That was the only thing going through my mind when I walked into A Bar Named Sue.---
There were a few people there for the CWMA showcase, sure, but an overwhelming majority were just there. It felt like a lot of middle aged people had gotten dressed to the nines and said, "I want to go to where all the cool, young people hang out." And every last one of those people ended up at A Bar Named Sue.
Luckily, there were people there to actually see a show so the balance became a little more even as the night wore on.
And it was an excellent show to kick off the CWMA showcase with (not counting the all-ages event at Velour earlier in the evening).
Cub Country has always been one of my favorite local bands, but then again, I've been a fan of pretty much anything Jeremy Chatelain has ever been a part of. Insight, Iceburn, Lumberjack and Handsome were all fantastic and Cub Country is no different. well, maybe a little different. I hate describing them as Alt-Country, because that term has worn out its welcome and become an umbrella genre for any band that turned to Johnny Cash after they got tired of listening to the Melvins. But unfortunately, since Alt-Country is still a hugely popular type of music it's likely to remain intact. And since that's the case, any band striving to make it in said genre should aim to be as good as Cub Country.
The song structures are simple, but bursting with character. Chatelain leads the way, usually on acoustic guitar and vocals, but he and the rest of the band are so tight and comfortable with the each other that when there's room to let loose, they take advantage. Lead guitarist Wim Becker has such a fluid style of playing and knows exactly when to take it up a notch and steal the spotlight and when to fade into the background to let the vocals take center stage. One of the most impressive things the band does is that they have the ability and musicianship to make even a slow, country-tinged song sound truly epic. It's inspiring to watch.
They played a nice mix of older songs and tracks from the recently released Stretch That Skull Cover And Smile album from last year. The band kept the mood light and did what any good band does, and quit while they were ahead. The trick is to always leave them wanting more.
Good thing there was still another band ready to go.
Bronco was a new name and a band I hadn't heard before. I assumed they would be along the same lines as Cub Country and they were. They play a little bit more laid back style of alt-country (seriously, if anyone wants to take a stab at renaming this genre, I'm all ears) and I was impressed by how well they do it. A few members of the band seemed a bit intimidated that they had to play after Cub Country, but the later time slot suited them well. A lot more people had shown up by the time they took the stage and a lot more people seemed interested in hearing them. The fan participation up front was much better during their set.
Bronco uses a vocalist with an acoustic guitar, a lead guitarist, bassist and drummer, only they one up things by adding a piano to the mix. And the fact that the bass player is a girl with a damn good singing voice gives them another little boost, too. Their set started off with just the right amount of energy to make people sit up and take notice and knew how to control the room once they got hold of it. The piano and backing vocals added just the right touch to set them apart from the first band and once they were in their element, they never let it go.