Drive By Truckers

Drive By Truckers

with Southern Bitch

The Star Bar, Atlanta, GA • February 13, 2000

It was the calm before the storm. People began filtering in and walking towards the stage wearing cowboy hats and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. You could smell the approaching squall as Wendy from Southern Bitch placed her beer atop her guitar amp. The barometer pressure dropped as Patterson Hood tried to make his way backstage but kept getting stopped by admiring fans. It was going to be a tornado of Southern Rock at the Star Bar in Atlanta. Is Southern Rock on a comeback? Call it Southern Rock or country punk or whatever, Athens band Drive By Truckers are out to make an impact in music by bringing back rock-n-roll, and they are bringing it back with a loud Southern accent.

Southern Bitch from Athens opened the show, and it was quickly apparent why this four-piece band was chosen to accompany the Truckers. Lead singer/guitarist Adam is wonderfully deft on both guitar and vocals. And the band jammed out tunes like they were born to do it. Wendy on rhythm guitar is the only female member of the band. This led me to believe she was the “southern bitch,” but I was later told that all members of the band were just the “nicest bunch of people you could meet.” Southern Bitch is a new band, so I expect I’ll be seeing lots more of them in Atlanta.

After a complete swap of instruments, Drive By Truckers took the stage and stood against a backdrop of a Steve McQueen tapestry, an Elvis photo, and artwork of a big semi. Standing like a Hellfire Baptist Preacher looking for evangelical inspiration, frontman Patterson Hood stepped into the lights and shouted for requests. The packed Star Bar held little room to spare around the stage, yet “Eighteen Wheels of Love” was heard above all other shouting. The band started playing while Patterson explained that the song was from a true-life story about his mom running off with a trucker who “paid her bills.” They continued playing, mixing old songs with new ones. Patterson announced the band was working on a Redneck Rock Opera, and played “Let There be Rock” to test out the new material. They followed up with “Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)” from their latest release, Pizza Deliverance , which go the crowd fired up and singing along.

As the title of their new CD suggests, the songs of Drive By Truckers are a mix of profane and holy. Much like the South itself, as it struggles with its identity of Bible Belt, the Confederacy legacy, and the technological world, Patterson’s songs are about the struggle of the individual battling God, his redneck sensibilities, and his desire to become human. His songs are autobiographical. “Buttholesville” is about his life (or lack of it) in Florence, Alabama. “Steve McQueen,” his boyhood idol, is also a crowd favorite. Even the songs sung by guitarist Mike Cooley tell stories about people living in the South. The songs tell us something about our region and ourselves.

Among the original tunes, some covers were thrown in. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Give Me Three Steps” led to some two-stepping in the audience. Then the band’s announcement that March 23rd was the debut performance of the Redneck Rock Opera led to more whooping and hollering. If the Star Bar allowed guns in the club, I’m sure a few pistols would have been fired off in celebration. Rounds of PBR flowed through the audience as the band kept playing.

Special guests were brought to the stage. Adam from Southern Bitch returned to play bass as the bass player picked up a third guitar. Then John Sharpe from the Quadrajets took the bass, and I saw Jim Stacy take the mic for a song. After two hours of performing, a regular hootenanny broke out, and the intensity never let up for a moment.

This turned out to be the best concert I have seen by the Drive By Truckers. And it wasn’t just three hours of blasting out music. They are busting through the BS of this industry to ring out a sound true to rock and true to the South,

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