We all have our favorites – those bands that are just special to us for one reason or another. It’s probably no secret to regular readers that we here at SlackerCountry.com are partial to The Drams and, of course, Slobberbone. And, although jitter has seen them live many times, this past weekend was my first experience when they played a set at Boulder, Colorado’s Trilogy Wine Bar on Friday and a longer head-lining set at Bender’s Tavern in Denver on Monday.
For those who don’t know, The Drams are Brent Best (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Jess Barr (guitar), Keith Killoren (bass), Chad Stockslager (keyboard), and Tony Harper (drums). This band combines three of the original Slobberbone members (Best, Barr, and Harper) with Killoren and Stockslager from the Dallas-area band Budapest One. The music is still written by Best so, yeah, the similarities are there but you get the idea they are trying to take it to the next level. And from what I saw, Killoren and Stockslager have a lot to bring to the table. You can read and hear more about the formation of The Drams here.
I was lucky enough to spend a little time with The Drams and – I know this is a cliché – but they are not only a lot of fun but just genuinely nice guys. Keith let me have all (well, most) of the pictures on his camera at the time and all the guys said it was okay to post them but, you know, like I said, they are genuinely nice guys, super polite, as a matter of fact. Charming, even. And I noticed they just have a hard time saying no. So I’ll leave the incriminating stuff out of this . . . Let’s just say that Chad is a very good sport and can take a lot of teasing.
Any fears I had that the transition from Slobberbone to The Drams was a misguided attempt to be more grown up (I hate that stupid beer commercial) were allayed by observing these boys doing shots and just goofing. You can tell The Drams love being around each other. They told me that even if they weren’t in a band, they’d be sitting in a bar hanging out with each other. I can see why. And it says a lot about the kind of people they are because, the way they tour, they get to know one another, well, intimately.
The Friday night show is a blur to me. The crowd was decent even though the temperatures were sub-zero that night and the snow was blowing all over the road, making it icy and hard to see and overall, pretty dang scary. The Drams delivered a blistering set of Drams and Slobberbone tunes, kicking it off with “Gimme Back My Dog” and followed that with a bunch of the songs from “Jubilee Dive” (I remember “Unhinged” and “Hummalong”) as well as the Slobberbone standard, “I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning” and their energy level was high. Unfortunately, the set, although not short, seemed to fly by and then Will Hoge, the headliner, took the stage. I was not familiar with his work but had sampled some from his website and was pleasantly surprised by his live performance. The highlight of his show for me, however, was the encore, “Ooh La La,” by The Faces, where he was joined on stage by Stockslager and a very hyper Killoren.
The next day, the Drams and Hoge headed up across a snowy Divide to Breckenridge for a night at Sherpa and Yeti’s. I missed that one but was primed for their return to Denver for their Monday night performance at Bender’s Tavern. This time, I took notes (well, sorta – actually I swiped the set list).
The Bender’s show was killer. Not nearly enough people there since it was a Monday night and the Drams took the stage after two other performers but they rocked like the place was packed to the gills. And even though I knew the altitude was not good to The Drams and even though Keith seemed a bit bothered by the sandwich he ate before the show and even though the audience at Bender’s on a Monday night was way sparser than The Drams deserved, none of that seemed to matter from the minute they took the stage. Rock gods. Unbelievable.
Best was incredible, howling and growling his songs into the mike with his long hair all hanging down in his face, looking even better than you figure he’s going to look when you’re listening to him on CD. Barr was more laid back – just cool and mysterious standing there and playing. Killoren was all bass-player charisma, with Chad getting up and down over there on the keyboards and Tony strictly business on the drums, banging away and sweating up a storm. Much of the evening is lost in a haze of drink but I can tell you it was amazing. Or something.
So, let’s see. They played most of the tracks from The Drams’ “Jubilee Dive” -“Unhinged,” “Hummalong,” “Shortsighted,” “Des Moines,” “Make A Book,”- as well as Slobberbone’s very popular “Gimme Back My Dog” and ”Billy Pritchart.” Brent played some sweet harmonica on “I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning.” Chad treated us to a rendition of the Budapest One song “Homemade Biscuits.”
Brent broke out the harmonica again (love that harmonica) for the final song, “Robert Cole,” a coming of age ballad about a boy far too young to come of age. This is the kind of song that reminds you that Best has a lot going on under the surface – he can rock and be rowdy but he can think. And he’s thinking some dark thoughts, a lot of the time. Look for “Robert Cole” on Bloodshot Records’ soon to be released tribute album to author Larry Brown.
I had read – and Brent said it again at Bender’s – that the guys started Slobberbone as a way to get free beer. Yeah, well maybe. It’s a cute story but I think it’s only half true. He has songs and stories fighting to get out. And I can’t say enough about Best’s songwriting. It’s phenomenal. In “Gimme Back My Dog,” he gave me one of my favorite metaphors. If you don’t know what I mean, check out the lyrics. With a few words, some killer chords, changes, and riffs, and a melody you can’t forget, he can paint a picture so vivid, it comes back to you in your dreams. Makes you wonder how he’d be at writing fiction. Let’s hope he never really gets tired of writing songs about screwing up.
Sometimes it takes me a while to warm up to something new. I was major bummed when Slobberbone broke up before I ever got to see them. But now I’ve seen The Drams live and watched them in action, I’m hearing stuff I didn’t hear before. So those of you that are still bitching about the demise of Slobberbone, listen up. Go see The Drams. They aren’t done yet. And I think the best is yet to come.
P.S. Anyone have a nice banjo they want to give Jess???? I guarantee he’ll make it look good and sound better . . .