with a song from the new album, “Maria’s Awful Disclosure”. It speaks to, I assume, the exposé written by Maria Monk (Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, pub. 1836) of alleged horrors in Catholic convents in Montreal.
The current lineup of the Drive-By Truckers is Patterson Hood (vocals, guitar), Mike Cooley (vocals, guitar), Matt Patton (bass), Jay Gonzalez (keyboard, guitar), and Brad Morgan (drums). Started in 1996, they have had multiple lineups over the years, with Patterson and Mike as the co-founders and the only original members to remain. Brad has the next longest tenure, around since 1999. They are currently based in Georgia, but both Patterson and Mike are from The Shoals region of Alabama, which has been a huge influence on their music and lyrics.
The third song was “Zip City”, from their double album, 2001’s Southern Rock Opera (via Soul Dump). They really enjoyed performing from this album, as evidenced by eight of its songs making the set. Like nearly all of their songs, “Zip City” opened with an overpowering blitz of guitar riffs and drum beats. These intros were my favorite part of each song because they get you riled up and energized for some kick ass Southern Rock. Their sound taps into to many different influences, from Southern Rock to country to blues to punk and more, but the blend is unmistakably that of the Drive-By Truckers.
For every song, Mike and Patterson rotated lead vocal duties. Mike did the 12 odd numbered songs of the set (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.), while Patterson did the 12 even numbered songs (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.). Lyrically they are not afraid to say what’s on their mind. Each song is its own novella, nothing spare or left to interpretation. Their oeuvre is also abundant with lyrics expressing their progressive political views openly and honestly.
Later “Dead, Drunk and Naked”, also from Southern Rock Opera, is a classic countryesque song about turning your life around for the better. Of the 24 songs in the set, they sampled from eight of their albums. I know they did a completely different set for the second night, with little overlap in songs, so it would have been enlightening to witness both shows.
“Welcome 2 Club XIII” is both the title of the new album and one of its songs, and the name of a formative club across the Alabama state line, in Tennessee. Patterson told the crowd about growing up in The Shoals of Alabama, in a dry town, so people would travel to Tennessee and get into memorable shenanigans at the clubs in the area, this one in particular. The band had a lot of stories to regale, both during the set and in their lyrics, but just in general appeared to be thoroughly excited to be performing again at the 9:30 Club. At one point, Patterson exclaimed the opening quote (see above), to the delight of everyone, not because of the usual hyperbole of such a statement, but because he was clearly sincere.
“Women Without Whiskey” was probably my favorite song of the evening. Mike plaintively sang about someone struggling with alcohol addiction, but the chords were the especially potent and memorable part.
Near the end came “Lookout Mountain”, from 2004’s Dirty South (via New West), with its especially thunderous opening, that fit well with the lyrics of someone contemplating committing suicide, and wondering who will do all the mundane tasks of their life once gone.
They ended with two more songs from Southern Rock Opera, “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” and “Angels and Fuselage”. Leading into “Angels and Fuselage”, Patterson again talked about the current political environment, but had a solution for everyone. He led us on a chant for ‘Fuck fear!’ over and over, and let me tell you, fear was totally fucked. It doesn’t stand a chance.
The band did a long-form play out, each member bowing out of the song’s coda and exiting at their appropriate moment. Both Patterson and Mike did the classic live theatre move of bowing for the audience, and of course they were well received.
Hopefully you’ve made it to at least one Drive-By Truckers concert over the years, but if not, you will certainly have amble opportunity to correct that at the 9:30 Club (or The Atlantis if you got a ticket!), as they show no signs of slowing down.
- Maria’s Awful Disclosure
- The Driver
- Zip City
- Putting People on the Moon
- 3 Dimes Down
- Ronnie and Neil
- 72 (This Highway’s Mean)
- Dead, Drunk and Naked
- Guitar Man Upstairs
- Welcome 2 Club XIII
- Love Like This
- A Ghost to Most
- Goode’s Field Road
- Women Without Whiskey
- Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
- Every Single Storied Flameout
- Lookout Mountain
- Gravity’s Gone
- Steve McQueen
- Marry Me
- Decoration Day
- Shut Up and Get on the Plane
- Angels and Fuselage