I remember it so clearly, my first and only V-Roys show.
It was Dec. 3, 1998, a Thursday, and myself and about nine or 10 other people showed up at Sluggo’s, the only alternative bar to be found back then in Pensacola, FL, to hear the Knoxville, TN band perform.
I had no idea what to expect. I had not yet heard a single song. I only knew that these guys played rave-up twang reminiscent of my favorite band, The Old 97s.
By the third song, I was hooked. By the time Scott Miller launched into “Lie I Believe,” the single best sad sack cuckhold/breakup song of all time (you heard it here first, people!), I was in love. With the band. Not Scott, although he was a dashingly handsome scoundrel of a front man.
In fact, after two-plus hours of hearing every V-Roys song from both their albums, plus two or three covers, and multiple trips to the bar to buy shots for the band, the small contingent of faithful still standing and sweating by the stage near 2 a.m. felt like a family.
The guys signed the CDs we gladly bought. Everybody hugged and high-fived. And we stumbled down the rickety stairs to the bottom floor exit.
To this day, minus the time I was front and center for the Old 97s in a bowling alley in Omaha, Neb., that V-Roys show remains one of my Top Two club performances of all time. It was electric and intimate and unexpected. And you could tell how much they loved playing together, even if only for a handful of new converts.
The band broke up the following year, Miller went on to start a successful solo career with a new backing band, the
Commodores Commonwealth, and guitarist Mic Harrison went on to form The High Score.
Though they only released two studios albums, and a live disc, The V-Roys never strayed too far from my top tier alt-country favorites. They were the first band signed to Steve Earle’s E-Squared Records, and fans mourned not only the loss of the V-Roys but E-Squared when the label shuttered between the release of the band’s first and second discs.
How wonderful then, 13 years later, for the band — Miller, Harrison, Jeff Bills and Paxton Sellers — to finally get the appreciation they deserved, and to have the chance to go out on their own terms.
Sooner or Later, an 18-song career-encompassing retrospective, including five previously unreleased tracks, came out late last year in anticipation of “One Show; Goodbye,” the band’s farewell performance on Dec. 31, 2011 in Knoxville, which sold out.
The irony, for those who know the band, is that the first last V-Roys concert also was a New Year’s Eve show on Dec. 31, 1999.
And, for those paying attention who appreciate such things, you will recognize something else ironic: I am imploring you to go out and buy an album for a band that no longer exists and has no plans to reunite again to tour. I truly believe The V-Roys are done. I think they just needed to close that door knowing they were still relevant, still loved.
But the music, well, that isn’t going anywhere. And if you’ve never heard “Guess I know I’m Right” or “Pounding Heart” or “Sooner or Later” or “Cry,” then you need to. These are songs that immediately take root and hold on. This is music good as Strangers Almanac or Too Far To Care.
There’s a reason why Earle picked them to be the torch-bearers for his fledgling label. The boys had the look, the chops and the hooks to make an instant impact with not only Americana fans, but fans of straight-ahead rock and roll.
I’m sad that the band capped it off with one last show, and not a tour. I hate that there are less than two dozen songs to listen to. But those songs will be forever, and I’ll always have that Pensacola show.
The V-Roys – Guess I know I’m Right
The V-Roys – Sooner or Later
The V-Roys – Lie I Believe
The V-Roys Official Website, The V-Roys on Facebook, The V-Roys on Spotify, Buy Sooner Or Later