Crawfish Boil II or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mudbug
Days before starting a new adventure in Texas, Off Broadway favorite Amanda stood watch behind a makeshift bar serving up mint julep or most any other alcoholic snow cone we could imagine. Batch after batch of crawfish was dumped onto a newspaper-covered buffet table. Musicians and fans stood in line together, using a Stag tallboy, or an IPA for that matter, to balance heaping plates of the event’s namesake or soggy, delicious bowls of gumbo. The sun went down and someone yelled, “The Hooten Hallers are startin’ now!!!” And thus we abandoned hundreds of crawfish in shallow graves and ambled inside, shoulder to sweaty shoulder.
Hailing from Columbia, MO, The Hooten Hallers are more two-band tornado than two-man band, and proved to be the choice way to begin a rambunctious night of instrument slanging. Midway through their set, Andy Rehm (Or are you John Randall? Which one of you is which? Do you wanna go out sometime?) reached for an opened bottle of hot sauce that had been resting on the edge of the stage. “Did y’all try the sauce?!” Andy chuckled into the mic. “No, I mean, have you all TRIED THE SAUCE?! It’s great.” And with that, he downed the bottle in true kick-ass, South City sonofabitchin’ style (no matter that the boys are from CoMo).
This was my first time experiencing them live, and I suggest that’s how you discover The Hooten Hallers as well. I enjoy seeing big bands in small venues, because the energy of a large group onstage is often infectious. But with their self-described “hillbilly death wagon for rent, iron frame, big-ass loud engine, dual exhaust (shoots flames), custom EVERYTHING” style of country twang rock, the HH amped the crowd up quickly and decisively. They performed live for KDHX in Feb. of ’09 and will be back in St. Louis in September.
Theodore was up next, providing a characteristically impressive set. More polished and nuanced than Hooten Hallers’ overall, the quartet provided us a few moments to catch our collective breath. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Theodore is gaining national attention this year, and for good reason. In May, they recorded a [great] Daytotter session, and Paste Magazine wrote about the guys in April for their Best of What’s Next section, comparing Theodore’s live performances to those of The Avett Brothers. At one point J.J. Hamon and Andy Lashier sat and knelt on the stage, respectively, with toy microphones in hand to begin a song. I was reminded how fortunate we are to have St. Louis represented nationally by a group willing to take a traditional folk-rock sound and turn it on its head.
[Insert part in the evening where this author hesitantly accepts an additional shot of bourbon and a New Belgium almost simultaneously...and quality of memory thereby decreases substantially.]
Fattback was up third, and capitalized on the evening’s theme of rip roarin’ live and local music that you find yourself trying to describe to friends the next day and just can’t. A little bluesy, a little country, and more than a little rock ‘n roll, Fattback doesn’t force you to dance, but there you are nonetheless, swaying and jumping around like an jobless, homeless, responsibility-free, drunken asshat. Taking a request from the crowd, Fattback launched into a fan favorite, “Hey Pretty Lady (Take a Look at My Legs)” with an exuberance unmatched in any of the last few shows I’ve seen them play. Check them out on the 24th at Off Broadway for their Double CD Release Show with Kentucky Knife Fight.
At long last, those crazy Monads appeared to delight a sufficiently liquored and jolly group of revelers. They did what they always do – lined up across the front of the stage, brandished four instruments, and Lit. Shit. Up. Various members of the audience ended up there singing along, or hugging along as it were (check out my album on our Facebook page). John Joern of Fattback grabbed a drum and played with the band for a minute before running into the heart of the crowd and banging it above his head without missing a beat (for the most part).
Someone tell me how to talk about The Monads, seriously. There’s a fiddle and an acoustic guitar and a banjo (or a washboard) and an upright and four personalities. And then there’s a party. Sometimes beach balls are involved; I don’t know.
On second thought, don’t tell me what to call them. Let me stand in the corner and close my eyes and scream “Spit fire!!!” at no one. Let me push my way up front and let the dude in the denim overalls spin me around during “Man in Town.” That’s the Monads experience – and you all should have it as soon and as often as possible.
“It strangely reminds me of my childhood out here,” I remarked to a friend when we walked onto patio earlier in the night. She looked at me, confused. I guess it was the heat coupled with the buzz of half-blazed people having small conversations about anything, everything. It was the smell of sweat and crawfish and spices and a little bit of mud melding in the city’s unrelenting summer air. Most of us who grew up in the Midwest spent at least some portion of our early lives outside – in or around a river, lake, or crick.
And at a certain point, later down the line for some than others, we supposed it was time to grow up. Many of us resigned, begrudgingly, to sit in office chairs more often than lawn chairs. We traded in more late nights for more early mornings. The braver (luckier?) of us ended up behind something, be it a bar or a computer or a sketchpad or a table, creating. And the bravest (luckiest?) of us found a way to stand in front of the rest and play the kind of music that reminds all in attendance to, every now and then, boil it down and just let go.