THE ROCK REPORT: THE SUBURBAN HOME 14th ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND, DENVER, COLORADO

This is a neat musical scene we run in. It’s a scene where even the biggest and most popular artists can be found sitting at the bar before they go on stage. There are few barriers and less ego between you and the people making the music you love. As a result, should you choose, you can build these miniature friendships with the bands. Don’t get me wrong, when I call them “miniature friendships” I don’t mean that as a slight, what I mean is that they’re not like regular friendships. They’re based around small conversations a couple of times a year that are eventually jettisoned by the electronic conversations that brought us together. That said, within the scene they’re still genuine and everyone still remembers each other’s names when they’re in the same town and knows bits and pieces of one another’s personal lives. That’s the real appeal of these little festivals I go to. Sure, you’re gonna see a lot of awesome music, but at the same time you’re gonna get to hang out with a lot of friends for the weekend to catch up, drink together and bullshit about typical crap like sports. The result is the musical version of a family reunion, which explains why people from as far away as Florida, New Jersey & California would descend upon Denver, Colorado for two nights of music.

I arrived early Friday afternoon, and after navigating the airport/super shuttle maze to the hotel I elected to take a small nap in an effort to offset the time difference. The lineup for Friday night was Look Mexico, In the Red, Jr. Juggernaut, Josh Small, Austin Lucas, Jon Snodgrass and Joey Cape. I made a point to get to the show early enough not to miss anything since that’s what I came for and, really, after cooking dinner (Yes! My hotel room had a stove…more drinking money!) what the hell else was I gonna do? I wasn’t even at 3 Kings for 10 minutes before finally getting to meet Virgil (Suburban Home owner) in person. The guy is as genuine and nice in person as he is on the internet and managed to hang out with folks all weekend, while also making sure everything kept moving along smoothly. Meeting him made me even happier about the praise we pile on his label and I take back that apology I made about the amount of coverage we’ve been giving SH last week. I’m not sorry and you can expect more. Before the first notes of the weekend were played I also ran into one of my favorite people in music, Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage. Hugs and small talk were exchanged and the the show began.

Most of the early bands Friday were bands I wasn’t terribly familiar with. Look Mexico was pretty enjoyable while In The Red was really, really heavy. Jr. Juggernaut was entertaining enough and their singer sort of looks like Seth Rogen. However, it was Josh Small who provided me the first wow moment of the weekend. Josh is small in demeanor but has a powerful presence on stage. Later in the night I was talking to him and I said he was like a tenor version of William Elliott Whitmore. He really appreciated that comparison, so I thought I’d share it with y’all. I really have no idea why I’ve ignored him all this time. I’ve heard his name but never bothered to check out his music. If you’re in that same boat, now is the time to stop. Trust me. After Josh the night just went nuts. The elevation (or the fact that I cooked and ate a huge dinner) was allowing me to drink a ridiculous amount of whiskey without really feeling it as Austin Lucas took the stage. About halfway through Austin’s set Two Cow joined him on stage to perform a mini-set of Austin’s songs, Two Cow style. Holy. Fucking. Shit. It was the muscle of Two Cow meshed with the grace of Austin, and it was completely ridiculous. I’m saying it now. I want to see a Suburban Home Under The Influence release of an Austin-fronted Two Cow so the rest of world can experience it. This whole ‘Two Cow killed it’ attitude will be a running theme. Outside of Tim Barry, they were the stars of this particular weekend. Jon Snodgrass had the arduous task of following the AustinTwoCow amalgam and he did it with the grace and professionalism that has come to define Jon. He came up and started running through crowd favorites like a pimp serves up hoes. What’s that? Wanna hear “Me & Joe”? “Me and Joe went out to California…..” If you were there you know what I’m talking about, and if you weren’t then you need to start getting out to more Jon Snodgrass/Drag The River shows. Not to be outdone by Austin, Jon also brought the Two Cow boys up to finish up his set, and watching that happen reminded me of how much I miss Drag The River proper. After Jon’s set I had to go. The East coast/Midwest time difference + an obscene amount of whiskey had won the battle and I shared a cab back to the hotel and called it a night over some reheated dinner.

Saturday got started early ’cause the Suburban Home garage sale started at noon and promised some of the SH roster playing in an intimate acoustic environment. That sentence should really clue you in to the level of sheer awesomeness that occurred on an otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon. I’m not gonna go into too much detail about the show at SH’s office, ’cause I think some things are best left for the people that were there, and even if I wanted to tell you about it I don’t have the grace with words that would be required to relay how it went down. I was expecting (and I think the original plan was) minisets by some of the musicians in attendance. What happened, however, was so much more organic and spontaneous, as Josh Small, Tim Barry, Devon from The Takers, Micah and Shane from Two Cow, Austin Lucas, and Andy Thomas (Suburban Home employee) passed around a single guitar, playing songs and telling stories for a couple of hours. Honestly, Saturday afternoon alone easily made the trip worth the money. After the music I headed back to the hotel to watch some NCAA football, cook some dinner and grab a nap before Saturday night (the main reason I came up to Denver) kicked off.

Saturday night’s line up was The Takers, The Revenge, Mike Hale, Ninja Gun, Chad Price, Two Cow Garage and Tim Barry. Since The Takers are one of the bright spots of Florida music, I had zero intention of missing their set, so I arrived at 3 Kings nice and early. Now I gotta admit, for the first couple of hours of Saturday night I was a little off my game. I’d gotten drunk in the afternoon only to go back to the hotel and take a short nap. If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t you will once you turn 21. I am happy to say that The Takers did Florida proud, while once again proving to me that they’re the best thing in Gainesville at the moment. I’m going to be honest, I used the bulk of The Revenge (who, IMO are horrible), Mike Hale and Ninja Gun’s sets to try and get my groove back (drink more whiskey), watch the OU/USC game and bullshit with various folks, so I don’t have too much to say about them.  By the time Chad took the stage, though, I was front and center (albeit a little wobbly). Chad’s set included some tracks from his upcoming album, as well as a few crowd favorites. Chad was followed by the emerging juggernaut that is Two Cow Garage. In the middle of their set I sent the following to Facebook: “Two Cow Garage is making America wish they were in Denver right now.” Now I know that’s not true, but that’s only because most of America is lazy as fuck and has no idea who Two Cow is. As a side note, when I started ninebullets the Drive-By Truckers were my hands-down favorite band on earth. Over the years Lucero has managed to wrestle that belt away from DBT. Nowadays, Lucero has one serious contender for the crown in Two Cow. Two Cow put on a typically blistering show that may have even surprised some of their own faithful.

Next up was Tim Barry. The fact that I am staring a new paragraph for Tim’s set is important. It’s the best literary equivalent I can think of to show Tim’s set the same amount of reverence the crowd and the weekend’s bands showed him. I do a lot of shows every year. A lot. Probably five (or more) for every show you see. I’m not saying this to brag, I am saying this to convey the significance of what I’m about to talk about. Not since I saw Konrad Wert (Possessed By Paul James) freeze an entire field in their tracks have I seen the reverence to an artist that I saw on Saturday night when Tim Barry played. Touring bands see a lot of people play and usually they’re more than happy to BS and converse during a set, but as Tim played I surveyed the crowd. Every band present was crowded stage right or at the door to the back. Every fan/attendant was pushed as close to the stage as they could get with a drink held forward as they screamed every word of every song. Almost every person in the bar stopped and watched Tim and he delivered in spades (as if anything else would be possible). Tim probably won’t ever experience any form of commercial success and time will most likely cover all of his material, but I imagine he is okay with that. Tim’s music is a lot like him. It’s here, it’s now and there ain’t an ounce of fake, simile or metaphor about it. And when you witness that you have to stop and appreciate it, much like all of Three Kings did that night. Tim could easily become the face of this genre if he wanted to, but the simple fact is that it ain’t that important to him and you gotta love that.

That was it. I woke up and left, still drunk, on Sunday morning, leaving another awesome weekend in another state behind me while wondering how the Buccaneers might do that afternoon back home (they got bitch slapped). I’m poorer in pocket but richer in experience and (albeit miniature) friends, and that’s what life’s about. I love everyone (especially the travelers) I met this weekend. We’re kindred spirits and good people and hopefully, one day, we’ll hear every band we love on FM Radio. Till then, we’ll bump into one another at various nondescript weekends/festivals around this country and drink, reminisce and catch up, perfectly content in our own anonymity.

See y’all next year.

Two Cow Garage – Should’ve California
Josh Small – Come Down
Drag The River – Old Sad Songs
The Takers – Curse of a Drunk
Tim Barry – Avoiding Catatonic Surrender

The plan was to take a bunch of photos but as is the norm I watched more and photoed less. The pictures I did take can be seen here and if you watch Jana Miller’s site I imagine you’ll see a lot more posted there in the coming days/weeks.

THE TAKERS – TAKER EASY

Anyone who pays any attention to music in Florida has heard about The Takers at some point in the past year, and since Suburban Home picked them up the hype machine has been doing nothing but gaining momentum. By the time Virgil reached out to me with a copy of their debut album, Taker Easy, I was already wondering if they would be able to match the advance billing. Now, after spending some 2 months with the cd and managing to catch them live at the Citrus Circuit Tour, I can readily proclaim that yes, they are worthy of the hype.  Now hopefully with the cd finally coming out the rest of the country will get behind this little band from Gainesville.

The Takers are a ragtag collection of bike mechanics, cooks, restaurant managers, cashiers and recycled ink salesmen out of Tim Tebow-land (Gainesville). They came together as a band almost by accident when Devon Vlasin (singer) found himself in need of a backing band to open for an upcoming Willie Heath Neal show. A few phone calls and free beer bribes netted a temporary band that decided to keep at it after the show. After some member revisions and additions, the band finally settled in with Devon Vlasin bring joined by Chad Smith and Ronnie Holmes on electric guitars, Jerome Goodman on bass, Mike Collins on pedal steel and Jon Reinertsen playing drums.

Having caught his ear, Coody from Suburban Home’s Ninja Gun started talking them up to Virgil Dickerson who took more than a passing interest (psst: Virgil, check out Truckstop Coffee from Lake Worth). After some phone calls, the label and the band agreed that Suburban Home would put out the “Curse of A Drunk” single and that they should all meet during Virgil’s trip to 08’s Fest to discuss a future relationship. The rest, as they say, is history, and we’re now blessed with Taker Easy.

Taker Easy is, at the risk of sounding trite, exactly what I think of when I think about “Florida Country”, which is to say they’re as much rock and roll as they are shit kickers and twang. Suburban is selling the album as their “outlaw country” band, a modern version of Waylon Jennings, if you will. I’d say they have a little more rock and roll in them than that description suggests, but otherwise I have no qualms with it. I could go into long, descriptive, RIYL tangents, but why should I? Suburban Home has been gracious enough to allow us to stream the entire album here on ninebullets, so why not just check it out for yourself.  Personally I think, like me, that you’ll find Taker Easy to not only be Essential Listening, but also that it’ll probably end up being a Top 10 of the year. And as a Floridian, I am proud that these fellas are from my state.

The Takers – Curse of a Drunk
The Takers – Taker Easy

The Takers on myspace, Buy Taker Easy

STREAM THE ENTIRE ALBUM:

GUEST POST: LENNY AND THE POOR BOYS

Hey guys and gals. I’m sitting here in Colorado waiting for the sun to come up so I can get out of this room and onto the mountain. The nice thing about having an east coast internal clock is that I get up early enough to have coffee and eat without rushing.

Today’s guest  post comes from the owner of the Colorado based (see the tie in there?) label, Suburban Home Records, Virgil Dickerson. It is about a band that quite frankly, I’ve heard of numerous times but had never heard. I hope  y’all like it.

When a post from Bryan looking for Guest writers popped up on Twitter, I emailed Bryan letting him know my interest in contributing. Being a big fan of Ninebullets.net and having a background in zine publishing (Suburban Home started as a zine in 1995), I was thrilled when Bryan gave me the opportunity to write a little something. I asked him if there were any guidelines to which he replied, “No guidelines at all outside of take it seriously…I put alot of time and effort into ninebullets. Other than that, have fun with it.” Fair enough. At this point, I started thinking long and hard about an incredible band that I could share with all of you. I ruled out about writing about one of our bands (but let me shamelessly plug a few of our bands that I hope are on your radar – Drag the River, Two Cow Garage, Tim Barry, Austin Lucas, Yesterday’s Ring, The Takers, Jon Snodgrass, and Ninja Gun). I considered writing about Murder by Death only because Bryan told me he wasn’t a fan (I love them very much), but decided against it. I thought about writing about the new Justin Townes Earle, “Midnight at the Movies” which I got a promo of this week and am digging big time, but since I know that Bryan also loves them, I figured he would soon be writing about the album himself. After further thought, I could only think about one band that I think everyone should know about. This band is Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys.

Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys are from Boston, Massachusetts, and I first heard about them from Drag the River. Drag the River were given some early demos by Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys when Drag played a show with Dropkick Murphys. Chad and Jon loved those songs so much, they started playing “Cambridgeport Saloon” and “Leaving in the Morning” live and during the recording sessions that would become “It’s Crazy”, they recorded a cover of “Leaving in the Morning” which became the first song on the album. I had always thought “Leaving in the Morning” was a Drag the River original, but I was told that this was a song written by Lenny. After hearing that, I decided to pay a visit to the band’s myspace page and I am sure I listened to the 2 songs on their profile (“Cambridgeport Saloon” and “Lonely Days and Whiskey Nights”) about a million times. I loved every second of those 2 songs and immediately looked everywhere I could to find a copy. That search lead me to the Ludeboy Records’ site where I didn’t hesitate to mailorder the album although the $16 price seemed a bit high. I had heard that the label was slow at sending out mailorder and after 2 weeks, I still hadn’t received a copy of the album. A really kind friend burned a copy and mailed it to me and I received it before the copy I had purchased.

As I thought would be the case, I absolutely loved every song. Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys perfectly marry Country and Punk Rock unlike any band I have ever heard. Lenny has fronted the street punk band, Darkbuster, for years and he brings that energy to Honky Tonk Country. The upright bass and pedal steel guitar give the band a much older sound than you would otherwise think. The songs tell stories of late night bar fights, boozing, salvation, their favorite Ramones’ song, more boozing, and they even cover the Lowenbrau theme song. In one particular song, Lenny sings “I’m Thirty Something and I don’t Feel Old, Still listening to Punk Rock still like my beers cold,” and I think that lyric spoke to me more than any other lyric. I loved this record and this band so much, I contacted the band. I mentioned my interest in working with them and hopefully putting out their next album. This is when they told me that after their bass player passed away, the band pretty much fell apart. This my friends, is a true tragedy. I have spoke to the label that released their album and mentioned my interest in licensing it for release on vinyl, something I still want to do. With any luck, this will one day happen.

Although Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys are not active, Drag the River did play a show with Lenny the last time they were in Boston. Lenny, if you read this and are ever looking for a label to put out anything, please drop me a line.

Friends, I hope you like this band as much as I do. Thanks Bryan for letting me rant.

Leaving in the Morning (by Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys)
Cambridgeport Saloon (by Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys)
Lonely Days and Whiskey Nights (by Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys)
Leaving in the Morning (by Drag the River)

GUEST WRITER: NINJA GUN – RESTLESS RUBES

Note from Autopsy IV: I am out this weekend babysitting my new puppy so I’ve lined up a whole slew of guest writers for the week. I hope y’all enjoy them and the music they bring to our attention as much as I am. I’ll be back early next week.

Today’s guest writer is Michael Dauphin. He’s the editor of Dude’s Magazine and also contributes to punknews.org a site I frequent and since you come around this site, you should too.

Ninja Gun hails from Valdosta, Georgia. That’s a few hours south of Athens (home of the Drive-By Truckers) and about an hour north of Gainesville, Florida (home of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers). In fact, Ninja Gun’s sound falls somewhere in between those respective artists as well. Their newest album, Restless Rubes, twinkles and shines like Petty’s unmistakable twangy pop, and opens up and rocks with similar honesty and passion that fans of the Truckers hold so dear.

The lyrical content on Restless Rubes tends to focus on dealing with socio-political ideals of The South. The listener can almost picture singer/guitarist, J. Coody, coming up with ideas for songs and finding lyrical (and internal) inspiration by analyzing the balance between his work as an aspiring rock n’roll road warrior and his other job, working on his father’s peanut farm.

Bottom line: Restless Rubes is power-pop, southern rock affair that has the potential to win over punks, hipsters, and straight-forward rock n’rollers. Don’t waste time figuring out where (or if) you fall in those categories—just give it a listen.

Ninja Gun – Restless Rubes
Ninja Gun – 8 Miles Out
Ninja Gun – Permanent Press

Ninja Gun’s Official Site, Buy Restless Rubes