It’s not that I don’t wish the best for the Old 97’s. I do. I really do. I’m a big fan. But, I’ve seen them twice this week—once at Snowbasin, outdoors in the cool mountain air, and once at the Urban Lounge’s stale beer and sweat-scented air. And the latter is the environment where they belong.
This is a band that has been around for a quarter century—and while their peers in the 90’s were singing songs about true love, the 97’s were instead writing songs about drinking and crying and the overall human condition, with titles like “Every Night Is Friday Night Without You,” lyrics like, “I went through the motions with her, her on top and me on liquor.” This left the alt-country pioneers with an important part to play in the soundtrack of every cynical 30-something to 40-something year old’s formative years.
And we were all at Urban last night. It was a room full of Gen-Xers who sang along to songs both old and new—pointing at the band during the appropriate parts in songs and shouting out the cleverly-written lyrics when appropriate (spoiler: it was always appropriate).
“Lets Get Drunk and Get it On”
The Old 97’s entire catalog is made up of songs about poor decisions, which seems more and more ironic the longer they go on. How do they keep doing what they’re doing (with boundless energy) with all that hard living?
And maybe more importantly, how does frontman Rhett Miller not age? While the rest of the guys in the band all look age-appropriate, it’s almost as if the gin has pickled Rhett into a state of perpetual boyish charm. Seriously, dude was born in 1970, and I would totally card him at the bar. This is Dorian Gray-level stuff here.
But here’s the key to the lasting charm of the Old 97’s—they are good. They are real good. And as the night wore on and Miller’s long hair became more sweat-soaked, it became more clear that this is a band doing what they love—where they love to do it.