Scenes From Saturday Night's Second Anniversary Bash at Twilite Lounge with The Old 97's.
Could've been a shitshow. Maybe should've been a shitshow. But, no, it wouldn't be a shitshow — well, not in a bad way, at least. Not Saturday night, not the crown jewel in favored Deep Ellum haunt Twilite Lounge's weekend-long celebration of its second birthday, not even with the Old 97's — a band near 20 years removed from graduating from places this size — on this Fourth of July bill.
Maybe Twilite owners Jess Barr and Danny Balis were asking for trouble by having this crazy notion in the first place, cashing in on friend credit and flying Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond back home to join their bandmates Philip Peeples and Ken Bethea for a full band Old 97's show, the likes of which hasn't been seen, Hammond surmised right before taking the stage on Saturday, since the band was cutting its teeth at the long-shuttered Deep Ellum dive Naomi's. But give Barr and Balis their due credit, too: Effectively noticing in advance that some things maybe are too good to be true, they went on the defensive almost as soon as announcing the 97's coup — and as a free-to-attend (!) show at that — by alerting potential attendees that this one would hit capacity early (ya think?) and that late-arrivers would be uniformly turned away. In the end, they'd call the room full at around 9 p.m. or so, at least a good hour before before Barr's old Slobberbone bandmate, a flying-for-the-most-part-solo Brent Best, took the stage. And it was a packed house when Best strummed the opening chords of the night. But it wasn't uncomfortable, thankfully. It was comforting, if anything, what with Best in his bar-rocking element and the 97's right alongside him for the two raucous Slobberbone takes that closed his opening set.
Even as the 97's left the stage with Best to take a quick minute before starting their own eventual 100-minute showcase, the night already felt special. Those two songs already were more than enough to remind everyone in attendance that this band, which is so often lauded for being a quintessential bar band, just doesn't play bars any more. By this point, the sheer prospect of seeing them do so was almost sweet enough. Actually getting that taste? It was incredibly rich, especially in light of the fact that the band itself was relishing the same opportunity. Their banter was minimal — the foursome was otherwise pushing too hard on the gas pedals to allow it — although Bethea, in a quick aside, echoed Hammond's earlier Naomi's flashback cries.
It wasn't all nostalgia, though. To end the night, Miller unveiled from his bag a new trick to go along his half-Townshends and bass drum leaps, inviting anyone in the crowd who so pleased to join the band on stage for the night-closer, “Timebomb.” Almost the whole lot of them did, enveloping the band entirely but somehow not erring its efforts, rather impressively. It was a touchdown spike of a move fully befitting of the celebratory pose Miller struck upon its finish — a moment that fit right in along this night's just-right-amount-of-crazy aspirations.
While holding court at his bar's front corner, Barr at one point in the night fully acknowledged what this night was, admitting that he and Balis had swung for the fences with their two-year celebration where a routine single would've worked just fine. If not in so many words, his point: People don't remember routine singles.
And even though enough booze was spilling around the place to fuzz things up some, there's no doubt: People will remember this one. For a long time, too.