Written by Samuel Barker
May 06, 2007 at 10:00 PM
ImageOn a calm September night way back in 1998, I made my way out with some friends to see Son Volt. At the time, I was a college sophomore who really into punk rock and hardcore. I had seen the band a year before in Baton Rouge after falling in love with their song Ten Second News from their debut, Trace.

I stood at the front of the stage at the Satellite Lounge, leaning on guitarist/vocalist Jay Farrar’s amp he was using as a monitor. I watched like a child in school as Farrar and company tore through much of what would be their third and final release for the original lineup, Wide Swing Tremelo. The show was an acoustic affair until the encore, when Farrar strapped on the electric and left the audience in with a treat of old classic dripping with feedback and fuzz. The ending moments of Last Time Around marked the last time Son Volt, or even Farrar, would play a note in Houston, TX…

Well, it’s been 8 and a half year and Son Volt is back on stage here in the Bayou City. Farrar is back with a new supporting cast, but the songs are all still in tact. In fact, many of them took on a new life on this night. While his solo career saw him veer off in the experimental realm and even the new album, The Search, saw Farrar move into more complex arrangements that felt somehow disconnected from the path of Son Volt, on this night, it was all about the rock.

The moments that left you scratching your head after hearing The Search suddenly came crashing down and made sense. The cuteness was gone, the frivilous instrumentation was nowhere to be found. All that was left was the rock and roll/folk core of the songs and you suddenly felt dumb for not believing Farrar was navigating the ship correctly.

Some may say “How dare you act like you have some stake or say in the way Farrar does his music?!”

Well, I’m willing to say I’ve spent as much of my life listening, learning and enjoying Farrar’s music as he has creating. It’s become a soundtrack to my life, many of the best moments I’ve enjoyed as a human being. I have a stake in the music and I can say I think it fits the scenery just fine. It’s still something to believe in. A faith stronger than religion.

There is a happiness a night like this can bring that can not be rivaled. When something that has taken a meaningful part in your life comes before you and reaffirms that faith, even after a lengthy exit from your life. Sure, I’m travelled to see Farrar in his other ventures, but in your own backyard, in a club you’ve spent many a night hearing music in, it doesn’t get better.

I can honestly say, the entertainment, visible happiness and energy from this lineup was amazing. The original Son Volt lineup was like going to see someone perform surgery. The songs were perfect, but there was rarely a smile cracked on stage, except for drummer Mike Heidorn and the music was all your really took away. On this night, the band made eye contact with each other, moved with the music and visibly had as much fun as the audience.

Farrar wasn’t afraid to change things up in the song structure either. New versions of his solo track, Voodoo Candle and Uncle Tupelo classic Life Worth Living showed a willingness of Farrar to revisit and reinvent classics.

The set touched on the entirety of Farrar’s career. Songs from Uncle Tupelo, including the set closing, feedback-laden frenzy of Chickamauga, from all 5 Son Volt albums and from his solo albums. Farrar left nothing untouched and left no one with anything to reasonably complain about.

Houston was ready for their Son Volt fix as tickets sold out well before the show, so let’s hope Farrar and the boys put us on their touring itinerary for future tours. I’d love to experience this again before 2015. Don’t forget about us down here, Jay. We still love you.