Written by Samuel Barker
Mar 31, 2007 at 08:00 PM
ImageIt was 9 years ago that I walked into the dimly lit Satellite Lounge here in Houston, Texas to see my first Bottle Rockets show. As I walked up to the bar, I stood next to a pudgy bearded guy drinking with a straw hat on. I didn’t think much of it as I got my beer and strolled around, talking to friends.

A while later, that guy got up, walked toward the bathroom area, which is where the entrance to the stage was at the Satellite, and appeared onstage to get everything set up. I thought it was cool to have been standing next to the roadie for the band, then a while later, he pulled on an old Gretsch and blew me away. The man was Brian Henneman, frontman/guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for the Bottle Rockets.

It was a few years later I got to interview the band and felt the embarrassment of drinking myself into oblivion throughout the night. The night ended up so bad at home, I could have swore Henneman wrote Baby’s Not My Baby Tonight for me.

Times change and so do people. As I left the beer bottle behind, so did Henneman. With sobriety came some of the best Bottle Rockets shows I’ve ever seen. The wreckless abandon was gone, but a new lineup of solid men flanked Henneman and the music has flourished. In the past 9 years, I’ve seen a good amount of folks come and go from the band, but in the end, it’s been for the better.

As the band took the stage at Stubbs in Austin, thinks were looking good. A much larger audience was in attendance for this appearance than were there when the band visited Stubbs 2 years ago. Henneman took the stage with his Peavey strapped on and began the night with Happy Anniversary. To his left was John Horton, who brings a nice dueling lead feel to the band with Henneman. To his right was Keith Voegele, the newest member of the band and to the rear was the other founding member of the band, Mark Ortmann.

With the release of their new album, Zoysia, the Bottle Rockets touched on a lot of new sounds, but in this context, it all fit. From the original songs like Kerosene and Indianapolis to the new songs like Middle Man and Zoysia, it all tied together. The presentation of new and old on the stage at Stubbs showed the overall brilliance of the band’s catalog.

In 2 hours, the band presented a solid sampling of their finest works followed up by a 3 song encore set of Doug Sahm classics: At The Crossroads, Mendocino and She’s About A Mover.

Opening the show was Austin, Tx locals Mice and Rifles.

This group surprised me to no end. With a solid folk base from vocalist/guitarist Kevin Brinkkoeter and some nice leads and melodies from the rest of the band, the group brought a promising sound that could definitely take them to a good following in the Alt Country realm. the only question is if they’re willing to hold out through the rise and fall of that genre.

Musically, they have it all together. Deep, strong vocals purvey messages from the past as well as the occasional political commentary. The group has the feel of Americana with the edge of the new generation. They get it pretty well. I hope they stick it out for a while. I’d love to say I saw them way back when and they made it as far as they should.