Sunday, April 18, 2010
Today was a holiday known as Record Store Day, a day for us to celebrate our local indie record stores and bask in the nonchalant awesomeness that is the Nashville music scene. For instance, the Racontuers minus Jack and Jack played a short set with a couple of stand-ins at the Third Man Records compound for about 300 lucky fans. Through a set of circumstances that are too random and unbelievable to explain, I ended up in the backstage lounge of Third Man with Brendan Benson and Patrick Keeler, among wives, parents, friends and other Nashville rock stars. I had the classic Wayne's World moment when Brendan asked me about my Detroit T-shirt. I told him I was from "South Detroit" and he went on this long thing a la Alice Cooper about how there really is no South Detroit and it's really Windsor and how he never understood that Journey song. Really? Was this really happening? The highlight of the whole afternoon came during sound check when Keeler sort of went into his own little world with the drum line for "Broken Boy Soldier". It was like my own personal Moby Dick from one of my favorite drummers, in Jack White's office/museum on a Saturday afternoon, alongside my parents. There were more than a few times when I had to shake my head and come back down to Earth.
Then something happened to bring me back to reality. The show started. They opened with an instrumental tease of "The Switch and the Spur", which featured a man playing the saw, and then ran through more hits including "You Don't Understand Me", "Yellow Sun", and "Steady As She Goes". The set ended with a rocking version of "Hands" that flowed into the aforementioned "Broken Boy Soldier", which only lasted one verse and was much more subdued than the sound check explosion. It seemed like Patrick wanted to rock it but Brendan didn't have enough White in him to take it very far, although he did say "I'm trying to do my best Jack impression for y'all. He sings too high". That was sort of the feel of the whole show. The MVP was definitely Keeler. He was spot on with all the changes, even having to shout out words to Benson occasionally and directing the rest of the apparently under-rehearsed band. There were a few times when the tempo would drag and the crowd would get a little sleepy but it was still fun to hear some of my favorite music from the last decade, even if it was the slower, more mellow Jack free tunes.
It was pretty clear to see that while Brendan Benson and Patrick Keeler are seriously under appreciated yet super important members of the Racs, it's just not the same without the show power of Jack White. Brendan is a hell of a songwriter and guitar player, but it's hard to fill the shoes of the biggest rock star in town, in his own house much less. I hope the Racontuers reunite fully and soon. It seemed like they were hitting their stride and becoming a real force just when the Dead Weather started. I'm ready for Jack White to get back to singing and playing guitar and leave the drumming to bad asses like Patrick Keeler.
Even though the musical content was a little sloppy and thrown together, it still was a fun show. The guys were a class act and I would like to thank them for their hospitality and effort to put on a whole show with only half of their band.