Reviewed by Brian T. Atkinson
ans at concerts speak volumes about the music that they adore. Consider a Tom Jones show. When the enthusiastic toss slinky women’s undergarments at Jones’ feet – and they inevitably will – even the novices understand that they’re in for an evening of sexy and sultry music.
Of course, at a Gourds show, the atmosphere tends to be more silly than seductive. Case in point: midway through this set, a rowdy concertgoer tossed a pair of sweatpants at bassist Jimmy Smith. They were geriatric, oversized and powder blue. “Think these are panties?” Smith said, laughing. “Hey, I got my panties here to help me through the tough times.”
Then he tied the gag gift to his microphone stand, where they stayed the entire night.
While many fans of crooners like Jones lust after their idols, The Gourds’ supporters laugh with them. There’s good reason. The Austin-based hooligans, who swap fiddles, basses and mandolins with each other as frequently as Steve Earle rants political, are an uproarious bunch. They proved that again early on with older songs like “Lower 48” (a “special geography lesson” by chief songwriter Kevin Russell, in which the narrator “married two more when I went to Utah”) and “Ants on a Mellon.”
The band members’ off-the-hook behavior matches the giddiness of their self-styled blend of rock and bluegrass, too. In fact, Smith jammed so furiously on “Caldonia,” a favorite from the band’s first album, that he seemed to float across the stage. That is, until he tripped over a precariously placed accordion and bit the dust in a spectacular wipe out fit for a black-diamond ski run.
That’s par for the course. There’s little doubt that the quartet’s most recent album, “Heavy Ornamentals,” is their finest. The NPR favorite is more mature and thoughtful (for example, “Our Patriarch”) than past efforts, and the band – who split songwriting duties – have reached new levels of artistry. That said, “Ornamentals” provides its fair share of goofiness (see “Hooky Junk”), and that’s the material they favor live.
Fans eat it up. “Declinometer,” “Mr. Betty” and “My New Roommate” – all from “Ornamentals” – seemed to satisfy even the most fervent followers. Offerings like “Ants on a Mellon” from previous efforts only upped the energy. “Burn the Honeysuckle,” a masterfully crafted combination of the heady and humorous and possibly Russell's finest composition yet, marked the creative peak of this evening.
But the most popular came at the end. That’s when The Gourds launched into their now-famous cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” this time making it a medley with “Up on Cripple Creek.” Thanks to wide Internet circulation – often wrongly attributed to Phish and the Dave Matthews Band – many outside of Texas know the band best for their take on Snoop’s party anthem. It sure was a hit with the 2,500 present tonight.
Someday the song might even inspire a crowd member to toss underwear onstage. If that’s the case, count on it being a pair of Fruit of the Loom briefs.