The Granada Theater in Dallas celebrated its one year anniversary Friday, August 19, with a near capacity show featuring The Gourds, The Bottlerockets, and The Drams. The Granada’s been around a whole lot longer than one year; but a year ago it was launched as a strictly live music venue.
They did a great job of refurbishing the place, leaving the murals and ornate, carved wood molding intact, and installing a state-of-the-art sound system. The Granada now boasts the best sound system of any venue in Dallas. And if you don’t mind parking two blocks away on the street or shelling out 10 bucks for the close-in lot, which was free a year ago, then you really can’t beat it.
Yeah, they make you pay. An act that would cost 10 bucks anywhere else is gonna run you 15 or 20 here. And if you want to have a waitress bring you a beer instead of waiting in line at the bar or the conveniently placed, iced beer troughs, then you’ll pay an extra dollar per beverage. I doubt that’s club policy, but it’s how our enterprising waitress did it at Friday night’s show.
Still, all of that seems like pretty petty grievances considering what you got for your money last Friday when they showcased three great bands in a five hour plus show.
The Drams opened shortly after 8 pm. It was their second-ever Dallas show; and on that big stage with that big sound system, it hinted at big things to come for Brent Best and company. The Drams sounded crisp, tight, and powerful. They’re still not playing any Slobberbone songs, but if you’ve heard any of the live show tapes circulating or caught one of their rare appearances, then you could hear a marked improvement with these guys. And they were already pretty damn good at that first show. They also drew an impressive crowd for a set that early on a Friday night.
To be honest, I didn’t even realize the Bottlerockets were still together. Turns out they’d been on a hiatus for a while. They haven’t released anything since 2003’s “Blue Sky.” They came out with all their blonde wood guitars and played a set of old favorites like “Welfare Music,” “Ray Gun,” and “Thousand Dollar Car” mixed with a bunch of new songs from an as-yet-to-be-recorded new record. They closed a rocking set with an encore of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “They Call Me the Breeze,” the second time this summer I’ve seen a touring act play that one. Is this the start of a trend?
It really wasn’t the ideal placement for the Rockets. The real excitement that night seemed to be around the Drams and the Gourds. During the middle act, there seemed to be a lot more people hanging outside in the little roped-off smoking section under the marquis. Too bad, because they rocked in that Bottlerockets way of rocking.
But the place was fully packed when The Gourds hit the stage. They started off slowly with “Web Before You Walk Into It” but kicked things up right after that with a faster version of “Illegal Oyster“ That song benefits from the more leisurely pace of the studio recording; you couldn’t really hear the banjo, but Claude Bernard’s accordion, Jimmy Smith’s animated performance, and Max Johnston’s backing vocals kept it interesting.
Jimmy, Max, and Kev Russell all looked to be sporting recent buzzcuts, making them look like the shortest-haired band in all of alt country. It was most noticeable on Max and Jimmy- who’s pretty much all face now. All the better for mugging, I guess.
Since this was a Dallas show, Max’s father, Dollar Bill Johnston joined them for a great rendition of “Smoke Bend” from 2002’s “Cow Fish Fowl or Pig.”
They played a bunch of new songs from an as-yet-unreleased record mixed in with old favorites like an extended bluegrassy throwdown on “Pine Island Bayou” and big crowd pleasers like “Do 4 You” (with the riff from REM’s Seven Chinese Brothers” worked in) and “Lower 48”. They also delivered on an early-in-the-show promise. Well, actually Kev wouldn’t promise when someone yelled it out, he didn’t want to commit, or something, but hinted that they would play “Gin and Juice,” it being a special occasion and all. They closed the night with it.
The Gourds have been called Austin’s best band for the last six years. I can’t really think of a better band in all of Texas. At the very least, they’re the most fun and inventive.