I spent the bulk of this long weekend whacked out on Benadryl due to an unfortunate meeting of some rather hungry spiders and my sweet blood… That said, I'd purchased tickets to the worst-kept-secret-show – the, ahem, "Satellite Riders" at the Tractor—and wasn't about to let some arachnids ruin my fun.
My guy and I arrived at the Tractor for the last few songs of local outfit Downpilot. Truth be told, I don't recall a whole lot of their set as the antihistamine was still wearing off. But as we stood outside the venue, the sweet strains of bluesy, country-rock and an ambling slide guitar pleasantly greeted us. This is definitely a band I will seek out again.
After not much lag time between sets, and with the Tractor still not quite full (despite a posted sign saying the show was "Sold Out – Really"), the Satellite Riders took the stage. I doubt there was a soul inside the small club who had been fooled by this billing, and yet, when Rhett Miller, Murry Hammond, Ken Bethea, and Philip Peeples of the Old 97's walked on stage, the hollers erupted. They launched right in to "Barrier Reef," and from the start the band and the crowd were two-stepping and yee-hawing their way through the night.
"Yes, we are the real Old 97's," admitted Miller a few songs in. He confessed they'd really wanted to play a small show while in town for Bumbershoot but had to keep it on the down-low due to their festival appearance. Miller then proceeded to chat up the crowd about the last time they'd played the Tractor, their second time at the club on the last stretch of a tour with Whiskeytown. (So bummed I missed that show, though if my calculations are correct, I did catch them that same tour—in support of Too Far to Care—at the Croc. Still one of my all-time favorites.) On this night, Miller explained to the crowd how, in prep for the show, he'd tried to put himself in the mindset of composing a setlist for an Old 97's tribute band. "Kind of a Being John Malcovich sort of moment," he quipped. The resulting set didn't disappoint, the band rocking through anthems like "Rollerskate Skinny," heart-warmers like "Question," newbies like "No Baby I," and fan-favorites like "Niteclub," "Victoria " and even "Stoned" off Hitchhike to Rhome.
I never think of the 97's as buttoned-down, but at this show they were especially loose, trading lead vocals, hamming it up for the crowd, and spitting their way through hoedown-inducing stompers. Yet for how loose the band seemed to be personally, their set, and songs, were remarkably tight. Most notably fun was the interplay between the crowd ("We are not above taking requests," implored Hammond—and the crowd yelled back most of the 97's' catalog) and the high-tempo rendition of closer "Timebomb," which derailed a bit at the end but nonetheless felt like the perfect way to close out this party.