Old 97's & Those Darlins | Boulder Theater | 9/10/12 | Review
So let’s get one thing straight. I am not a 20-something hipster tapping in to live twitter feeds from garage bands in Prague. I am not an old-school rocker with high off-road mileage and a septum tattered by blow. I am, like most of my middle-aged friends, a victim of an embarrassing epidemic that’s sweeping the nation. Musical Impotence.
M.I. develops in three stages: 1) generalized musical apathy, leading to, 2) inability to get it up for live shows (yes, even the hot ones), resulting in, 3) complete ignorance of contemporary music culture. It goes mostly unnoticed until one morning you wake up and can’t tell Joshua Radin from Marilyn Manson. Sad? Why, yes it is. Full-blown M.I. leaves you with two choices: resign yourself to the inevitable and live out the rest of your days entombed in a fortress of re-mastered James Taylor CD’s, OR throw caution to the wind, indiscriminately bedding down for an evening with any old band that happens by in hopes of reviving your mojo. I’ve always been a feisty lass, so when I received a last-minute text invite from a friend to join him at the Boulder theater on Monday night for a show, I hoped it might be just the miracle cure for what ails me. “Sure!” I texted back, “um… who’s playing?”
Sometimes utter cluelessness has its rewards. I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I imagine kids approach it the same way I approached the show – wide open, ready to be amazed by anything and everything. Fortified by a tall pour from George’s, I made my way past the vending area and rounded the bend to the theater proper, steeled and ready to hurtle in to the fray with a sweating, pumping, horde of… southern gents in crisp plaid shirts??? Well, I never. The scene was pure Sunday barbecue, southern style: friendly folks, blonde kids, clean-cut guys on dates with smiling gals. Disarmed by the scrubbed, down-homeyness of it all I relaxed, settled in, and turned to the opening band, Those Darlins, for some good, clean fun.
Did I say good, clean fun? Retro Appalacian and girl-punky, Those Darlins were in full fandango when we arrived, dishing out a little bit of raunch and a whole lot of sass with their dolled-up grits. There was something in lead singer Jessi Darlin’s tomboyish full-frontal approach that was downright charming, her voice adding sweet Georgia peach tang to a tart’s lyrics. Free associations: Southern-fried fishnet-ripping garage meets The Raveonettes… I found Those Darlins imminently likeable and was even roused to a little retroactive stalking via the interwebz.
Next up: the alt-country headliners, Old 97’s. (Let me pause here to say that, as a middle-aged geek, I truly love learning something uber-useless during the course of an otherwise unremarkable day. Case in point: the name Old 97’s is a nod to “Wreck of the Old 97”, a country ballad about a train.) Post presto-change-o break the 97-ers sauntered onstage, sliding to their mic’s like Crisco on a hot locomotive. From my prime front-and-center real estate, gawking up at lead singer Rhett Miller, I had a sudden doppelganger revelation: he is Nigel Tufnel (“This is Spinal Tap”). Am I wrong? The hair, the pout, the pelvic swooshing… it’s uncanny. While I was still looking for armadillos in those trousers, Old 97’s ponied up and galloped off in a rollicking longhorn stomp of a set. Tight, slick, seasoned pros, they had the ladies smiling, the kids singing and the Texans bobbing in their boots.
Sadly, just as things were heating up, my M.I. kicked in with a vengeance. Typical. I ignored the first few yawns, but when fantasies of fuzzy slippers hit, it was clear that the jig was up. I begged off and turned to leave, the sea of plaid parted, the seedy elegance of Boulder Theater yielding to a Darlin-filled sidewalk. I mounted my trusty cruiser and pedaled off toward home, a cup of chamomile tea, and a stack of James Taylor CD’s.