“Life is short
In spite of your plans
So, tell the girls they’re pretty while you can
One day they’re gone
And all you got left is
Some empty bottles and an old country song
This big ol’ river will kill us in time
’til then we’ll drink it’s weight
In cheap beer and wine
We can drink just as fast as the river is strong
And we’ll drink ’til we’re gone.
We’ll drink ’til we’re gone”
- Lucero “Drink ‘Till We’re Gone”
First off, I would like to thank www.tunespeak.com for allowing me the chance to attend this tour as it rolled through Athens back in February. If anyone reading this article is not aware of the website I am referring to then you must get acquainted as soon as possible. Well, only if you are a music fan… not to twist any arms out there.
I was first introduced to Lucero from a good friend of mine a few years back after watching Drive-by Truckers play an event in my hometown. He mentioned this band from Memphis, Tn. that had been around for years that was, in his mind, ‘a best kept secret’ in the South. The band was Lucero, also known by many as, “one of the hardest working (sic) bands of the last 10 years—on tour significantly more days than they are not.”[i] From that day on, it was love from the first note. Their sound is very unique and eclectic as it mixes some Country, Rockabilly, Blues, and tones of Punk which produces such a great combination. Just ask their legion of fans across the globe. So when I saw that Lucero was going on tour with Ryan Bingham and Twin Forks, I made it my mission to attend this show despite being a weekday. That is when you know you are a concert warrior- drive up to 2 hours for a show only to make it home around 3 am… because waking at 6 am comes earlier and earlier every morning.
By the time we made it to the historic Georgia Theatre (GATH) in Athens, we had missed the opening act: Twin Forks. Sometimes that happens when you have to travel… take it as it comes. During this tour, both Lucero and Ryan Bingham chose to rotate who was the headliner for each night. For this stop, Lucero would perform next after Twin Forks so I was happy to make it in time before they took the stage. The GATH was packed when we arrived and that is always a great sign for a weekday show in my opinion. When Lucero took the stage, the audience gave their old friends a warm Georgia welcome. The band started off playing “Women & Work” to the exuberant Athens crowd. What ensued would be considered one of the best performances I have seen by Lucero hands down. One thing about this band that I have always respected was their ability to interact and foster participation with the crowd. To experience this open dialogue with a performer is something special and Ben Nichols (lead vocals and guitar) does just this with each performance.
Lucero went through their vast discography pulling songs from their early days up to their current body of work. They even took a few requests near the end of their set from some of their die-hard front row fans. You can always tell how good a performance is by gauging the participation of the crowd, this night would be no different. Lucero commanded the crowd and did not give them up until they had played their last song much to the dismay of the crowd. After their performance, I managed to catch up with Ben Nichols for a nice photo op and see how he has been on this tour. As always, Ben is a real pleasure to talk with and enjoys interacting with the fan base off stage as much as he does on stage.
Next up would be Ryan Bingham… I have to admit, I knew very little about him prior to attending. What little did I know at the time, I would be impressed with both his ability to play the guitar and his overall performance. And it takes A LOT to impress this particular concert hopper. This native New Mexican played for a solid 90 minutes taking each person in the GATH on a personal tour through his memoirs. At times, I could hear Robert Earl Keen’s influence in Ryan’s voice and lyrics. Ryan, like Mr. Keen, can narrate what life is like in small town U.S.A. and take the crowd through this personal journey. Despite the shape of pop country music, Bingham is refreshingly quite the opposite. Shredding his guitar and belting out some good ole soulful Americana rooted rock ‘n’ roll, Bingham writes songs that are relatable. This is what many artists lack in country nowadays, as the trend has steered away from the roots of Outlaw or Rebel country music. As he closed out the night with some of his best-known hits, Ryan made a new fan or two that night I am sure.
[i] “Album Review: Lucero – Women & Work « Consequence of Sound”. Consequenceofsound.net. 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2013-08-08.