The Bottle Rockets : Schubas, Chicago, IL 8/18/2006

With the release of their new album, Zoysia, it appears that much has changed for The Bottle Rockets. For starters, Brian Henneman is no longer a drinker and not from Festus, Missouri anymore. You see, it used to be that beer and Festus were the two things Henneman and Co. stood for. These days, Festus has been replaced with St. Louis (you can’t even buy a famous “Bottle Rockets, Festus, MO” t-shirt at their website anymore) and liquor has been traded for anything Atkins friendly.

Clearly, it’s time to take The Bottle Rockets seriously.

The identity transition from Festus to St. Louis probably has little to do with it, but a sober Brian Henneman surely does. He used to be a heavyweight who slammed beer after mixed drink through a live show. The music, it seemed, was not a priority, although their concerts still were a hell of a time—highlighted by mere noise and drunkenness. Now, Henneman is skinny and full of energy, focused on being in a band where the music is the drug, not the shots of tequila before the encore; ostensibly, if you go to a Bottle Rockets show in 2006 or beyond, expect a band focused on their jobs and talents, which is a wonderful thing.

Early on in the set, Henneman tackled this new identity and live-for-the-music persona with his passionate delivery of “I Quit,” a new song from Zoysia about walking away from the bottle. Emphatically near the end of the tune, Henneman asked “Can you handle it?” repeatedly, having a blast, filling the room with his new self. The show remained steady from then on, eventually providing the crowd with the brilliant back-to-back-to-back treat of “I’ll Be Comin’ Around,” “Thousand Dollar Car,” and “Indianapolis.”

Wasting little time in between songs, the set showed off the precision that is now a strong suit for The Bottle Rockets, even after adding new members Keith Vogele (bass) and John Horton (guitar) into the mix. Along with long-time drummer Mark Ortmann, they comfortably provide a strong base for which Henneman to fall back on, not stumble over, especially on tunes like “Feeling Down,” where Vogele provided harmony, and “Zoysia,” where Horton stole the show with his ferocious guitar. The Bottle Rockets are a band now, not a reason to go hear live music while getting ripped. Can you handle it? It’s not The Bottle Rockets’ problem if you can’t.


Better Than Broken , Middle Man, I Quit, Nancy Sinatra, Waiting on a Train, Happy Anniversary, Blind, Slo Toms, Mountain to Climb, Things You Didn’t Know, Align Yourself, Suffering Servant, Love Like a Truck, Feeling Down, Where I’m From, I’ll Be Coming Around, $1,000 Car, Indianapolis, Gotta Get Up, Zoysia


Lonely Cowboy, Gravity Fails, Radar Gun, Welfare Music

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