DCSETLIST: Review of Drive by Truckers @ 9:30 Club
Photos and text by Aubrey Menard
How do you make a 20 something-year-old girl from the Northeast feel like she’s experienced incest, divorce, homicide, and Athens, Georgia?
Simple. Bring the Drive-By Truckers to Washington, DC. From December 29th through 31st, the Drive-By Truckers played three sold-out shows at the 9:30 Club to ring in the New Year. You could feel the anticipation in the air Thursday night as Tennessee band Lucero warmed the crowd up. With three nights of shows and nine albums from which to play, the possibilities for what songs would make the setlist were endless.
Patterson Hood kicked off the show on vocals as the crowd sang along to the slow, ballad-like “Tornadoes.” The set was mellow to begin, as Mike Cooley took over on vocals and sang “Space City.” John Neff sat down to the pedal steel guitar and the band played “72 (This Highway’s Mean).” The set picked up as the background was revealed—abstract, colorful bales of hay with crows flying across (some claimed they were pterodactyls), likely designed by long-time friend of the band Wes Freed, who created the t-shirt and poster designs for the tour. The crowd started dancing and tapping their toes as the band launched into “Carl Perkins Cadillac,” demonstrating their ability to tell stories and weave characters and real-life events into their music, relating the tale of how “king of rockabilly,” Carl Perkins came to beat Elvis Presley out in winning a Cadillac from record producer Sam Phillips by being first to create a gold record.
The show kicked into overdrive as the band played “Marry Me,” fans singing along and dancing. They closed out the set with a powerful cover of Warren Zevon’s “Play it All Night Long.” As Hood belted out the beginning lyrics of “Grandpa pissed his pants again/he don’t give a damn/Brother Billy has both guns drawn/he ain’t been right since Vietnam,” over a distorted Lynyrd Skynyrd melody the crowd knew this wasn’t Reese Witherspoon’s “Sweet Home Alabama” they were singing about. The band left the stage, the crowd called out for more, chanting, “DBT! DBT!” as the lights flashed in unison. The band reemerged and Hood took a moment to praise the 9:30 Club for being the “best in the fucking world,” saying that they love DC and the club so much they wanted to come back and play for three nights and spend their New Years with us.
The encore began with “Used to Be a Cop,” Hood explaining that the song is based on a cop from his home town, “the creepiest mother fucker [he’s] ever met.” Next, there was an uproarious cheer as he asked the crowd if anyone else has had his or her life saved by rock and roll. The band then played “Let There Be Rock,” chronicling Hood’s failed quest to see Lynyrd Skynard before their tragic 1977 plane crash and telling tales of his wild, concert-going teenage years. Finally, the concert closed with an energetic cover of punk rock Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died,” the crowd quickly transitioning to the punk beat by jumping, fist pumping, and dancing.
I had such a great time at the first show that I managed to get myself a ticket for night two, and I’m sure glad I did. The second night started off similarly mellow with Patterson Hood speaking contemplatively about the New Year. The opener was, “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” followed by, “Gravity’s Gone.” The set slowed down further with “World of Hurt,” Ford delivering heavy monologue in between choruses. All the slow songs made me pine to hear “Goddamn Lonely Love,” but I quickly remembered that without Jason Isbell in the band, hearing that and a handful of other really great songs was unfortunately out of the question. Alas, things sped up as Cooley switched to vocals and the band played “Ghost to Most,” reminding us as we prepare for a new year that “talking tough is easy when it's other people's evil and you're judging what they do or don't believe.” Next, was “Women Without Whiskey,” the opening lyric of “If I make it through this year, I think I’m gonna put this bottle down,” smacking of unfulfilled resolutions.
The crowd sang along as the band played “The Company I Keep,” someone getting worked up enough to throw a pair of women’s underwear on the stage. Hood held up the large, white, unfashionable underpants for the crowd to see before throwing them back, saying, “Keep them…and keep the change,” referring to their enormity. They closed out the set with “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” as fists pumped in the air and people cried out together. They were once again called back for an encore, repeating “Used to Be a Cop” and “Marry Me” from the previous night’s set. The show ended, and I found myself feeling devastated that my New Year’s Eve plans would keep me from the final, and what was sure to be the best, night of the three-night stand. It was as if I’d watched a movie only two thirds of the way, missing the exciting conclusion. I wonder what songs they played and what the atmosphere was like.
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