|06/07/98||Whiskeytown||Incomplete Set List||Previous|
|The Abyss||16 Days||Next|
|Virginia Beach, VA||Turn Around|
|Dancing With The Women At The Bar|
June 7, 1998
By Jeff Wall
In an effort to expand my cultural horizons, I decided to go see Whiskeytown. They were playing at a club called the Abyss in Virginia Beach, Va. I had read a lot about this band on P-2, The Alt-Country mailing list. In fact, I had read too much. The lead singer Ryan Adams has been called everything from a genius, to a whacked out asshole of the highest order. Whiskeytown seemed to go through band members like Sherman went through Georgia. Leaving bodies and burning trailers all along the highway. Their latest release, Strangers Almanac, was voted to be the best album ever made since Edison invented the phonograph. Their live show was reported to either be a performance piece by a musician who was trying to out-party Keith Richards, or to be the best live show since the Elvis '68 comeback special.
So I put on my Uniform for the Culturally Aware. A size XXL Black P-2 T-shirt, my old cowboy boots with the run down heels, holes in the soles, the toes, and several other places, and an old pair of faded Levis. All that was needed to complete the ensemble was the coveted Don Walser Cap. But alas, I was forced to substitute an inferior piece of headgear. I kissed the wife goodbye, and jumped in the truck off to see the "best alt-country band in the land". To help me to get in the mood, and to properly prime up the synapses, Steve Earle and boys were cranked up running through "White Freight Liner Blues". Then a little Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff, and Fred Eaglesmith. As I arrived at the club, the juices were flowing. I was ready for the Twang!
I paid my $10 bucks and walked in to some artsy fartsy, trying to be funky, little warehouse lit in black light. The opening band, Fastball, was playing. Their logo had nothing to do with a baseball. Instead it was some type of pill. Speedball? Fasten 20/20? I didn't get the drug reference. Guess I'm just not as hip as I used to be. They sounded kind of like the Stray Cats meet the Beatles. Lot's of Pop tunes. I kept waiting for them to jump into "Help". Overall they were pretty good. I went up to the bar to grab me a cool refreshing beverage. Some greasy headed kid is sitting there yawning and nursing a cup of coffee. I go out to watch the band.
After Fastball finished their set, The Whiskeytown road crew started setting up. As Caitlin Cary was tuning her fiddle, I asked her if it would be okay for me to scream out Bill Monroe requests. The record table was selling a t-shirt that said "I played in Whiskeytown and all I got was this damn T-shirt".
Finally Whiskeytown took the stage. I was totally unfamiliar with them and their music. Alt-Country? I don't think so. Neil Young meets the Rolling Stones? Well, that's a better description than Alt-Country. They played basic roots rock. The tunes that stuck out the most were "16 Days" and "Dancing with the Women at the Bar". This is not to say they were bad, they weren't. They were quite good. That greasy haired kid turned out to be lead singer Ryan Adams. He was sober and a joy to watch. He had a lot of manic energy and reminded me a lot of Gram Parsons. Especially in the attitude dept. Adams was on his best behavior, sharing the MC duties with Ms Caitlin.
But suddenly I had to repress an urge to jump up on stage and to kick his greasy rockstar ass. During the song "Turnaround" he took his Gibson SG Electric guitar off and proceeded to smash the sumbitch. To me that is a mortal sin. You can cheat on the old lady, steal from the poor, sell drugs to school kids, and you can still find redemption. Smash a perfectly good guitar and you go straight to Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. This guitar ended up in about 12 pieces. The head snapped off, The neck split, then broke. The body ended up in several pieces. After the show, I saw a roadie gathering chunks of guitar and saying that Ryan was going to try to glue it together. Glue it together? You have a better chance of trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean a tablespoon at a time.
During the set, Ryan dedicated a semi-acoustic song to Tammy Wynette who had died that same day. The show ended with a song that had a 15 minute feedback loop at the end. Ryan is tuning and de-tuning strings while causing the guitar to feedback through. That was kind of wild. Boring, but wild. For an encore Caitlin accompanied Ryan's acoustic guitar on her fiddle on a song about being a screw up.
Although the show didn't have any twang in it, It was still a great show. The lead guitar player (whose name I don't recall, and who has probably been fired by now) was playing some very tasty Tele licks. The band as a whole was very tight, although the pedal steel wasn't loud enough.
I want this album. It ain't got nothing to do with Country, but it is still good. If you get the chance, go check 'em out.
- Jeff Wall
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