Son Volt - Live Review
Man, get me some relief! It had been almost two weeks since I saw live music. I wasn’t exactly dying, but I was ready for a hit of that stuff. It’s weird that I’m still such a gremmie for live shows – the most stoked kid on the beach – even though I’m fortunate enough to see a decent amount of acts.
Off the top of my head, I can think of two terrific bands out of Missouri: the Bottle Rockets and Son Volt. I’ve seen the Bottle Rockets before, and I highly recommend them. Their songs are funny, honest and feel like real life (check out “Thousand Dollar Car,” “Stuck in Indianapolis,” or “Kit Kat Clock” to get my drift). Best of all, they are a great bar band.
What about Son Volt? Funny you should ask as they were the fix for me this week at the Ardmore Music Hall. SV is a good live act, specializes in that roots/Americana sound with a lot of electric guitars, and we had a fun and enjoyable night.
If you don’t know Son Volt, well, shame on you, haha. They are best described as an alt-country band, and are led by Jay Farrar. You might know Jay from his previous band, Uncle Tupelo, which was fronted by Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, who went on to found Wilco. Uncle Tupelo was a fantastic alt-country band, and both Son Volt and Wilco are worth seeing. It’s interesting that Wilco has gone on to more success – who knows why in the fickle music business – but maybe it’s because Son Volt has been much more true to their alt-country roots.
Whatever. As readers of BRP already know, we saw Wilco last summer at the Mann Music Center in Philly and they kicked butt. The Mann is a much bigger venue than AMH – probably about 10,000 fans bigger - so when I saw that Son Volt was playing this tiny Main Line venue, I was all over it. The show was waaaaay sold out, but that meant only about 300 people got to see SV rip it. Wilco would sell it out faster, but I’m not sure that Tweedy’s ever expanding ego, filling the universe like the birth of a new star, could fit into a club that small. Farrar doesn’t have that problem at all, and we were the delighted beneficiaries.
But Jay is not a massive stage presence. Yes, he is front and center, and clearly the leader of the band. Nonetheless, he did not interact much with the crowd, and didn’t even smile until nearly the end of the show. I don’t know if he considers his live act as “work” per se, but the band was all about coming out and playing music without much else in terms of crowd interplay. Son Volt is not unique in this regard. The Feelies are another band that simply plays their songs. It’s cool and much better than the alternative, you know the guy who won’t shut up and you end yelling “play music” at him.
Son Volt is not just Farrar. In fact, far from it. It’s a five piece outfit featuring Andrew Duplantis on bass, Jacob Edwards on drums, Chris Frame on lead and slide guitar, and Mark Spencer on keyboards, pedal steel, and rhythm guitar. Frame and Spencer, in particular, are really fantastic musicians, and they know how to rock it. Frame and Farrar share the Wilco affinity for changing guitars, and both travel with a sizeable quiver. It worked: the band was remarkably tight – they went from song to song with hardly any time between them – but never were off with each other and simply jammed into the tune right in time.
The band played tracks from their new album, but also a number of their best staples: “Drown,” “Route,” “Windfall,” “Back Into Your World,” “Picking Up The Signal,” “Catching On,” etc. They played a little over 1.5 hours, but with no banter and little time between songs, they probably played 20 or 25 songs. The songs varied from pure slower country tunes to rock ‘n roll rave ups, but all were in the Americana/roots style. I love that stuff and was fully in my element. We also had a great spot, close to the stage, but without people pushing and shoving. We had breathing room while the bar area was PACKED. I’m not giving away my location because I have staked a claim on it and am now officially a squatter there. But check out the pictures – nice and tight, some showing the entire band in action, and some close ups of the individual players.
I’m glad I got back into the live music swing. Two more shows are coming really soon, and I’ll be back here to dutifully report on those acts. I think you’ll be a little surprised at one of them, but totally in your BRP element with the second band. In the meantime, here’s a great song by Son Volt to carry you through the weekend.
As always, keep hyping BRP to all your friends and family, and thanks for coming back to check out the latest on the site. And for those of us on the East Coast, enjoy spring – it’s beautiful outside and the best 6 months of the year are nearly upon us. Salud!
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My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.