It was a fine Thursday evening that found 2/3 of the intrepid 1600 team (Steve was temporarily missing in action- but that's a story for another day!) back at the Rock 'n Roll Hotel in downtown DC for an evening with the fabulous Waco Brothers! We soon found ourselves in the midst of a deep and enjoyable conversation with several of the Brothers- Jon Langford, Deano Schlabawske, Tracey Dear, and Joe Camarillo, who spoke with great candor about the band's roots, history, influences, politics, and opinions about the country music establishment and the state of the recording industry in general.
The Brothers, and the kind folks at their label, Bloodshot Records, were also so generous with us to allow us to record their show that evening IN IT'S ENTIRETY! So look for yet another EXCLUSIVE 1600 CONCERT SPECIAL to be broadcast soon on channel 10 in scenic Fairfax, and surrounding areas, with airtimes to be announced as soon as we have the schedule nailed down...
Of course, the show itself was also a gas. While we unfortunately missed local country band the Starlingtons while we gulped down some of the Rock N' Roll Hotel's tasty bar cuisine, we were downstairs in time to catch Chris Mills, who performed solo (he mentioned he usually has a band) but his singing and guitar playing did not seem to lose anything in the translation. Chris looked every bit a seasoned entertainer, and was joined onstage by Wacos Langford and Camarillo, as well as Waco bassist Alan Doughty for a grand finale. Keep an ear out for his next visit to the DC area, it will be time well spent!
The Wacos give you raw, high energy, no-hold-barred rock n' roll with a twang, and get the audience singing and bouncing along in unison. From the opening chords of Waco Express, from their excellent, newly released live document "Live and Kickin' At Schuba's Tavern," to revved up yet faithful renditions of seminal country selections including George Jones' Girl at the End of the Bar, and White Lightning, and the immortal Johnny Cash's classic Big River, the Waco Bros. exuded their earnest respect and dedication to what country music was before becoming co-opted by corporate radio and the ham-fisted, profit-obsessed recording industry.
For Jon Langford's art and commentary on the Death of Country Music, see his labor of love, "Nashville Radio" available from better bookstores now!
The Wacos fired several pointed volleys at those culprits, as well as at the current administration, with songs like Cowboy in Flames, Do What I Say (Not What I Do), and Blink of an Eye, featuring the line "The President's just half a man/Riding in some giant's hand/He's gone in the blink of an eye." That couldn't happen soon enough for me! Other standouts that night included Too Sweet to Die, Hell's Roof, Fox River, and Revolution Blues, performed in a balls-out, freewheeling and high octane style that erupts in equal parts perceptiveness, amusement, and rebellion.
The Waco Bros. lyrics are a throwback to a day of outspoken, raucous gusto, deftly skewering modern complacency with the Langford's old outfit, the Mekons, and the blue collar populism of a Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, or perhaps a 21st century Woody Guthrie. Brother Mark Durante added yet more inspired mayhem to the mix with his familiar pedal steel sound, as did guest fiddler and sometime-Waco sister Jean Cook, further augmenting the old school country meets folk/punk sound.
Also highly recommended: Live and Kickin' at Schuba's- captures the band in all their loud and lively glory!
All in all, it made for one hell of a show, filled with onstage hijinx (at different moments, the Wacos appeared to have been in a temporary time warp, moving in faux slow motion a la Keanu Reaves as Neo in the Matrix, or high-kicking in joyous precision like the Radio City Rockettes fuelled by Guinness and Jamesons at the OK Corral. Our gratitude once again to the Brothers and Bloodshot for their cooperation and courtesy, and our hosts Fritz Wood and the staff at the Rock N' Roll Hotel for a most enjoyable evening. We'll be looking you up again, and soon!