This Yankee Survived 10 Days with the Dexateens and the Drive-By Truckers, A Tour Journal

I hit the road with two of the best rock bands in Alabama, if not America, and journaled the entire experience. I’m involved with members of both bands in a small indie label and also handle business dealings for the Dexateens as of late. Imagine having the greatest ten days of your life, hanging with people you feel you’ve known for 15 years through music, trying to always keep your cool and act like you’ve been there before (bullshit), seeing two of the best rock bands on earth with each in their best cohesive line-ups night after night to sold out theaters while your heart is breaking as your facetiming your kids to sleep and see your wife’s disdain with you over a semi-distorted cell phone screen. That’s the yin and the yang – performing, setting up, etc., that energy is infectious, intoxicating even. It’s when you’re shoulder to shoulder on the highway in a van, a little hungover, perhaps a bit edgey and in need of ‘me’ time, and the only thing you can think of is the wife and kids, and that one odd job you’ve been putting off.

The Dexateens did 7 shows opening for the Drive-By Truckers and 2 headlining gigs in Minneapolis and Lexington, KY, where we put Matt Patton back in a van instead of a tour bus and safely returned him back to the DBT crew by sound check, twice! We were proud of this feat…both times.

dbt1

11/11: The Begnning

I hit the asphalt prairie at 8pm after a dampened eye and a kiss to my wife and boys (dog and cat too). Anticipation is on high, it’s that allure of rocknroll just twelve hours down the highway and it’ll be in its rarest bloom. That undying wonder about what the next day holds experience wise and people wise. Hoping to get some sleep in the van at a rest stop a few miles south of James Madison University or stretch out in the back of a borrowed 8ft Haulmark trailer with a slight pitch cause evidently all hitches are not the same. Close enough for punk rock, the show must roll on.

11/12: Road Trippin’

Met up in Nashville at a recording studio in famed Music Row directly across from fittingly, Roy Acuff Place, loaded trailer and hightailed it to Dexateens friend, and fellow writer Jeff Sweeney’s in Bowling Green, KY for a night’s rest, some bourbon and a couple, three beers. Promptly woke at 8am, bought some horrible gas station coffee and set sail for a six hour jaunt to Chicago for night one of two sold out shows at the beautiful Thalia Hall. A cavernous room aged over 150 years and as rustic yet classy as one would imagine. A smooth ride if you leave out a cheap bourbon hangover on yours truly, but hell I ain’t bleeding, at least on the outside.

11/13: Chicago

Arrived a couple hours early in truly un-Dexateens fashion with ample time for proper lubrication at my new favorite Latino bar in Chicago with an Old Style sign and a name I can’t even read or pronounce for that matter. It’s directly across the street from the venue and it shall be home for the next couple days I’ll safely assume. We were welcomed with big smiles and flamenco tunes pumping from the jukebox. The bar either is still, or very early decorated for Xmas graced with titty mugs and a small well hung statue that gave me numerous chuckles and joke ammunition. Had a few beers and shots collectively with our new, very sauced friend Robert, who I’m not sure understood a word we talked but knew when we needed a beer several times over. If I could take that place and the bartender home I would. Cheers, Robert.

The sold out show was nothing short of perfection. A blistering set by the ‘Teens joined by Patterson Hood for “Teenager”, the quintessential Dexateens closer sans encores cause we don’t roll like that even when headlining. An energetic set with the classic Dexateen triple guitar assault of Elliott McPherson, Brad Armstrong, and Taylor Hollingsworth with that impervious rhythm section of Matt Patton’s bass and Brian Gosdin’s drums, new fans were won assuredly. Elliott handed off his guitar to Patterson and played frontman complete with bouncing round the stage like HR of the Bad Brains and loving it, me too for that matter. A strong DBT set was highlighted by Patterson passing off his SG during the penultimate of five song encore to monitor roadie and overall good dude, Wyatt, falling right in line like he was meant to be there for a version of, “These Are People Who Died”. We anchored a crash pad from a generous friend of a friend of Elliott’s in the beautiful section of Chicago’s Oak Park. They laid out air mattresses for us and I woke to Little Bo (Dexateens’ guitar tech, merch man, road dude extraordinaire) puking in his sleeping bag. Sounds funny but it wasn’t from drinking, he had him some food poisoning. I went for an early morning walk and stumbled upon Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and office, as if I were led to it in jest. Gorgeous and spell binding, I understood, at least in this section of the city, why they’d brave these winters, it’s already cold as hell.

11/14: Chicago

We had some lunch and made our way to our new favorite Latino bar and our new buddy Robert, who had no clue who we were, go figure! We drank some more beer and bourbon and also blew their bathroom up in spades every 30 mins or during commercial breaks of the Bama game. I guess Little Bo wasn’t bullshitting! I found a signed picture of the O’Jays in a Sports Illustrated from 1986 in the basement of the house. It’s fake but is now our spirit animal for the remainder of tour.

Night two at Thalia Hall was a lesson in Alabama rocknroll. Sold out crowd again, Chicago came to rock and they were promptly served. The Dexateens set was a conglomeration of old and new songs. As they expect to release 2 full length LPs in 2016, the band has decided to try to play one new song a night. This is hands down the most powerful lineup to date. The step up in musicianship with the addition of Hollingsworth on guitar has endless potential. DBT’s set was tremendous as usual. The packed house left pleased and bought a ton of Dexateens merch, which we need on our shoestring budget.

 11/15: Madison, WI

Spent another night at the donated crash pad, Little Bo didn’t puke, actually he may have because he’s not even here so who knows. Thalia Hall gave us socks, this made me super happy, somehow I think my Mom is behind it. Off to find bacon, eggs, and coconut water and some sense of balance, in many ways.  Settin’ sail for cheese curd land and a 4:30pm sound check.

The Majestic Theater in beautiful Madison, WI is a gorgeous historical theater with great sound and a small stage which sets the tone for an intimate performance within a 1500 capacity room. We arrived in circles looking for a gas station but won that battle as everyone seemed to wander back with a case of cheap canned domestic beer. Dexateens sound checked and we headed to the bar across the street for food and libations. I wandered to another bar that had my dear New York Football Giants on the tv so I could watch them lose a heartbreaker to the patsies of New England. The set was on fire with the pinnacle being Jay Gonzalez jumping in to pound out some organ fills over the street punk gem that closes every Dexateen show, “Teenager”. It was pure magic and the crowd was losing their minds. Another perfect DBT set. Honed, polished and can melt your face at the drop of a hat, then turn right around and make you cry — Beautiful stuff. The night ended on the DBT bus for some after party and then some well needed shut eye.

11/16: Minneapolis

Had a blast in Madison, gorgeous city and super nice folks, and cheese curds! Getting a much needed shower and a some grub before we hit the road for the home of the ‘Mats, Minneapolis, MN. Brad packed up his trusty cot thingy, which I’m kind of jealous of at this point, we rolled up our dog hair and fuzzbunny tinged sleeping gear from copious floor sleeps before, and I said a sad goodbye to my baby brother. Luckily I’m amped about going to Minneapolis and have reached out to Westerberg’s manager at least twice to try and lure him to Grumpy’s Northeast for a punk rock show tonight. We’ll see, the worst I can hear is nothing or ‘no’, both of which I’ve heard before so who gives a shit. Elliott prefers to man the wheel during the day, so not only does he write the songs, he drives his own damn, van.

Our first of two Dexateens headlining gigs where we steal Patton back and throw him in the van for a punk show in a dark bar was in Minneapolis with the blazing rocknroll of local boys, Eleganza starting things off at Grumpy’s Northeast. Eleganza played a power set of non-stop punk rock with a touch of that classic bluesy rocknroll a’la early Stones. It’s my first time seeing them and I’ll tell you for sure it won’t be my last. The Dexateens brought it like they were back home at Egan’s in Tuscaloosa, AL. Complete with Elliott playing most of the show in the middle of the crowd except for when he was climbing the walls and accosting a poor fake bear just trying to sell some poor sap a beer. We put on a rock show of incomparable stature at a kickass club. Not to mention a chance to hang in Minneapolis for a bunch of Replacements freaks, and special thanks to new friend Richard from Minneapolis who handed me stacks of ‘Mats sound boards circa the Tim tour and a special thumb drive for Patterson which I’ll hand off to him today. Thanks Richard, that’s a dude who gets the concept right there.

11/17: Bloomington, IL

We got down the road a bunch of hours and bought a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, I don’t even know what state we’re in but I looked out the windows and all I see is corn fields, literally. Elliott and Gosdin slept in the van, Elliott by choice, Gosdin by choice earlier in the night in liquid form! He deserved it, that show was killer. Regrouping to return Patton to the Truckers on time and watching video of a drunken Taco Bell debacle in which Elliott tried to drive thru minus the vehicle while the rest of us bathroom broke at 3am. She gave us our correct orders and had the patience of a saint, I hope that footage still exists cause it’s album worthy material in a comedic sense. Thanks again, Margaret, wherever you are.

It was a long rainy haul through thick Wisconsin fog to the Capitol Theater in Bloomington, Illinois. The skies parted as if only for us to unload for what we thought would be a sparse crowd. We were very wrong and the sound in that room was heavenly. The Dexateens gave another “How To” of the rock persuasion. I think the crowd was either stunned or so enthralled with figuring out what they were feasting on that they weren’t sure what to do. I manned the Dex merch table for a spell and the crowd was filtering by in a frenzy buying up everything we had before the band sauntered off stage.

DBT’s set was equally inspired, firing on all cylinders with an impressive setlist including “Buttholeville”, “Zip City”, “My Sweet Annette”, and a penultimate “Grand Canyon”. The latter with ripping organ work from Jay Gonzalez. Patterson Hood spoke truth on the state of affairs in our world today as an intro to “Southern Thing”. As nearly all of us in the rambling gypsy caravan out here have young’uns to care for at home and nurture and bring up in this world of bloodshed and senseless violence. The pre-speech hit home for me tonight, stirred up home and all the pain for those affected by terror from the other day and any day for that matter. Everybody needs love, man. The future is unsettling to say the least, right now.

On that note, my favorite part of the night was a very rare miss-start by the Truckers with Cooley promptly turning to the crowd, straight faced and stating, “Fuck You!! It happens”. Cooley rules, always will and always did. Rock on, Stroker Ace.

 11/18: Lexington, KY

We snatched Patton back for the night and headed to Lexington, KY. It was a 4 artist bill of local talent with Dexateens headlining at Green Lantern. Another wilding out small bar rock show, hot as hell and loud as hell and pure electricity bouncing from wall to ceiling and back again, Dexateens even pulling out “Take Me To The Speedway” written by ex-Dex compatriot, John Smith, a damn fine songwriter and guitarist himself, respect due. A personal highlight to me as I’ve rarely seen it played live, but as a rider in the van I gathered that the band didn’t dig it. If you’ve never seen them in a small setting, you ain’t as rocknroll as you think you are. Patton and drummer Brian Gosdin were locked in early and Elliott, Brad, and Taylor rode that lightning like a sonic bald eagle on the hunt for world domination. Guitar tech, merch man, night puker, and my new adopted little brother, Little Bo took the stage as Elliott passed him his trademark, beautifully tattered Telecaster to rip through set closer “Teenager”, freeing Elliott to climb walls and jump back to the stage in a twisted version of Iggy Pop meets Jimmy Swaggert meets HR from the Bad Brains.

11/19:Chattanooga, TN

Slept at a beautiful house in Lexington, KY owned by Little Bo’s friend, Patton and I stayed up way too late bullshitting and catching up over some beers. I snored Elliott up all night so if Chattanooga sucks, blame me. Hit the road in search of Waffle House which they all hit up, Taylor and I opted for bananas, cliff bars, and coconut water from the speedy mart. The easiest way is to eat clean, I guess. Gosdin drove so Elliott can get some shut eye, Patton deejayed like a pro via Little Bo’s phone, and Brad’s voice is starting to blow out. I’m just happy for no hangover.

Pulled into Chattanooga, TN around 3:30pm, as most of these cities, it’s my first visit. A beautiful ride through the mountains and then as if scooped out by an ice cream scooper sits Chattanooga and its famous Choo Choo. We loaded in with great weather and consumed copious amounts of glorious fried chicken, cheap canned American beer, and of course a snort of Tennessee whiskey and/or bourbon, both bands sound checked as I helped set up the merch table. Sounded to me like DBT was working out some new material during sound checks all week so I focused on keeping a blind ear and pretending that I wasn’t bugging out about this whole experience thus far – feeling lucky, blessed, humbled, and bursting with excitement but trying to maintain like it was just another day at the office.

I couldn’t tell if it was the size of the room that made the crowd look sparser, but the place sounded great and another kick ass rock show only Elliott’s mic cord was too short for him to climb the stage for his rocknroll preacher shenanigans. Another top quality DBT set I had the luxury of taking in from the side of the stage admiring Jay Gonzalez as he ripped solos back and forth from Gibson SG to Hammond B3, all the while from the background cause that’s how he likes it. I’m simpatico there and respect it wholeheartedly. We hung out on the DBT bus for a spell, gave them back Patton and set down the highway for a late night haul to Nashville courtesy of Little Bo. We safely arrived at our new digs at some ungodly hour for a well-earned recharge.

 

11/20: Nashville

Woke up and had a nice long walk around the Belmont section of Nashville, as we’re staying at familiar ground a house owned by Taylor Hollingsworth’s friend Jeff. They allowed some of us to stay when we were down here this past August to track a new record at the great Mark Nevers’ Beech House Recording. Being that we’re back at the rendezvous point, everyone sort of separated for some much needed alone time, except for those whose wives came for the weekend. Some slept all day, one did a Third Man Records tour which I’m actually pretty upset I passed on but I had to walk off a debilitating bout with some anxiousness and such. 9 days of rocknroll, booze, copious highway miles, and sparse meals can trigger that, I’m guessing.

Loaded into the Cannery Ballroom around 4:30pm and set up merch with Little Bo while both bands sound checked. The Dexateens brought down the house again, they’re simply on fire, folks. The personalities click, the musicianship is spot on, and the new music about to be unveiled in 2016 is their 2 finest efforts to date, in my modest opinion. The big takeover is among us, y’all take heed. Brittney from the Alabama Shakes came by after the Dexateens’ set and I also got to bear hug Todd Snider which I’m pretty sure I was way more happy to do than he. I then asked Little Bo to snap a picture of us (which I never do) and of course by some anti-divine intervention the resulting snap shot was no more than a black screen. We’re a hell of a team, Little Bo and I, thanks, Buddy! DBT opened with a rising version of staple, “Living Bubba” and during another staple song, “Let There Be Rock” Patterson changed the normal lyrics to, “I’ve never seen Lynyrd Skynrd, and I’ve never seen The Clash, but we’ve had the fucking Dexateens all week long”. Love it, live it…

11/22: The End

The end has come, for this particular run anyway. Most of the day was spent sleeping, if not at least relaxing away a chilly, rainy Nashville day and licking the proverbial wounds from the night before. Our crash house was down a few Dexateens as wives trickled into town for the final night and hotels seemed well worth it to that end. We trickled back into the Cannery Ballroom almost separately for the first time in 10 days. It was truthfully sad, as homesick and hollowed out as I am, I’ll miss these dudes and being with them every day.  We all met downstairs in the green room for some cold beers and whiskey pulls before a line check. Patterson was working out some powerful new material, based on what I’ve gathered from eavesdropping 8 sound checks in the past 10 days, there may be the best DBT record yet on the horizon as well. The themes are prevalent and you can feel the message.

Another powerful Dexateens set was served to what seemed to be a thicker crowd than night 1 with definitely more energy from those facing the stage. If I had to rank them it would go Cannery Ballroom Night 1 a close #1 and that Grumpy’s show in Minneapolis a close #2 followed closely by tonight’s show. There’s just something about a Nashville show that mystifies. Jay Gonzalez and Patterson joined the Dexateens for consummate closer “Teenager” to see us off. Pre-show we all shared a family dinner at Rotier’s with wives, Dads, Aunts, Cousins, friends and other chosen family. Seated, ironically, at the same table with the exact same sweetheart of a waitress a few months earlier when we were tracking the new record with Mark Nevers.

I’d like to report on the DBT set but truth is I had a promise to live up to. I have 2 small souls I promised I’d see before bedtime back up in New Jersey and in order to make that happen it was time to hit that ol’ asphalt prairie again for a jump on a long trek. It was truly “Sunday Morning Coming ‘Up’ ”, north on 40 and 81 to 78 East. Punk is ‘Dad’.

(w/Patterson Hood and Jay Gonzalez, Patterson says ‘the almighty motherfucking Dexateens, one of the best fucking rocknroll bands in the world” at the end.

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3 thoughts on “This Yankee Survived 10 Days with the Dexateens and the Drive-By Truckers, A Tour Journal

  1. Jubal Reply

    Rock on boys!

    • Helah Spain Reply

      The reason the Chattanooga crowd was smaller than normal was the show was on a Thursday night and the venue recently passed a sound ordinance making them shut down the show by midnight on weeknights.

  2. Kim Hornsby Reply

    My friends and I were at both shows at the Cannery Ballroom. The Dexateens are simply amazing! There’s so much energy coming from that stage. First saw them open for DBT at GA Theater in 2013 and when we saw they were opening for them again, Nashville road trip was a given. We follow DBT to lots of places. Maybe not quite as exciting as your trip, but we had a great time! Thanks for telling your story. That kind of adventure is for the lucky and the strong! Ready for HeAthens Homecoming in a couple of weeks. Come join the fun!

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