Bloodshot Records BBQ - Indie Alt-Country Nirvana
Chicago-based indie label Bloodshot Records has been celebrating its 15th anniversary with a series of free live music showcases across the country. The Bloodshot Beer-B-Que made a stop at the High Noon Saloon in Madison on 8/22 with Justin Townes Earle, Waco Brothers, The Bottle Rockets, Deadstring Brothers, Bobby Bare Jr., Ha Ha Tonka and the Meat Purveyors in tow.
The show required an RSVP for free tickets and full capacity at the club had been reached 10 days before the gig! Without a doubt, a stellar line-up of acts that were not to be missed. Rock of the Arts was there and had a great time with a diverse group of fans, many who came from out of state just to see the showcase. We met residents of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan and that was before we lost count due to a steady supply of Spotted Cow.
The Meat Pureyors, with Deano Waco, opened with a solid set of hard hard edged country folk that set the rootsy alt-country vibe of the evening. Bobby Bare Jr. was up next with a sound that was hard to pin down. Backed by a three piece band, including a sax player, Bobby opened the door to an eclectic mix of soul-infused country rock. Oh yeah, his latest project was an an EP of Bread and America covers. He actually played a great version of "I Need You" by America. I kid you not.
Ha Ha Tonka hails from southern Missouri and showcased a distinctive alt-country sound, tinged with an Ozarks flavor and highlighted by dynamic vocal harmonies. They even performed acapello with excellent results.
The Deadstring Brothers are probably tired of being tagged with "that Detroit band with the Rolling Stones sound." But, is that really bad? Especially, when that sound comes from the Sticky Fingers/Exile on Main Street era, arguably the Stones career peak. Pedal steel player, Spencer Cullum added a nice counter balance to the infectous bluesy rock n roll riffs stoking the energy of the large crowd that had gathered. The High Noon Saloon was simmering to a boil.
Just when we thought we had seen the best band of the night, the Bottle Rockets took the stage. Pumped up by the release of their new album
"Lean Forward", the Bottle Rockets kicked it up a notch with a rockin set that made everyone in the audience true beilievers. Lead singer/guitarist, Brian Henneman, maneuvered the stage with a quiet confidence becoming of a road band that has jelled during hundreds of one-nighters across the country. Boy, the Spotted Cows were kicking in now and who could possibly top that last set?
Enter the Waco brothers, who performed a punkified country rock concoction, with so much energy, I swear to god someone was going to do a stage dive. These guys were jumping around like mad men and I bought one of their CDs after seeing the performance. It was that good!
So, imagine having to follow the Waco Brothers. Not me man. But, Justin Townes Earle did. Justin had played another gig in Milwaukee earlier in the day at the WMSE Summer Camp, and proceeded to just tear the place up with help from harmonicist Cory Younts. I had never seen Justin Townes Earle live and it was amazing the raw talent this guy has. Equaling the energy of the Waco Brothers earlier in the evening was not an easy task, but Justin pulled it off spot on, wrapping up a great night of Bloodshot Records music.
Any one of these bands would of kept me happy for the evening, but seven acts all in one place for free was mind boggling. The BBQ was moving on to Minneapolis the next day and I had to come back down to earth. I'm thinking about cataching the BBQ in Chicago on September 12, because of the experience at the High Noon. It was one of the best shows I've seen hands down. Maybe Bloodshot records should celebrate their anniverserary with more BBQs on an annual basis? Here's to another 15 years.