Concert Review

Lucero Live: Moshing to Pedal Steel

Dear ex-hardcore kids,

Please stop ruining roots music.

Look, I get it, you're pretty much aged out of hardcore shows, but you're covered in tattoos and have plugs in your earlobes, and it's hard to find a scene. Every band you've ever liked seems to be starting a folkie side project so it kinda makes sense to pick up this alt-country/roots/Americana thing. And that's cool. But, seriously guys, you're fucking it all up right now.

Last week's fight outside the William Elliot Whitmore show kinda had me on edge, but, at tonight's Lucero show at the Rhythm Room, I saw something I should never see: people moshing to a song with a pedal steel in it.

Hey, I was ready to brush aside seeing a fight after a banjo playing bluesman's set. But a moshpit at Lucero? In general, you don't mosh if there's a banjo or anyone playing guitar with a slide, and you sure as hell don't mosh if there's a pedal steel. Those are the rules. Johnny Cash said so himself. (More on that later.)

Look, I know, it was a sold out show with a line going out the door -- like a Scottsdale club. Inside, the bar was surrounded, people waiting three deep, chugging canned beer and doing shots of whiskey. It was a great scene. And, yes, we were all a little excited after that kick-ass, fist-pumping, scream along version of "Nights Like These" -- but you've really gotta stop co-opting country music, and attempting to retrofit it with your punk rock aesthetic.

Lucero is a great band, and last night's show was a treat. I really dug that soulful version of "Kiss The Bottle" and though I was pretty tired by the time they got around to "Tears Don't Matter Much" in their two-hour set, I found a second wind when singer Ben Nicols belted it out after a deep swig from a bottle of Jameson. But, honestly guys, there are a lot of bands like this, and you don't seem that in to them, which makes me doubt the sincerity of your new found love of Americana music.

I can't help but wonder if the reason you're not in to Drive-By Truckers -- which are, truthfully, an even better version of Lucero -- is that they don't have forearm tattoos. All the "country" acts you like seem to have forearm tattoos, and most have beards and plugs. Coincidence?

Hey, I'm glad you found this music, and I'm glad you feel comfortable at these shows since you know these dudes were once dudes like you, but your attitude seems incredibly disrespectful toward country music in general, and alt-country in particular.

Repeat after me: Johnny Cash was not punk rock. He married into country music's royal family and he never actually served a prison sentence. That's a carefully-crafted myth, created to sell records. He sure as hell never shot a man in Reno. He wrote pop songs for major record labels in order to get airplay, sell records and make money.

Repeat after me: Against Me! rocks, but it's not because they make any special effort to avail themselves of country shit, it's because they rock. If they sang songs about whiskey and trains they'd sound ridiculous.

Repeat after me: Gram Parsons invented the music you're listening to now. The indie-types that've adopted Americana acknowledge this, but you seem to think Johnny Cash did it, all because he was once photographed giving the middle finger. Parsons is the man, guys. And, trust me, no one ever moshed at a Flying Burrito Brothers show.

Lucero is a great band -- and, after hearing "The War" live with an accordion, I'd have to say they're one of the best at what they do -- but they're not the only people making music like this. And, while I know you can't help but identify with "Sewn Up" ("I'm all sewn up with bad tattoos/Can't hide from the faded, bleeding truth") which damned near tore the house down tonight, I assure you there's more to Americana than Lucero, William Elliot Whitmore and Hank III.



Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Lucero at Rhythm Room on May 12, 2009.

Better Than: The Revival Tour, thanks to the fantastic crowd energy.

Personal Bias: Nothing against Lucero, but I really prefer Drive-By Truckers, and really, really prefer Old 97s.

Random Detail: I was not drunk at this show, which I'm sure some Lucero fans would see as a major problem. One guy standing behind me saw me taking notes and bought me a Shlitz. "Hey, man, are you a critic? You need this. You wouldn't review a 3D movie without 3D glasses, would you? You can't review this without your 3D glasses."

Further Listening: "Carl Perkins Cadillac" and "Tears Don't Matter Much."

By The Way: The Lucero singer's dialogue with our blogger Kelly Wilson, who hooked him up with a PBR trucker hat, as related to the crowd from stage: "So you're a PBR girl?" "I'm a PBR woman."

One More Thing: "The Gram Parsons memorial hand traverse."

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar