THE ROCK REPORT: LUCERO @ CZAR & HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL @ NEW WORLD BREWERY – YBOR CITY


This weekend managed to prove once again that I am getting too old to party like a rock star two nights in a row. The whole thing began Friday night where I set out to, and I quote myself here, “get Lucero drunk”, and I am happy to announce that the mission was a complete success. The trade off of that is that recollection of the show is slightly hazy. A lot of the reviews I read leading up to Lucero’s show here were about the crowd. That frat boy concentration levels were reportedly getting dangerously high, but I didn’t really notice it being a problem here in Tampa. That said, the only complaint about the show would have to have been the crowd, but it was a completely expected complaint. See, as a bands popularity and attending crowds grow, the devotion level of the crowd begins to get diluted. While there was no shortage of people at Czar who where there to be seen rather than to see Lucero, they didn’t hurt the quality of what was happening on the stage, so let’s talk about that…and horns.

The band arrived in town in better spirits, shape, and sanity than I’ve ever seen them. That said, the band has a reputation to uphold here in Florida and as the band took the stage the whiskey river started flowing. The band ran through a nice mix of tracks from the new album (with their newly integrated horns) and songs from the new album, 1372 Overton Park. The first twenty feet off the stage were the usual suspects you’d see at a Lucero show, glasses raised, eyes a little glazed and singing every word as if they were the backup singers. My night ended with a stirring version of “Mom” ’cause my wife (and designated driver) had to be at work quite early the next morning, but I stumbled out of Czar drunkenly slurring about how good the band sounded and promptly passed out in the truck. For the uninitiated, that means the show was a complete success.

Lucero – The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo (from their Daytrotter Session)
Lucero – Can’t Feel A Thing (from their Daytrotter Session)

YOU CAN SEE PLENTY MORE PICTURES FROM THE LUCERO SHOW HERE.


I am blessed with the inability to get a hangover. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I woke up Saturday morning no worse for wear and started getting ready for Have Gun Will Travel. The group I was supposed to be going to HGWT with slowly declined as the day wore on since most of my friends are not immune to hangovers, and by the time I needed to leave my group had dwindled to being just me. I worried that the Lucero show the night before was gonna have a similar effect on others, making HGWT’s show a sparsely attended event, but those worries we quickly put aside as the crowd continued to grow while Lauris Vidal and Whiskey Gentry played their sets.

I have to admit I missed all of Lauris Vidal and about half of Whiskey Gentry due to interviewing Whiskey Gentry and Have Gun over at Fuma Bellas (look for those to be posted next week) during the concert. I was very excited to see Whiskey Gentry, having known Lauren (singer) from her previous band, Missy Secret and the Gossip Keepers. Whiskey Gentry was way more uptempo, eschewing the “old time country” sound for a bluegrass element. I was told that they were trying to work out an arrangement with HGWT that would get them down this way more often and take HGWT up to Atlanta on a more regular basis. Hopefully that will work out, ’cause these guys had the vibe and energy that could make them become the new Weary Boys for New World. Anyone who ever came to a Weary show at New World knows what I am talking about.

Up next were the stars of the party, Have Gun Will Travel, and by now the crowd had reached the point where I was nothing short of proud of Tampa. The band noticed it too, managing to comment on how awesome it was multiple times throughout the night. Speaking of awesome, HGWT was nothing short of awesome on that Saturday night, playing every song off their new album, Postcards From The Friendly City (call me crazy but I think they played one twice), and all the crowd’s favorites from their previous album, Casting Shadows Tall As Giants. The band played well into the night and the crowd stuck with them through the whole show. I can honestly say that I was not ready for the show to be over as the band walked off stage, which is a rarity for me since it was two in the morning and I still had a 30 minute drive home. I think that’s honestly the highest compliment I can pay the show, that when it was over I wanted more. They’ll be playing around the area quite a bit in the coming weeks/months in support of the cd. You should make a point to catch them a couple of times, they truly one of Tampa’s treasures.

Have Gun Will Travel – Wolf In Shepherd’s Clothes
Have Gun Will Travel – Ol’ Death Rattle
Have Gun Will Travel – Soles Of Our Shoes

YOU CAN SEE PLENTY MORE PICTURES FROM THE HAVE GUN SHOW HERE

LUCERO – 1372 OVERTON PARK SAMPLER

Any time a band whose reputation and philosophy were grounded firmly in DiY ideals makes a jump to a major label, there are bound to be concerns about selling out, dumbing down, cleaning up and all of those other concessions that aren’t tolerated among rabid fans and purists. Lucero’s transition from under-the-radar darling to major label act is no different, and while the band’s fans are dedicated enough to be tolerant of departures, they’re also passionate enough not to tolerate any slick bullshit in the name of appealing to a broader demographic (couFiveDollarCovergh). For the first time in their career, Lucero will have more than just raving critics and word of mouth behind them. They’ll have the lumbering – often fumbling – major label machine shoving their record down the listening public’s throat. This is great if the record’s as good as the material Ben Nichols and co. have been cranking out for the last decade, but what if the record sucks?

From the opening piano notes of “Smoke,” which kicks off the free six-song sampler available now with a pre-order of 1372 Overton Park, one thing is clear: Nichols’ affinity for anthemic classic rock is not going to be buried here; it’s right up front. “Smoke” sounds like Tom Petty aping Bruce Springsteen and, which Nichols’ rasp cutting through the pulsating piano, organ and guitars, it works. Springsteen is echoed in the second track, “Sounds of the City,” as well, with the swirling boardwalk organ and Memphis horns propelling Nichols’ tale of bad boys who “know when to push [their] luck.” Somebody’s been listening to Marah records. The addition of a horn section to Lucero’s sound shouldn’t be unexpected or unwelcome by anyone who’s witness the band’s maturation over their last few albums, as piano and organ were added in layers to flesh out Nichols’ bruised and bleak vacant lot anthems. However the band’s sound may have shifted, Nichols’ narrative remains constant, maybe even to a fault.

As “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” chugs along, sounding for all the world like a Thin Lizzy B-side, Nichols calls out for Love and Rockets and wrings his hands over punk rock girls and lonely saints. It’s a good tune but how long is Lucero’s audience going to be subjected to – and tolerate – Nichols’ bludgeoning of the “rock ‘n’ roll outcast” horse that was beaten dead about the time Green Day embarked on their first foray into rock operadom. Touching on familiar thematic elements is part of maintaining a dialogue with one’s audience – just ask Springsteen himself, nobody does it better – but that’s a far cry from writing the same song in six different keys, which is damn near what Nichols has done here. Luckily, he’s a good enough writer and compelling enough vocalist that the act isn’t tired — yet. But if, upon release, 1372 Overton Park turns out to be little more than a dozen recitations of “boy meets girl, boy fucks up, boy loseWeight Exercises girl, boy and girl find salvation in rock ‘n’ roll and live scrappily ever after,” Nichols is going to have a lot more to answer for than why Lucero incorporated horns into their tunes.

Until the full album is released, I’m more than willing to suspend judgment – God knows Lucero has earned it. And don’t mistake me, these are not bad songs, quite the opposite. 1372 Overton Park may well end up being the rare example of how to cross over without selling out but it may also show us a band struggling to find new ground while walking in place. For now, new Lucero tunes are better than no Lucero tunes, and these sings songs are good enough to keep expectations for 1372 Overton Park extremely high.

Lucero – Sounds of the City

Lucero’s Official Site, Lucero on myspace, Pre-Order 1372 Overton Park

PREORDER THE NEW LUCERO ALBUM: 1372 OVERTON PARK

Lucero’s new album, 1372 Overton Park, may not be getting it’s official release until October 6th but if you preorder it you’ll be able to get a (6) song sampler from it today. The tracks included on the sampler are:

01. The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo
02. Sounds of the City
03. Hey Darling Do You Gamble?
04. Smoke
05. Sixes and Sevens
06. Goodbye Again

You can preorder it here.

Edit: Seriously, Hey Darling Do You Gamble is one the best song Lucero’s ever written…