Review 8-29-09 Dallas, TX

© Anna Vernon

The Gourds at The Granada Theater
Words and Video by Bacon
Photos by Anna Vernon

This past Saturday, while Eggs was raging Outside Lands, I traveled up to Dallas to dominate a fantasy football draft and see one of my favorite bands at Dallas' best venue – The Gourds at the Granada Theater. The Gourds were an early concert during my musically-formative years (@ the Gypsy Tea Room when I was in high school) and remain one of my favorite bands to this day, especially live. It was a reunion beyond just music as well: I enjoyed the show with a couple of good friends from high school and my little sister – who took the wonderful photos shown throughout this review.

We missed The O’s, unfortunately, but the second band, Mama Sweet, was thoroughly enjoyable for what they were – a “polished” (hey, I didn’t say Nashville) country/rock-ish outfit with a pretty-boy lead singer (jealousy alert), several good musicians, and lyrics that chicks probably dig. It wasn’t my thing, but I could see these guys hitting it big in a different vein of fandom. I was ready for the Gourds though, and spent most of Mama Sweet’s set bullshittin’ with strangers and old friends.

The crowd at The Granada was much better than the last crowd I enjoyed The Gourds with: diverse and ready to party, dance, and sing along. The Gourds got ‘em going with a “Country Love” opener, which is a standout tune from their latest release that you should all snag ASAP – Haymaker. It takes a certain number of listens with each album before it becomes integrated into my canon of enjoyment, and Haymaker has reached that point for me. I view it as one of The Gourds best albums, and it was a treat to hear the first song from the album as the opener.

The second song, “Dying of The Pines,” got me riiiiiiled up. The first Gourds album I had was Dem’s Good Beeble, which still ranks in my top 5 favorite albums EVER. “Dying of the Pines” is damn close to my favorite song on it. “If you seeeeee meeeee….” a great second song for sure. The next song was an uncharacteristically mediocre Jimmy tune, “Bridget.” I’ll admit to being biased against this song because of my own personal interpretation of it – which, proxied through its overly-ambitious character in the song, craps on my own inflated sense of difference-making through participatory democracy. And my naïve ass happens to like Che shirts, dammit. It was soon followed by a raucous version of “Trampled by the Sun,” another of the best Beeble songs.

After “Trampled” I loudly petitioned the band (alright, I obnoxiously YELLED) to “Let Max sing!!!!” What can I say, he’s my favorite. A great Max song fortuitously followed, “Tighter,” again off Haymaker. “Bottle and a Dime” came shortly after and got my group and the rest of the crowd movin’. Fiddle always = good times. Next up was “Blood of the Ram,” which was sacriliciously fantastic. This song is one of The Gourds’ best, and fit nicely between “Bottle and a Dime” and the next song, “The Way You Can Get.” It also had a nice little jam leading out of the song.

“Illegal Oyster,” a great Jimmy tune, followed. Max on banjo was an overload of greatness. If you happen to be a Gourds neophyte, know this: these guys are some of the best multi-instrumentalists around. Get your ass to a show and witness some super talented cats that play 7-8 instruments between them. “County Orange” kept the energy level high, and was followed by a beautiful version of “Valentine” that slowed things down before the epic run of songs to follow: “I’m Troubled,” “Ants on the Melon,” “El Paso,” and “Jesus Christ with Signs Following.”

“I’m Troubled” is a traditional song about the evil nature of women and the respite that can only be found in a country cabin, which is familiar to me via The Gourds, Flatts and Scruggs, and the Jerry Garcia Band. The Gourds play it best, especially with Max dominating on fiddle and Kevin pandering to the crowd (we loved it) with references to Dallas and the Cotton Bowl. It would indeed be a helluva place to build a cabin, especially after it’s abandoned and overgrown thanks to Jerry World. Let’s pool our resources. “Ants on the Melon” was great as always, as was “El Paso,” which included an AC/DC tag from Kevin leading into the song.

“Jesus Christ with Signs Following” was poignant and perfectly played, and contains some of the best lyrics in the Gourds arsenal. It never fails to get me thinking about my own experiences with those who are “hellbent on heaven bound.” “Burn The Honeysuckle” came a few songs later and was high-energy and executed well enough to be the set closer. It wasn’t, thankfully, as my favorite Gourds cover of all closed it out – “Waxy’s Dargle.” Screaming “I’ll have a pint” never gets old. My sister is a huuuge Pogues fan, so this was likely one of the highlights of her night too.

The encore began with another cover I’ll never tire of hearing – Bob Dylan’s “Oh Sister.” If you aren’t familiar with this amazing song, check out one of the best versions ever played aqui. “Plaid Coat” came a couple songs later, and made us all feel like we were “on God’s front porch.” The Gourds closed it out with a monster “Gin and Juice,” which, as identified by our friends at TheGourdsNews, had an insane song sandwich in the middle: “Rock Is My Life, and This Is My Song” (Randy Bachman) > “Surrender” (Rick Nielsen) > “Daytime Friends” (Ben Joseph Peters) > “Emotional Rescue” (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) > “Take Me to the River” (Al Green) > “Cotton-Eyed Joe” (trad). It was tons o' fun. While some of the songs were familiar to me, others weren’t and I’m thankful for the good excuse to ITunes it up.

For me, The Gourds are a band whose music stirs up tons of great memories, with songs inseparably attached to many of the best times throughout my young life. Tonight hit on many of those memories, while creating some great new ones in the process. It was my favorite Gourds show I’ve seen yet, and it speaks to the ever-increasing skills and repertoire of the band, the great venue and crowd, and the old friends that came along with me. I hope they can get to Houston more often, but if not I’ll keep coming to Dallas, Gruene, or Austin to get my fix. Long live The Gourds.

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