Drive-By Truckers Rock Two Nights at the Intimate Brooklyn Bowl [Review, Photos, Setlists]

Photo by Lou Montesano via Brooklyn Vegan

Drive-By Truckers have played all around New York City in recent years, settling in at big, ornate rooms like the Beacon Theatre and also getting intimate in clubs like the Music Hall of Williamsburg. For their most recent Big Apple play, the Athens, GA rock outfit found a Thursday/Friday residence at Brooklyn Bowl to be most suitable for their tenured alt-country sound.

Opening each night was Erika Wennerstrom, who dazzled the sold-out shows with her ethereal, sometimes psychedelic rock styling. At 9 songs and 57 minutes, her new album Sweet Unknown is absolutely worth a listen. The swirling sounds evoked on the LP harken back to classic psychedelic folk-rock albums (think David Crosby’s first solo effort) while carving out a new lane for the Austin-based singer-songwriter. On the first of two nights, she would join Drive By Truckers for an absolutely stellar version of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” that would serve as a highlight of the gig.

Aside from that sit-in, Drive-By Truckers are a relatively no-frills rock ‘n’ roll band. They played 24-25 songs per night, skipping the encore and keeping the between-song banter to an absolute minimum. With the help of two guitar techs, they hop right from one song into another, bringing in the type of long-running production that is usually absent in such an intimate space.

With their own sound technician on hand, the room sounded absolutely incredible! Multiple people I was with commented on this, and I even heard Peter Shapiro himself comment on it to one of the Brooklyn Bowl staff. It may have been the cleanest sound I’ve ever heard in the room, which can sometimes fall victim to muddiness due to the fact that there’s a freakin’ bowling alley off the stage left there.

Anyhow, on the first night the Truckers burned through new ones like “Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn” and “Ramon Casiano” along with old favs like “When The Pin Hits The Shell”, “Sounds Better in the Song”, and “Ronnie & Neil”. Both the new and old sound phenomenal when the prolific band burns through them, alternating between singer-songwriters Patterson Hood & Mike Cooley’s very different and distinctive croons. The band has always had a socio-political edge, but the Trump regime and Black Lives Matter movement have reinvigorated the content to feel more like a commentary on the modern times, whereas the old material was a little more of story time in the deep, dark South.

During “What It Means”, Hood took the time to tell a story about seeing Patti Smith in concert, who told her crowd a story that ended with the advice, “Love each other, Motherfuckers!” Hood presumably takes this advice around the country, spreading the gospel as he preaches in front of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign that sits on the keys rig. It’s incredible important for a southern band, one that even gets the ‘country’ tag, to remain positive and political while advocating the rights for everyone in this country. Drive-By Truckers will inevitably lose fans in the Bible Belt with these opinions, but for lack of a better term, fuck ’em.

On the second night, Drive-By Truckers settled in and crushed it even harder than the night before. “First Air of Autumn”, “Shit Shots Count”, “Marry Me”, “Buttholeville”, and many more songs entered the set that hadn’t been there the night before. They ended with “Hell No I Ain’t Happy”, evoking a huge sing-along from the Friday night faithful. As they exited the stage, they had certainly proved themselves as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most elite and professional bands, complete with a loud, but very clear, sound, a purpose, and a deep catalogue to pull from each night.

3/29/18 Setlist [via]

Zip City
Heroin Again
Filthy and Fried
Righteous Path
Ramon Casiano
Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn
Sounds Better in the Song
The Living Bubba
3 Dimes Down
Sink Hole
Slow Ride Argument
The Perilous Night
Kinky Hypocrite
The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones cover)
Do It Yourself
When the Pin Hits the Shell
Ronnie and Neil
Women Without Whiskey
When the Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin cover) (with Erika Wennerstrom)
What It Means
Surrender Under Protest
Let There Be Rock (with David Barbe)
Shut Up and Get on the Plane (with David Barbe)
Angels and Fuselage (with David Barbe)

3/30/18 Setlist [via]

Ramon Casiano
Gravity’s Gone
Days of Graduation
Ronnie and Neil
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
Marry Me
State Trooper (Bruce Springsteen cover)
First Air of Autumn
Guns of Umpqua
A Ghost to Most
Used to Be a Cop
Sounds Better in the Song
Lookout Mountain
Surrender Under Protest
Pauline Hawkins
Shit Shots Count
Why Henry Drinks
Women Without Whiskey
The Company I Keep
Slow Ride Argument
The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones cover)
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy