The Haw River Ballroom was on fire for two nights straight as Drive-By Truckers took the stage by storm with Lydia Loveless opening each night. The electrifying performances left fans screaming for more, with music that spoke to their souls and lifted their spirits high. From the heart-wrenching lyrics to the roaring guitar riffs, this concert review will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions that will leave you wanting more! So, sit back, relax, and let's dive into an unforgettable musical experience that rocked our world at the Haw River Ballroom.
Formed in 1996, the Drive-By Truckers have long been one of America's most prolific and popular rock bands. The Alabama-based group is known for their intricate songwriting, which often tackles themes of southern culture and politics. In recent years, the Drive-By Truckers have also become known for their electrifying live shows, which often feature extended jams and guest appearances from other musicians.
Over the course of their career, the Drive-By Truckers have released 12 studio albums, including their most recent effort, "American Band." The album debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart and received widespread critical acclaim. In addition to their studio work, the Drive-By Truckers have also released several live albums and DVDs.
The Drive-By Truckers are currently comprised of co-founders Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood (who share lead vocal and guitar duties), bassist Matt Patton, keyboardist/guitarist Jay Gonzalez, and drummer Brad Morgan. Not only are they super talented southern rock icons, but in my limited interactions with some of the band members, they've always been down-to-earth and fun to talk to.
Lydia Loveless is a country singer and songwriter from Columbus, Ohio. She has several albums, the most recent of which is 2020's "Daughter". She has been praised for her unique blend of country, rock, and punk, as well as her powerful voice and lyrics. Loveless has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe, both as a headliner and opening act for such bands as Drive-By Truckers and The Hold Steady. In addition to her work as a musician, she is also an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and gender equality.
Each night, the Drive-By Truckers and Lydia Loveless rocked the Haw River Ballroom with their incredible set lists. Below is a list of each song DBT played over the two nights, as well as a brief description of each song's meaning or theme.
"Birthday Boy" - all about identity, relationships, life struggles, and social status
"Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" - a hauntingly beautiful tune inspired by a real-life experience Patterson had while living in Athens, Georgia. He witnessed a man who had lost everything, but was still holding on to his love for his family.
"Ramon Casiano" - about the murder of Ramon Casiano, a Mexican teenager who was killed by Harlan Carter, a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 1931.The song criticizes the NRA's role in promoting gun culture in America, which is a timely topic right now, sadly.
"Lookout Mountain" - inspired by Hood's childhood memories of visiting the Lookout Mountain attraction in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The song seems to be about the search for meaning and purpose in life.
"When the Pin Hits the Shell" - Hood said that the song was "something that had been brewing in my mind for a while" and that it was "inspired by a true story I had heard about somebody getting even in a pretty severe way."
"The Driver" - The song's origin is tied to Hood's experiences on the road, particularly as a touring musician. The lyrics describe the life of a long-haul truck driver, with references to the monotony of the road, the allure of freedom and adventure, and the toll that the lifestyle takes on personal relationships.
"Slow Ride Argument" - offers fantastic advice like "Let her go, my friend. Let the outside air in. Get two tallboy beers, not one, not three."
"Shake and Pine" - features one of my favorite quotes of DBT's: "All you're missing, Alabama claw. Above the bangs and lashes, and we saw it all. Reaching for the stars but only catching dust."
"Every Single Storied Flameout" - some artists, including poets, can become consumed by their own egos and the public's perception of them.
"Dead, Drunk, and Naked" - Patterson Hood has said that the song is actually a cautionary tale. In an interview with The A.V. Club, he explained, "It's a warning to the kids out there that if you're not careful, you could end up like us."
"Guitar Man Upstairs" - Hood revealed that the song was inspired by his neighbor, who played guitar at odd hours of the night. Hood found himself fascinated by his neighbor's passion for music and began to imagine what it would be like to be the "Guitar Man Upstairs."
"Sink Hole" - This is one of DBT's most powerful songs, in my opinion. The song is about the struggle of a farmer who is facing foreclosure and losing his land to a banker. The lyrics touch upon the farmer's sense of injustice and his willingness to resort to violence in order to protect his land. Ultimately, the farmer's sense of moral righteousness is contrasted with the banker's greed, as the farmer is willing to face the preacher at church while the banker is not.
"Uncle Frank" - tells the story of a family gathering where the narrator encounters his uncle, who is a Vietnam War veteran struggling with addiction. The lyrics describe the family's attempts to help Uncle Frank, but ultimately their efforts are unsuccessful and he dies alone. The song is said to be loosely based on the experiences of Hood, whose own uncle was a Vietnam War veteran and struggled with addiction before his death.
"Ballad of Cecil McCobb" - The song tells the story of Cecil McCobb, a man who is wrongfully accused and convicted of murder in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia. The song is a commentary on the flaws within the justice system, particularly in the South. The inspiration for the song comes from a real-life case in Georgia in the 1940s, where a black man named Willie Reed was accused of murdering a white woman. Reed was found guilty and sentenced to death, but a local journalist named John Temple Graves began investigating the case and uncovered evidence that proved Reed's innocence. Despite this, Reed was still executed, highlighting the injustice and racism within the legal system at the time.
"Zip City" - this has been interpreted as a commentary on the struggles of small-town life, where people are often trapped by their circumstances and can become resentful towards outsiders.
"(Something's Got to) Give Pretty Soon" - The lyrics express frustration and tension between two people who are trying to make things work but are struggling due to their different lifestyles and expectations.
"Sounds Better in the Song" - The narrator reflects on his own limitations and how they prevent him from being the person the woman he loves needs. The overall message of the song is about accepting the reality of a situation and acknowledging that sometimes letting go is the best thing for everyone involved.
"Feb 14" (with Lydia Loveless) - The song is about a tragic event that occurred on Valentine's Day. The lyrics tell the story of a man who goes to his estranged wife's workplace and shoots her and her co-worker before turning the gun on himself. The song deals with themes of domestic violence, mental illness, and the aftermath of tragedy. In an interview with NPR, Hood stated that the song is based on a real-life event that occurred in his hometown of Florence, Alabama. He explained that the song was his attempt to understand why such a tragedy could happen and how it affects the people left behind.
"Marry Me" - This is the story of a man proposing to his girlfriend, but with a twist - he's not proposing out of love, but rather out of desperation and a need for stability. The protagonist of the song is a struggling musician who is tired of the instability and uncertainty of his life on the road, and sees marriage as a way to finally settle down and have some stability.
"Buttholeville / State Trooper" - The song is a humorous take on the frustrations and aspirations of small-town life, and the desire to break free from its limitations.
"Shit Shots Count" - The song is about the harsh realities of working-class life, including the struggle to make ends meet, dealing with difficult bosses and co-workers, and the acceptance of the often unpleasant and unfair aspects of the job. The repeated refrain "shit shots count" emphasizes the idea that even small actions can have consequences and that one must be mindful of their choices in a difficult environment.
"Steve McQueen" - This song is simply admiration for the actor Steve McQueen and his coolness, with the lyrics describing the desire to be like him when Patterson was a child.
"Women Without Whiskey" - This song is about struggling with alcoholism and the desire to quit drinking. Overall, the song explores the complex relationship between the singer and alcohol, and the challenges of breaking free from addiction.
"Grand Canyon" - The theme in the song is the appreciation for life and nature, the acceptance of mortality, and the power of memories. The lyrics reflect on the beauty of nature, the wonders of life, and the fleeting nature of existence.
"Boom Boom Mancini" - This Warren Zevon song is about boxing and the story of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. The lyrics also touch on the dangers of the sport and the controversy surrounding the death of Du Koo Kim in a fight with Mancini.
"Maria's Awful Disclosure" - This song tells the story of Maria Monk, a woman who claimed to have witnessed and experienced abuse and atrocities in a convent in Montreal in the 19th century. The song explores the themes of religious hypocrisy, abuse of power, and sensationalism in the media, as well as the impact of these issues on individuals such as Maria.
"The Driver" - (played on Tuesday)
"Slow Ride Argument" - (played on Tuesday)
"Billy Ringo In the Dark" - This song focuses on finding purpose and meaning in life, even when feeling lost and questioning one's existence. The lyrics encourage the listener to light candles slowly and leave unanswered questions for others to ask, suggesting that finding meaning and purpose is a journey that cannot be rushed or fully understood.
"Pin Hits the Shell" - (played on Tuesday)
"The Opening Act" - This is centered around the struggles and challenges faced by an opening act in the music industry. The lyrics depict the harsh realities of the industry, where even talented artists may struggle to find recognition and success.
"Women Without Whiskey" - (played on Tuesday)
"Puttin' People on the Moon" - This gut-wrenches tale illustrates the struggle of a blue-collar worker and his family in a changing economy and society. The song addresses issues such as unemployment, poverty, lack of healthcare, and disillusionment with the political system. It also highlights the contrast between the technological achievements of the time, such as putting people on the moon, and the everyday struggles of ordinary people.
"Made Up English Oceans" - This is a commentary on the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of certain individuals, particularly those who hold conservative and traditionalist views. The lyrics also touch on themes of alienation, frustration, and despair, as the narrator suggests that feeling good is often out of reach for these individuals, who resort to self-harm and emotional outbursts as a way of coping.
"Rosemary with A Bible and a Gun" - These lyrics are about a road trip and the relationship between the narrator and Rosemary, who is described as a complex character with both religious and violent tendencies. The song highlights the power of memory and the way it can shape our perceptions of the world around us.
"One Of These Days" - This song touches on a sense of disillusionment and frustration with one's hometown and past, as well as a desire to leave and escape it.
"Welcome 2 Club XIII" - This title track from the newest album paints a picture of a seedy, run-down nightclub where people go to escape their problems and indulge in their vices.
"Every Single Storied Flameout" - (played on Tuesday)
"My Sweet Annette" (w/ Lydia Loveless) - Another one of my old DBT favorites, this ironically sweet song sings of betrayal, as the narrator leaves his fiancee, Annette, at the altar and runs away with her best friend, Marilee. The lyrics describe the narrator's regret for what he has done and the pain he has caused Annette.
"Zip City" - (played on Tuesday)
"Let There Be Rock" - The hard-hitting feel of this song could sum up in the band in its vibe alone. The lyrics to the song are the reminiscing of the narrator's wild and reckless youth, filled with risky behavior. The narrator reflects on past experiences, including getting pulled over with drugs and alcohol, sneaking into a friend's house drunk, and attending various rock concerts. The mention of Lynyrd Skynyrd throughout the song serves as a symbol of the narrator's missed opportunities and regrets, as he never got to see them perform live.
"Marry Me" - (played on Tuesday)
"Hell No I Ain't Happy" (with Sign O' the Times) - This is a "singalong" song that always gets the crowd to join in and appears to be about the struggles and hardships of being a touring musician, including the loneliness, lack of a stable home life, and the difficult experiences encountered on the road.
"Shut Up and Get On the Plane" - This ditty is all about accepting the inevitability of death and living life to the fullest without fear. The lyrics describe how worrying about death and trying to avoid it can lead to a life of fear and not truly living.
"Angels and Fuselage" - Similar to "Shut Up and Get On the Plane", this song is about the fear of mortality and the uncertainty of what comes next. The singer is reflecting on their life, thinking about a past love, and realizing that they are about to die as their plane is going down.
In a word: wow.
The Drive-By Truckers and Lydia Loveless put on an incredible two-night show at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. The energy and talent of both groups was on full display, and the crowd was absolutely loving it.
For the Drive-By Truckers, this was a triumphant return to form. After a few years of lineup changes and personnel shakeups, the band seems to have found its footing again. And boy, does it show in their live performance. The Truckers were tight, polished, and fired up from start to finish. They ripped through a setlist of fan favorites and new material with equal gusto, leaving the audience cheering for more.
Lydia Loveless also impressed with her high-octane set. She brought her signature brand of country-punk to the stage, belting out catchy tunes and delivering some serious guitar chops. Loveless is a rising star in the roots music world, and it's easy to see why after watching her perform. She's got the whole package: talent, charisma, and style.
This was an amazing two-night concert event. If you missed it, you definitely missed out on something special.
Thanks to Robbie Dunn for recording the April 26th show here's a link to stream it https://archive.org/details/dbt2023-04-26.MK4.FLAC24-48
Words by: Erika Rasmussen
Photos by: Jerry Friend