Photo by Matt OttoDRIVE-BY TRUCKERS/LIMBECK
THE COACH HOUSE, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
THURSDAY, APRIL 7
It's not too often anymore that we spy a double bill that looks as beefy as this one: Limbeck, local kids who flipped a disgruntled bird to the safe emo-pop they (and everybody else) had been doing after getting born again inside the Holy Temple of Gram Parsons two years ago and discovering their country-rock souls, and the Drive-By Truckers, who've spent several years now making Southern rock cool to like again.
Been more than a year since we last saw Limbeck, and their incessant touring has only made them look scruffier. They did a healthy chunk of tunes from Hi, Everything's Great, their terrific transformation album, and they gave us a few new songs from their next album, which we hear will be out in August (though that usually means October). The new stuff was superb—we recall lines about parking lots and other such desolate imagery—and from the sound of things, their music is gradually becoming even more whiskey-soaked yet billowing with the confidence their change of direction has given them. Limbeck are now so good we can't wait a whole summer for the new record—let the Internet trolling for pirated advance copies begin!
A lot of people this night suspiciously seemed to know the words to Limbeck's new songs already, but that's what happens when the room is heavy on the friends-and-family quotient. Which made us fear that everyone would cut out after Limbeck's 45 minutes, leaving an empty hall for the Drive-By Truckers. Some split, but others arrived to fill their seats. But there still should have been far more people here than there were—how come everybody doesn't share our vastly superior sonic taste?
You can't beat the Drive-By Truckers' aural assault: three upfront guitars that mesh to form a beautiful, low hum that comes off like Crazy Horse times 10, with several excellent songwriters in the band, each of whom pens smart, literate story-songs that are worthy of Tennessee Williams. Proudly Southern but not rednecky, they put out a double album a few years ago that was a bona fide Southern rock opera—called, shockingly, Southern Rock Opera—that's still our favorite Drive-By Truckers disc, all about cars and 'Bama and drinkin' and George Wallace and Ronnie Van Zandt, but fucking poetic, not a cliché to be found anywhere on it. Like almost every touring band that stops at the Coach House, though, the Drive-By Truckers just had to indulge in the one cliché we're sick of: the Guitar Player Who Walks on the Stage-Front Tabletops. We didn't remember seeing before, though, the club staffers who ran to the tables and held them down to keep them from flipping over during these casual guitarist strolls, which seems to indicate that somebody took a ferocious tumble recently. What we want to know is: Who?