Photos by Steve Cross.
We might as well get it over with and just take a paragraph here at the beginning to talk about how fucking pretty Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller is. The shaggy-haired crooner is movie star handsome. Tigerbeat
cute. And his boyish charm somehow made the cheer-sex he was having with myriad members of the audience less than sketchy—he would lean back, let his eyes go all bedroom, and then casually strike his signature mini-windmills on his guitar. We weren’t the only ones who were impressed: A random (male) East Nashville barfly and recent Old 97’s convert remarked to us, “I don’t normally say this, but the lead singer is hot!”
OK, on to the music: In front of a very-full house, the four boys from Texas played an energetic set that spanned their entire catalogue. Though they covered nearly all of their new album Blame It on Gravity
, the band still found time for some deep cuts, including the irresistible barnburner “Doreen,” a couple songs off Satellite Rides
highlighted by the deliciously clever “Rollerskate Skinny”—“I believe in love…but it don’t believe in me” won the night in the sing-along category—and, during an encore that also included “Timebomb,” Wreck Your Life
’s opener “Victoria,” a song that in our minds perfectly encapsulates the magic of this band. Sideman Murry Hammond also got to sing quite a few, including the heartbreakingly spare “Valentine” and the rollicking “W. TX Teardrops.”
Midway through the set, Miller introduced a song by quipping, “In a perfect world, I could have sold this song down on Music Row—and lived on it for all of six weeks.” He then launched into Hitchhike to Rhome
’s epic self-pity-fest “Wish the Worst.” In classic country-song style, the protagonist lurks around his beloved’s apartment, drinking all her booze and crawling in her bed, while begging to know where she’s been. With no answer forthcoming, he moans, “I hope you crash your mama’s car / I hope you pass out in some bar / I hope you catch some kind of flu / Let’s say I wish the worst for you,” before returning to his desperate assertion, “I just wanna know where you been.”
When Miller throws himself into singing a song like that—letting his sweet voice crack at the saddest parts and leap into the occasional howl, there are few rock singers more fun to watch.
As the night wound to a close, we remembered to do our good deed for the month. (Apparently mocking those who deserve mocking doesn’t count as a humanitarian act.) We headed over to the merch table and bought a copy of Murry Hammond’s solo record I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm on My Way
. Hammond recently told the Scene
that every dollar he makes from the album before it’s official distribution goes to Project Mercy, a non-profit committed to building houses in Mexico. We left feeling pretty darn pleased with ourselves.
Oh, and thanks to Steve Cross for the tip—Mercy Lounge has a new floor.