Scenes From Saturday Night's Old 97's Album Release Show At Strauss Square.
Saturday night at Strauss Square, set among a gorgeous outdoor backdrop of Downtown Dallas' notoriously lit skyscrapers, Old 97's did something almost unheard of these days: They played twice the same brand new tune — “Let's Get Drunk & Get It On” — during its 90-minute offering.
“Pretend you've never heard this one before,” frontman Rhett Miller joked as the band returned to the stage for the first song of its encore.
OK, sure, there was a reason for the repeat: For the second go-round, the band — which had since attached GoPro cameras to the headstocks of its instruments — was intending to use the footage as part of a music video for the song. And insanely catchy as that song's hook, in particular, is even from the very first listen, the second offering made sense as far as giving the prospective stars of the band's next video the chance to really latch on to its words.
But, listen, bold a move as doubling up on a song is, one gets the feeling that the band could have just as soon played the song a good half-a-dozen times without too much complaint from any of the roughly 2,100 folks that showed up on Saturday. No, this was a crowd that, for the most part, knew what it was getting — and was downright ecstatic about it. For instance? At least two attendees that we know of planned to propose to their significant others during the band's inevitable performance of its love ballad, “Question.” And at least one of them, we can confirm, received a yes.
And while the night was officially intended to serve as an early release show for the band's upcoming Most Messed Up LP, it felt just as much a celebration of the band's now-20-year legacy as one of this town's shining stars. And, even so, with each of the four, uncompromisingly foul-mouthed new cuts the band whipped out, the performance also felt very much like a rebirth of sorts for a band that's more than ready to dive headlong into the next great chapter of its existence.
To that end, the band did offer up at least one big clue as to what fans can expect from the outfit in the coming years. Three songs into its set, Miller announced that 2015 would mark the inaugural run of its “All The Way Weekend” festival — a Dia de Los Toadies-esque outdoor fest curated by the band that derives its name from the band's song, “Just Like California.”
Another sign the band could do no wrong during its Saturday night set? Three-quarters into the performance, as the band whipped out “Longer Than You've Been Alive” — a song we've gone on record as saying that we pretty much can't stand. Somehow, it managed to pretty much own on this night.
Perhaps it was because, in a live setting, the track's hokey, self-referential lyrics take on an air of triumph that makes one want to raise a fist and/or glass of booze to the accomplishments of one of the city's greatest musical exports of the past couple decades. Or more likely, as Miller sings in that one, it's because he's made a living shaking his ass — and, to be frank, with that asset in particular, he could probably sell water to a fish.
Yes, on Saturday night, Miller and his bandmates were just that good.
Not that we should have been surprised, really. As much fuss has been made over the booze- and f-bomb-filled new album, the material from Saturday night's show, which spanned the band's entire catalog, proved one thing in a major way: The Old 97's have been releasing excessively clever songs about getting drunk and breaking hearts for 20 years now.
And some things never get old.
Won't Be Home
Just Like California
W. TX Teardrops
Let the Whiskey Take the Reins
Can't Get a Line
Four Leaf Clover
Designs on You
Crash on the Barrelhead
Longer Than You've Been Alive
Murder (Or a Heart Attack)
Big Brown Eyes
Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)
Let's Get Drunk & Get It On
Let's Get Drunk & Get It On
Wish the Worst
All photos by Pete Freedman.