PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Drive-By Truckers: 7 November 2013 - Bloomington, IN

Drive-By Truckers's performance at the Bluebird Nightclub in Bloomington, Indiana was a total triumph -- raucous, profound and very, very loud.

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

City: Bloomington, IN
Venue: Bluebird Nightclub
Date: 2013-11-07

First rule of criticism: don't resort to histrionics, whatever you do. Give in to platitudes or subject your readers to droning, interminable recaps, but don't start fawning. That's the very antithesis of criticism, right? It represents the apex of subjectivity, and consequently has no place in a form dedicated to the pursuit of objectivity, however unattainable it might ultimately be.

But what do you do when only histrionics will suffice? How do you approach the subject then? Do you indulge the impulse to zealotry, or do you fight it like death itself?

After much deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that it's best in times like these to take a deep breath (or two, or three) and say 'fuck it.'

A couple of weeks ago, my answer would have been different. But seeing probably the greatest rock show of your life will change your mind about a lot of things, the least consequential of which are the finer points of the methodology of pop criticism.

The Drive-By Truckers took the cramped stage of the Bluebird Nightclub casually, as if they were about to do something quite routine, if not exactly run of the mill. No fanfare, no theatrics, no flashy clothes. Patterson Hood approached the mic and made some brief opening remarks, then played the first chords of a new cut called “Grand Canyon,” dedicated to fallen DBT compatriot Craig Lieske. Speaking in strictly musical terms, it was a complete triumph -- elegiac, insistent and righteous -- and it certainly bodes well for the quality of the group’s forthcoming LP, due early next year.

What followed that auspicious opener defies description. It was a performance without a peak. Every number seemed poised to be the show’s defining moment, and each subsequent number proved that assumption dead wrong. Much as I would have doubted so beforehand, it turns out it can get better than “Tales Facing Up”, and not just once but seven or eight times. How, you ask? Try tacking the first two lines of “Small Town” to the beginning of “Buttholeville,” then slap on a stomping, psychotic outro that promises to topple the venue’s solid wood buttresses. That will just about do it.

That’s only one example, of course, and you could say much the same thing about any of the night’s performances (swapping out adjectives when appropriate, playing critical Mad Libs). “Zip City” or “Marry Me”, “Ronnie and Neil” or “Let There Be Rock”, which included a small sermonette and shout-out to all of us “smiling motherfuckers” in attendance whose lives had been changed for the better because of rock ‘n’ roll -- each topped its studio counterpart by leaps and bounds (no mean feat -- the band’s records are nearly all masterworks). The cumulative effect was raucous and indignant, fun and funny, profound and poignant and louder than the hounds of hell.

What more is there to say? The band’s body of work is irreproachable and the live performances are peerless. Critical admirers call DBT one of America’s best contemporary bands, and while that’s certainly true, it’s faint praise and bullshit nonetheless. At this point, the pantheon awaits them.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.