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DS Photo Gallery: Lucero celebrate 20th anniversary with hometown Block Party blowout

Last weekend (April 13-14), for the fourth time in as many years, Lucero fans from far and wide converged on the grounds surrounding Minglewood Hall in the band’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, for the annual Family Block Party, a music and arts extravaganza for patrons of all ages. This year’s installment, in addition to being the biggest one yet, was celebratory for another, particularly noteworthy reason; April 13, 2018, marked the twentieth anniversary of Lucero’s very first show, which took place in a Memphis warehouse across the street from the infamous Lorraine Motel.

The weekend’s festivities kicked off on the evening of Friday the 13th inside the 1884 Lounge at the Minglewood complex, in the form of a gathering that was equal parts history lesson and birthday party, the bulk of which was curated by Lucero lead guitar player Brian Venable. Venable has long been the band’s unofficial historian, and in the days (hours?!?) leading up to the event, he dug through the time capsule and pulled out old pictures, setlists, album artwork, show flyers, lyric sheets and band-related memorabilia (old Flying Vs! Roy’s old Nikes!) that were compiled into a walk-through exhibit that inspired a night full of laughter and reminiscing between the band’s members, crew, and family of dedicated fans.

The lounge and the cavernous concert hall inside Minglewood remained open on Saturday, but the bulk of the goings-on took place outside. Not only was the venue’s parking lot closed to traffic, but neighboring South Willett and Monroe Streets and a few adjacent parking lots were as well, giving the occasion a true, block party feel. Local food trucks hawked their wares, as did a variety of merchandise vendors (Shitluck Clothing, Lumberjack Outfitters, tintype photography with Michael Foster, Oliver Peck and his Cheap Thrills line, etc) , most of whom remained steadily busy throughout the afternoon and well into the evening. But the focus, as you might expect, was on the music. Local singer/songwriter Louise Page (above) got things rolling under overcast but not quite rainy mid-afternoon skies. Page has only been in the business for a couple years but has steadily built a name for herself in Memphis, and it’s easy to see why, with elements of folk, pop and soul oozing throughout her melodies. A singer and piano player by trade, Page’s live sound was filled out by a five-piece band that consisted of drums, stand-up bass, violin, saxophone and trombone.

The inimitable John Moreland came next, accompanied by a full rock band of his own. That the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native isn’t household name on par with Jason Isbell or Chris Stapleton seems nothing less than criminal, although I guess there’s something special about his once-in-a-generation voice being our little secret. Moreland’s forty-minute set primarily highlighted his last two albums, last year’s stellar Big Bad Luv and 2015’s flawless High On Tulsa Heat, with a revved-up, pitch perfect cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” tagged on as a raucous show closer.

The set change between Moreland and the next band on the docket, Rhode Island’s own Deer Tick, featured an appearance by The Mighty Souls Brass Band, a rotating group of musicians that includes former Lucero touring saxophone player Jim Spake playing their way through the crowd, an experience ripped right out of the French Quarter. While Deer Tick do, as stated, call the Ocean State home, they’ve become more involved in the Tennessee scene over the last handful of years; frontman John McCauley and his wife, Vanessa Carlton, have a Nashville home, and the band recorded both of their self-titled 2017 releases down the road from Minglewood Hall at renowned Ardent Studios. Deer Tick were followed by an hour-long set from the evening’s direct support, Turnpike Troubadours. Like Lucero, the Oklahoma-native Troubadours are road dogs in their own right, having spent more than a decade at this point touring like a punk rock band. While they play a style of music that’s a little more straight-forward country than you might be accustomed to reading about on the pages of Dying Scene, there’s a real storytelling aspect to frontman Evan Felker’s lyrics that make the music instantly more relatable.

While the afternoon and early evening’s happenings were an enjoyable gathering – even in spite of the occasional raindrops – of friends and families alike, this was clearly Lucero’s night. There were more than 4,000 people spread throughout the Block Party’s grounds by the time the band took the stage at a little after 8pm. When you’ve got twenty years and almost a dozen albums under your belt, it might be a little bit difficult to keep your rabid fanbase on their toes, but that’s just what they did, as Ben Nichols and the crew opened their celebratory set with “For The Lonely Ones,” a brand-new track off the band’s yet-to-be-released-or-even-formally-announced full length, due sometime in August on their new label home, Thirty Tigers (Jason Isbell, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, etc).

Eschewing their normal formula for improvising their way through a two-hour set, the band did curate a setlist for this particular special occasion. Roughly half of the new album was woven in to the set and because this is 2018 and the internet is a thing, aside from one or two songs that hadn’t been played anywhere yet, a solid number of the new tracks (especially “Bottom of the Sea” and “Cover Me”) were not only well-received by their fans but were greeted with the same audience singalong treatment that decade-old crowd favorites have long generated. The band dug deep into the catalog, including a rare appearance by the raw, gritty stomach-punch of “No Roses No More” from their self-titled 2001 debut album (revisited on these pages a couple years back). Jim Spake rejoined the band on stage on saxophone duties for a few tracks, but otherwise this was a night to celebrate the long-running core of the band that’s stayed together in spite of a handful of moving parts throughout the decades. Nichos and Venable founded the band and played that first warehouse show with a different rhythm section, but Roy Berry (drums) and John C. Stubblefield (bass) would join within the first year and have remained in pace ever since, while the multi-instrumentally talented Rick Steff brought his serious chops into the mix in 2006. The night even featured a proclamation from Memphis mayor Jim Strickland declaring April 14, 2018, to be Lucero Day in the city, in honor of the band’s twenty year legacy of serving as a “source of inspiration, encouragement and strength for listeners all over the world.”

Head below to check out our full photo gallery of the weekend’s triumphant festivities, and stay tuned for more on Lucero’s new album (and a special Father’s Day release) in the weeks to come!



The Bronx release video for “Side Effects”

The Bronx have released a video for “Side Effects”, a track from the band’s latest album, “V which came out last year through ATO Records. The video was directed by Christian Jacobs (MC Bat Commander of the Aquabats / co-creator of “Yo Gabba Gabba”). 

You can watch it below.



The Bronx announce European tour with Culture Abuse

The Bronx have recently announced a string of European dates scheduled for the end of June, with Culture Abuse opening for five of the six dates. You can see the full list of dates below. This tour follows a full North American tour that The Bronx announced earlier this year.

The Bronx last released V in 2017 via ATO Records and Culture Abuse last released “Peach” in 2016 on 6131 Records.



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero Out-Heckle the Heckler in Hartford, CT (w/Jake La Botz)

After a couple of consecutive unfortunate show cancellations late last week, the good ship Lucero fired its well-traveled engines back up in Hartford, Connecticut, last Saturday, resuming a late winter tour that was initially paused on Thursday so that frontman Ben Nichols could fly to Arkansas for his grandmother’s funeral. The band had every intention of cancelling only that night’s show in Rhode Island and reconnecting in New Hampshire on Friday, only for Mother Nature to intervene in the form of a powerful winter storm that left Nichols unable to fly north and his bandmates rarely able to leave the confines of their tour bus for the better part of two days. The band finally reassembled as their full Voltron at the relatively new, 600-ish capacity Infinity Music Hall for what was by all accounts the band’s first headline gig in the capital of the Nutmeg State — we’re pretty sure they played Hartford on the Warped Tour in 2011 — which seems pretty remarkable for a band that’s spent twenty years earning a reputation as one of the hardest touring bands in the game. Much to the delight of all but one show-going knucklehead, the band seemed eager to get back into the swing of things as regularly as possible, making for a memorable, if slightly abridged, evening.

There was a time years ago when a Lucero show had the potential to go off the rails for a variety of reasons, many of which centered around the dysfunctional family dynamics that are present in any group of males working together, particularly when there’s alcohol involved. There’s less alcohol involved nowadays, meaning that a 2018-era Lucero live show has become less volatile but no less unpredictable for the band or the fans. No two sets are the same as Nichols calls shots that balance his instincts with feedback from an audience that’s generally rather lubricated in their own right, meaning his bandmates (Rick Steff on keys, John Stubblefield on bass, Brian Venable on guitar and Roy Berry on drums) have got to react on the fly. On this particular night, the Memphis-based quintet kicked their headline set off with crowd favorite “The Last Song” from their 2002 full-length, Tennessee. In this writer’s experience, this particular song has many times been reserved for later in the evening given the crescendo it builds to, so its early appearance was a welcome change of pace right off the bat. From there, things went in typical free-form fashion, with the band choosing to stick with the same album for the similarly crowd-pleasing singalong “Chain Link Fence” before taking the opportunity to showcase some brand new material. You see, Lucero have been hard at work on a follow-up to their last full-length, 2015’s All A Man Should Do, for a while now, and have slowly been working through some newer songs on stage in recent months (a trend that’s fallen by the wayside across the musical spectrum in the age of YouTube). Nichols’ pointing out that they were going to play a few new tracks, however, didn’t sit well with one particularly vocal gentleman at stage right who made his opinion rather well known early on.

The net result proved, for the young man, to be a fail of epic proportions, as a defiant Nichols led the band through four consecutive brand new songs – including the live debut of a song that seems to be called “Cover Me” which might be the strongest of an already strong bunch – until said young man made his way to the exit. The bulk of the crowd seemed mindful of the special nature of seeing so many new tracks played in order, heckler be damned. There seemed to be nary a hiccup, as the new tracks seem to fit naturally in the Lucero lexicon. I’ll shy away from specific spoilers except to say that “Cover Me” and “To My Dearest Wife” and “Everything Has Changed” sound like songs that were written by 2002 Lucero but performed by 2018 Lucero. Trust me, that’ll make sense when you hear them.

Most of the remainder of the set found the band calling on an ever-expanding number of audience favorites. “Texas & Tennessee,” “All Sewn Up,” “It Gets The Worst At Night,” “Nights Like These” and “On My Way Downtown” made requisite, raucous appearances. When he wasn’t at the mic, Nichols spent a greater-than-average amount of time pacing the stage, giving the impression of somebody who was working through a bit of a cathartic experience. Steff was his typically stoic, stabilizing self on stage left, and his stage-right bookend Venable’s understated leads seemed dialed in. I’ve said before on these pages that Berry is one of my favorite drummers to spend time watching, and that was still true on this evening. There’s in improvisational quality to his playing that’s in line with the rest of the set; just because you’ve heard him play “Tears Don’t Matter Much” a dozen times doesn’t mean you’ve ever heard him play it the same way more than once. Stubblefield left the stage at one point to get seasick over the side of the boat but somehow didn’t miss a beat holding down the low end (and that’s obviously not true, but it’s an inside joke that only he and probably mu wife will understand and I’m mostly just seeing if he’s reading this). The Nichols solo track “Loving,” penned for his filmmaker brother Mike’s film of the same name, seemed especially fitting as played on what happened to be the eve of an Oscars ceremony for which it was robed of even a nomination. “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” off 2012’s Women & Work was a personal favorite, as it’s the first time I’ve actually heard them play it.

But without question, no song was more poignant and heartfelt than “The War.” Accompanied my the multi-instrumentally talented Rick Steff on accordion, the song finds Nichols telling the stories of his World War II-veteran grandfather’s time as a member of the US Army. Many of those stories were told to Nichols over the years by the very grandmother whose funeral he had just returned from, giving the moment a special, albeit heavy, weight. Heckler aside, the only sour note of the evening was the venue’s hard 10:45pm curfew, meaning the band that’s capable of some fairly long sets had to cut things off at around 90 minutes or so. Nit-picking, I know.

Kicking the evening off at 8:00pm sharp was the mighty Jake La Botz. Very much the quintessential renaissance man, La Botz has been one of the more underrated folk-Americana songwriters in recent memory. He frequently tours solo, though this run opening for Lucero finds La Botz fronting a trio, with Brad Tucker (upright bass) and Phil Leone (drums) serving as the rhythm section, providing a bit of depth and foundation for La Botz’s soulful stories and imaginative guitar riffs to shine. If you’re not familiar with La Botz’s catalog, last year’s Sunnyside is as good a place as any to start, as the tracks featured were particularly well-received by the devout Lucero crowd.

Head below for our full photo gallery from the highly enjoyable evening!



New Punk Rock Bowling show announced

A new show has been added to Punk Rock Bowling for Friday, May 25th. The Bronx and Dwarves will headline the Bunkhouse stage, with Fireburn & Sciatic Nerve the inside stage. The Shrine will join the Bunkhouse stage and One Square Mile the inside.

Check out the flyer below for more details!



DS Photo Gallery: An Evening with Ben Nichols and Jared Hart at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ

Every once in a while, the mythical creatures that put show lineups together get one so correct that you and your better half pack up the car, drop the kiddo off at her grandparents’ house after her basketball game (go Panthers or Blueberries or whatever we’re calling ourselves now!) and make the five-ish hour trek from Boston to a tiny little borough in north central Jersey over a torrentially rainy February weekend. And so, when the inimitable Andy Diamond announced that February 10th at Crossroads in Garwood, New Jersey, would consist of an evening featuring the musical stylings of Lucero‘s Ben Nichols and The Scandals/Mercy Union‘s Jared Hart, it seemed the mythical creatures had spoken.

Jared Hart led off the late evening’s festivities in stellar fashion in what was all but a hometown show for the Bayonne-based punk. Lucero fans are an intensely dedicated lot who travel far and wide to see “their” band – let alone to see the band’s frontman in a rare, one-off solo gig – but Hart was more than up to the task of getting the night started on the right track. Hart has a penchant for penning sweeping, sing-along choruses, and that was on display from set-opener “Totem” on forward. The bulk of Hart’s set consisted of material from the Scandals catalog and his first solo album, 2015’s Past Lives And Pass Lines (including a duet with his own longtime better half, Casey, on “The Leo”), with a track from the forthcoming debut from his new project, Mercy Union, thrown in for good measure. Oh, and there was a rousing cover of the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” which was resoundingly well-received.

After a bit of an extended layover between sets, Nichols took the stage accompanied by only by his trademark Martin acoustic and a half-filled fifth of Bulleit Rye Whiskey and embarked on what would become a rollicking, spirited look through the deeper portions of his songwriting catalog. Beginning the night with “Chambers,” Nichols highlighted the bulk of his brilliant debut solo EP, 2009’s The Last Pale Light In The West, across the evening. As could be expected at a Lucero show, the crowd was a constant vocal present throughout the duration of Nichols’ largely freeform set. And while a couple of expected long-time crowd favorites (“Nights Like These,” “Raising Hell,” “I’ll Just Fall”) made their staple appearances, the bulk of the twenty-nine (by my count, anyway) song setlist focused on either brand new material, or songs that have long since fallen out of regular live rotation.

While we’re not yet sure exactly how many songs will appear on Lucero’s forthcoming studio album (due hopefully this coming summer), we have gotten a pretty stellar taste of what’s to come on tracks like — and these are apparently working titles — “To My Dearest Wife I Write” and “Everything Has Changed” and “Bottom Of The Sea.” Also included on this evening were brand new tracks that won’t be on whatever becomes their new album – a sweet ode to his year-old daughter “Hello, My Name Is Izzy” and the searing and already underrated “One Last Fuck You.” Nichols also dusted off “The Outsiders,” a track by his pre-Lucero band Red Forty, and dedicated it to a longtime, well-known fan in the crowd. Nichols enjoyment of the evening was not only quite noticeable — not only by his eight or nine whiskey-infused Cheerses to the crowd — but was increasingly infectious over the course of the two-plus-hour set. As the midnight hour came and went and the *ahem* sobering reality of a 10:30am trip to catch a flight out of Newark sank in (prompting the image above), both Nichols and the still engaged crowd might have brought the musical portion of the evening to a close, but most were slow to leave, choosing instead to revel in the afterglow of what was a memorable (depending on your alcohol intake) and inimitable evening.

Head below to check out our photo gallery!



The Bronx announce North American tour, release new music video

The Bronx have just announced a North American tour for the spring, and released a new music video for their song “Night Drop At The Glue Factory”. You can check out all that stuff below.

The band’s latest album V came out in 2017 through ATO Records.



The Bronx announce reissue(s) of their albums I, II, and III

California punks, The Bronx, have announced that they will be reissuing their albums I, II, and III but this time on Vinyl. This is following the release of their recent album V, which came out in September off ATO Records

You can catch them at a show this December, dates can be found below.



The Bronx streaming new album “V”

The Bronx‘s new album V was released today through ATO Records, and is now available to stream. You can listen to the album in its entirety below.

This is the band’s first LP in four years, following 2013’s IV.



Music Video: The Bronx – “Two Birds”

The Bronx have released a music video for their recent single “Two Birds”, taken from their upcoming album V. You can watch the video below.

is set to be released on September 22nd via ATO Records.



The Bronx stream new track, announce tour dates

The Bronx have released another new song from their upcoming album, V.

You can give a listen to ‘Two Birds,” as well as check out some of the bands’ upcoming tour dates below.

is set to be released on September 22nd via ATO Records.



The Bronx stream new track “Sore Throat”

The Bronx have released a video for new track “Sore Throat”. The track is taken from the band’s upcoming album, “V”, out September 22nd on ATO Records. The track coincides with pre-orders going up too.

You can listen to the track below.



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero return to Boston! On a Boat! With Banditos! (6/26/17)

Longtime Boston-area fans of Lucero likely remember back to the band playing aboard a Boston Harbor cruise boat nearly a decade ago. By all accounts (yours truly was not in attendance), it was a bit of disaster, noteworthy in all the wrong reasons, not the least of which were a combination of space issues, technical difficulties, and Mother Nature not being in a particularly good mood. Fast-forward to this past Monday night and they band gave it another shot, this time aboard the larger Provincetown II. The net result could not have been more polar opposite from the 2008 show, giving both the band and the crowd a show that was equally noteworthy but for all the right reasons.

In areas like Boston (and New York and probably other places but I have a horrible East Coast bias), boat cruise shows have become a bit more of a popular option for at least two-and-a-half seasons a year, as soaring real estate costs, liquor licenses, etc., have culminated in a virtual drying up of small- and mid-sized venues. The Provincetown II is an older ship that docks in Boston’s Seaport District and typically spends most of its summer evenings running three-hour booze cruises around the Harbor (that is, when it’s not running as a shuttle between the city and Cape Cod). The minimally-lit stage (which is really not much more than a twelve-by-twelve-foot square set maybe a foot off the floor) is set at the rear of the three-tiered ship’s top deck, meaning that as the opening band takes the stage and the ship pulls away from the dock, you’re not only watching the band play, but watching the city skyline become smaller and smaller in the last few minutes of sunlight.

Boston’s port and harbor remain fairly active and are bordered to the immediate north by Logan International Airport, so tour-opener Banditos (a six-piece Southern-fried rock band from Alabama) started playing in the waning early Summer daylight surrounded by smaller cruise ships, fleets of tanker ships, returning fishing vessels and a string of departing planes taking off immediately overhead. The band were pretty well received, and seemed to think that the experience was just as cool and, in the literal sense, “awesome” on their end as it was on ours. The band’s high-energy forty-minute-ish set seemed to pass particularly quick, probably due in gigantic part to the borderline sensory overload of the experience. It can be tough to pick a perfect opening act for a band like Lucero, but Banditos are a pretty solid fit, their trummed-down Southern jams and three-headed vocal monster seeming to work pretty well on a beer company-sponsored outdoor Summer booze cruise. Their set-closing cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” (popularized by Nina Simone or Creedence Clearwater Revival, depending on your perspective) damn near stole the show as Mary Beth Richardson belted out the lead vocals from the center of the crowd.

The sun had officially set by the time Lucero took the stage.As has frequently been the case recently, the band started with a sort of mini acoustic set, kicked off by “Can’t You Hear Them Howl” from their last full-length, 2015’s All A Man Should Do. While that moment may have been scripted (frontman Ben Nichols joked that he “likes to start with that song because (he) likes it and nobody ever requests it”), the remainder of the twenty-one song (by my count, certainly not official) setlist was largely improvisational and wide-ranging. “Texas & Tennessee,” perhaps one of the two or three saddest songs in a catalog that’s chock full of sad songs, made in early appearance as it generally does, followed quickly by crowd favorite “My Best Girl.”

From there, a few twists and turns popped up, as the bulk of the set seemed to be culled mostly from the wishes of the audience who, for their own parts, were loud and engaged all night. Because of the unique setup of the ship’s upper deck, the crowd essentially filled in around the entirety of the stage, making it seem like the band were playing a theater on the round. “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble,” “Wasted” and “Hold Fast” were particular favorites for yours truly, if only because I’d not seen them live before. “Chain Link Fence” sounds more raw and intense than it did when it debuted fifteen years ago, and the band, now a five-piece again after losing the horn section that had joined them through three albums and their accompanying touring cycles, seem to have figured out how to accommodate for some of that lack of brightness and depth on songs like “Women & Work” and “On My Way Downtown.”

As the ship had turned around and headed back for port, Nichols played a few stripped down songs, starting with “Loving,” a song written for his filmmaker brother Jeff’s 2016 movie of the same name. He kept things stripped down for “Mom” and was joined by keyboard player/accordionist extraordinaire Rick Steff on “The War” and took on an a capella rendition of his solo track “Last Pale Light In The West,” which he jokingly referred to as the only sort of lullabies he can sing to his infant daughter, before being rejoined by the band for most of the rest of the set. Drummer Roy Berry’s unique playing style has long been one of my favorite things to watch, and he seemed steady as ever despite playing on a boat in an active harbor (guitarist Brian Venable commented after the show that it putting a stage on a boat is like trying to play on a piece of plywood inside a bouncy house, if that gives you a little perspective). Venable’s growling lead guitar playing does not always take center stage in a band like Lucero (particularly in the early years where the leads were more noodling riffs than true leads), but when called upon, he continues to shine on tracks like “Tears Don’t Matter Much” and “Last Night In Town.”

Special note should probably be paid to bassist John C. Stubblefield, who disappeared from the stage at one point toward the mid-point of a particularly raucous rendition of “Tears Don’t Matter Much” to partake of the festivities from the audience’s perspective and did so while missing nary a beat in the process before rejoining his bandmates on the stage in stride. Closer to the end of the evening, Stubblefield eventually raised a red wine-inspired toast to the “best night ever,” before the band wrapped up their set and the ship docked and, while maybe a tad hyperbolic, he wasn’t far off from the truth.

Check out Lucero’s upcoming tour dates here, and our full photo album below.



DS Photo Gallery: Clutch’s “Psychic Warfare” Tour Steamrolls Providence (w/Lucero)

There are some bands that you might not be otherwise familiar yet, but then you see them live and you totally get what all the fuss is about, and that said performances just kinda stick with you forever. Clutch, for me is one of those bands. We’re rounding the corner of two decades since the very first time I saw the Maryland-based quartet (at the 1997 HempFest in Boston alongside Tree and Sam Black Church, if you’re interested), and the second they took the stage at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, I was immediately transported right back to that place in time.

Now a lot has obviously changed over the twenty years since (not the least of which are hair color and waistlines, and I’m specifically referencing myself). Clutch’s sound has evolved to become a little dirtier and swampier; they’ve always been a solid live band, but now they’re downright explosive.  were a solid live band back then; they now qualify as a premier live act. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster serves as the anchor to the whole ship. Gaster plays loud, explosive style but has achieved a certain level of transcendence at his craft that he almost looks effortless; like Lebron James toying with Serge Ibaka and the Raptors in the last round of the NBA Playoffs. Tim Sult (lead guitar) and Dan Maines (bass) stay rooted to their respective sides of the stage, leaving supremely dynamic frontman Neil Fallon to roam the stage like an animal stalking his prey. Fallon is a frontman’s frontman and plays the role brilliantly, at times oscillating in performance appearance from motivational speaker to manic cult leader to all out banshee. The band launched into their sixteen song main set with “Crucial Velocity” from 2012’s Earth Rocker, while the bulk of the remainder of the main set drew primarily from their most recent album, Psychic Warfare. Longtime crowd favorite “Electric Worry” (you know, the “vamonos, vamonos” song) kicked off the two-song encore in frenzy-like fashion.

Lucero provide direct support on this leg of the Psychic Warfare tour, a bit of a change of pace sandwiched in between Clutch and “warlock rock” openers The Sword (whom I admittedly didn’t shoot or catch much of). As a longtime fan, this marked the first time I’d caught the Memphis-based quintet in an opening role after having seen them headline venues equal to (or even somewhat larger than) Lupo’s. The abbreviated (50 minutes) set in front of a Clutch crowd (and let’s be honest…Clutch fans are CLUTCH FANS) meant that Ben Nichols and the boys eschewed the acoustic portion that’s crept increasingly into their sets in recent years and focused mostly on uptempo tracks. “Can’t You Hear Them Howl,” the lead single to the band’s last album (2015’s All A Man Should Do), kicked off the set, and from that point forward the band forged ahead in all business style, covering such live staples as “On MY Way Downtown,” “Nights Like These,” “I Can Get Us Out Of Here Tonight” and “Here At The Starlite” in the process. A personal highlight was Nichols’ unaccompanied (unless you count a double shot of whiskey as an accompaniment, which I guess you could), a cappella rendition of his track “Last Pale Light In The West,” from his solo EP of the same name. Nichols joked that tracks like those that he based on Cormac McCarthy’s historical novel Blood Meridian were about all he could come up with for lullabies for his soon-to-be year-old daughter. Nichols was then rejoined by the rest of the band (Brian Venable on lead guitar, Roy Berry on drums, a particularly unanimated John Stubblefield on bass, and the inimitable Rick Steff on keys/accordion) for a rousing version of show-closing staple “The Last Song.” I mentioned before that Clutch fans are “CLUTCH FANS,” and that can ultimately be said for Lucero fans as well. They may have been largely outnumbered in this near-capacity crowd of around a thousandish, but they (we) were certainly a vocal minority.

Check out our full photo gallery below!

 



DS Photo Galley: Lucero and Cory Branan at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY)

If we’re being honest, there’s probably very little to say about a Lucero live show that hasn’t been said ad infinitum at this point. As they approach the 20-year mark since their inception, the band have a well-earned reputation for not only playing a high volume of shows year after year, but of playing some of the more intense, memorable shows within a hundred mile radius at any given time. That sentiment is true whether they’re playing in their native Tennessee, on the West Coast, or up in Yankee country. Time has changed and the Lucero family tree has grown, so, as is (rightly) the case with many a band of their tenure, the lure of family has pulled them increasingly off the road, paring the 200-250 show a year mentality down by about half, the net result for this writer is one New England show in the calendar year, and that was at an outdoor beer festival (covered here last month), you take the “four-hours-on-a-Sunday” trek to literal Yankee country (okay…formerly Dodger country) to catch them in their natural, club show element.

And so it was last weekend, when the band’s three-week run with Cory Branan in tow made its northeasternmost spot at the Music Hall of Wiliamsburg in Brooklyn. Perhaps more than most bands in this genre (and really, Lucero are their own genre), the Ben Nichols-led outfit have continued to grow and evolve, never seeming content with resting on their collective laurels. Because of this, the band have had several distinctly different sounds with myriad different lineups, meaning that no two Lucero tours nowadays are entirely alike. They’re now on the road fairly consistently as a somewhat stripped down five piece that finds one-of-a-kind Nichols joined by equally one-of-a-kind longtime core members Brian Venable (lead guitar), Roy Berry (drums), John Stubblefield (bass) and, of course, Rick Steff (keyboards/accordion). The lack of pedal steel and, more recently, horns, has produced a sound that’s closer to the raw, post grunge of the early years, but one that’s also refined by years of growth as musicians and songwriters and owners of the stage.

This particular show found the band taking the stage promptly at 9:15pm and slowly ramping up the intensity level over the course of the first handful of songs. As has been the case at more than a handful of shows over the year since their last album, All A Man Should Do, debuted, the slow, brooding “Went Looking For Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles” kicked the evening off in slow-burn fashion. When the band went opener-free on the tour for that album, they filled the evening by playing both an acoustic and an electric set. That formula seems to have grown legs, as the evening’s first eleven songs all featured Nichols and his newfound Martin acoustic. While it’s to be expected on songs like “Texas & Tennessee” and “The Man I Was,” this gives a little bit of a fun, intricate vibe to older show staples like “My Best Girl” and “Raising Hell.”

Never one to abandon his trademark Epiphone Sheraon II for too long, however, Nichols and company increased the volume (though, admittedly, not the level of happiness…) around 10:00pm sharp, beginning the electric portion of the evening with “Downtown/On My Way Downtown” from 2012’s Women & Work. Though 2016-era Lucero shows tend not to devolve into the occasionally chaotic events that they did in earlier times, Nichols’ constant need to continue pushing boundaries still creates a ‘seat of their pants’ energy that leaves the effect of having both the audience and the remainder of the band left guessing as to exactly what’ll come next.

And what came next was a pretty representative cross-section of the band’s near-twenty-year catalog. Sure All A Man Should Do remained well-represented,  though the band’s 2002 release Tennessee was most represented, producing rambling jams on staples like “Here At The Starlite” and full-crowd singalongs on tracks like “Chain Link Fence” and, of course, “Nights Like These.” “Tears Don’t Matter Much,” from 2003’s That Much Further West, and which name-drops Cory Branan rather famously, garnered probably the most lively crowd response at the 550-capacity Muic Hall, with Berry’s machine-gun-caliber snare and Berry’s steady, heavy groove pacing the way through, providing a launching pad for Nichols and Venable to trade guitar lines. The evening slowed down again toward the end of the set, easing out in much the same way as it eased in, with Nichols donning the Martin acoustic again for “Me & My Girl In ’93” before a brief respite and set closers “Drink Til We’re Gone” and “Fistful Of Tears,” the latter of which found Nichols going guitarless, accompanied only my the always steady, dare I say classy, Steff on keys.

The aforementioned Branan opened the evening’s festivities. (Editor’s note: This marked yours truly’s fourth Branan show in four different States this calendar year, having previously seen him in Connecticut with Brian Fallon and in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with Chuck Ragan). Branan and the Lucero camp, Nichols in particular, obviously go back until about the beginning. Branan is equal parts self-aware (almost painfully so) and self-deprecating, and has long been not only known for his gut-wrenching, razor sharp lyrics but for the curiosity surrounding why, exactly, he hasn’t jumped up to the next level (or two…or four) and become more widely known. When on point (and that’s more often than not in more recent years) about as talented a solo performer as you’ll find, with a unique ability to vary the dynamics of both vocal stylings and his near-virtuoso guitar abilities in a way that will extend its way to all corners of the venue, regardless of the size, and force the listener to pay attention, often times rendering new listeners curious as to what they just heard. Branan’s eleven song set included it’s fair share of long-time crowd favorites (“Prettiest Waitress In Memphis,” “Tall Green Grass,” his own personal Born To Run, “Survivor Blues”) and a handful of tracks from his as-yet-publicly-untitled studio full length, due out next March on Bloodshot Records. Seriously…wait til you hear the song about his dad…

Check out our full photo gallery from the evening below, with a massive mea culpa to Branan for not having been properly in place at the start of his set. I blame New York City… You can still read our ode to the band’s debut album, Lucero, here, and our follow-up ode to the band with help from Dave Hause, Frank Turner and Sal Medrano right here.