Rocks Off Cruises are a good time, by and large. Provided the weather holds up, that is, and this cruise had to take place on a Sunday where we were to be beset by summer thunderstorms. Doing the math, it was a Lucero show, so some beers were probably going to be in order. Did I want to do that on an empty stomach, or was that going to prove messy and ill-advised? These are the conundrums I wrestle with in my old age.
Of course, if I didn't get on the damn boat, that would eliminate the lion's share of the indecision. I had opted to have the ticket mailed to me so that I might A: get something for the stupid 'service fee' and B: because, yes, I collect the stubs. Are you really shocked? All obsessive-compulsion aside, it helps if you actually receive the ticket and by Saturday morning I had not. Good times. Cue a couple hours of phone and internet deal-brokering and by early afternoon, I finally managed to get the ticket switched to will call.
I budgeted some extra time for audible calling, but arrived at The Temptress to find that I actually was on the will-call list. Luckily I brought a book, as things were a little slow to get under way, but by 7:30 Justin Townes Earle and his backing duo took the mikes. The drummerless combo featured Justin on guitar, with a mandolinist and bassist who was later revealed to be JTE's lady friend. Who says the apples don't fall far from the tree? It is also very important to point out the uncanny resemblance young Mr. Earle has to Steve-O from Jackass. That is a cruel hand to be dealt, but luckily Earle is pretty talented, playing skillful fingerstyle guitar and working his way through a set that featured covers by Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson and The Replacements. Original material was pretty scant, but the three or four that were readily identifiable as such were pretty solid, reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen's less frat-boy friendly fare. His new record on Bloodshot is called The Good Life and they've also re-released his first tour demo. Check out the links below.
Justin's got a charming aw-shucks personae that shows his 25 years, but there's something in his grin that tells me there's some hell-raising in him. He reminds me a lot of a slicker Will T. Massey. There are rock and bluegrass bands in his younger days, but I see him taking a more David Rawlings route as he nears the end of his twenties. There are a lot of possibilities, but we can rest assured that we're going to hear a lot from Justin Townes Earle in the future.
The time between sets showed that there were a hell of a lot of the regular Hold Steady kids out for the show. Shout-outs to the lovely Heidi Vanderlee, Jersey Ben, Joelle from Chicago and the rest of the kids. This package has been out with Glossary for the last couple of weeks and while their steel guy sat in with Lucero for the set, they were conspicuous in their absence. It would have been nice to triple that shit up, as I hear Glossary are really tearing it up live lately. Sightlines aren't so great on these shows, even for big dorky guys, unless you're upstairs. Ben isn't the tallest gent, so this was a show that was heard more than seen. Not seeing the band is one thing, but I could have done with a whole lot less of the frat boys hugging and high-fiving their way through the set. With all due respect to actual gay people, it's really kinda homo. Guys, find a circle jerk and take it there, it gets kinda fucking old playing romper room with you all night.
When you take in the Lucero and you're not drinking at competition level, it's important to see them before they get too far into the whiskey. It's a slippery slope: two drinks in and Ben's great, but after four it's all downhill. I guess Rocks Off has a curfew, because it was all rock and very little talk once the fearsome foursome tread the boards. Set-wise, it was pretty much business as usual with a couple of new songs that leaned more towards the guitar rock of the That Much Further West era, but that may very well just have been for lack of a keyboard guy. Lucero don't have too many bad songs. At this point it's about gauging which songs will elicit the biggest douchebag response. The set ran maybe an hour and a half. No Little Brother or Little Silver Heart or any really old stuff (unless you count the Jawbreaker cover), but the boys were in good form. The 250+ shows a year that they've been doing for the last ten years certainly help, I'm sure.
The cat is out of the bag about the DBT/Hold Steady shows, but I had heard rumblings about Lucero factoring into the equation as well. Be interesting to see if that comes to fruition. Had it not been for the good crowd, I would have been a little salty about the $30 ticket, but it ended up being a good show with some great people. Lucero are recording for a new one, but check out Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers if you haven't already. Justin Townes Earle has his first record out on Bloodshot as of March. I haven't listened to it as yet, but it definitely seems like it's going to move a lot closer to the the top of the pile. Look for a review in the next couple weeks. Links below.