Written by Samuel Barker
Apr 16, 2008 at 10:00 PM
ImageIn what is quite a shocking turn of events, Son Volt was back in Houston for the second time within a year. This comes after nearly an 8 year absence from the city. The good news was, people hadn’t had enough, the show sold out well before the night of the show and the Continental Club was packed to the gills.

The person who was breaking a pretty long drought for playing here on this night was Bobby Bare, Jr. For a while there, with Bare, Jr and the transition into his first solo endeavor, Young Criminals Starvation League, Bobby was almost like a local band with the frequency of visits. But after about 5 years, there was a severe Bobby Bare, Jr. drought, but on this night, it was over.

Bobby took the stage alone with his old Gibson acoustic, kicked his shoes off and tossed a tambourine on the floor. He began to strum his guitar and use his foot to keep time with the tambourine. The highlight of the solo intro was Mehan, which saw Bobby use a piece of tape and volume pedal to add a little keyboard to hold the drone note.

After spending two days in New Orleans, Bobby showed some wear and tear. He looked like someone who spent 2 days living life to its fullest in the party capital of the nation. As the story he told went, “We found a bar last night at 1 am that served dollar drinks til the sun came up…” and that was all he needed to say.

After the solo songs, a drummer and bassist joined the fray and the rock part of the set started. One thing you can say about Bobby Bare, Jr is that his sets are dynamic. The acoustic set was quiet and when the electrics were strapped on, it goes loud.

The sound was like a wave hitting as the band tore through thrashing renditions of Snuggling World Championships and The Heart Bionic. Each lit like a fire when Bobby stepped on his Big Muff and let the fuzz rule the landscape. After not seeing the band for a while, it was quite the experience to take in the set. Even 2 days of raging in New Orleans did not bring the sound down.

ImageHeadlining the show was Son Volt, who were back and as great as ever with the addition of Mark Spencer, who many of you recognize from Jay Farrar’s solo jaunts, on keyboard and lapsteel.

Farrar and company kicked off the show with Scars and Bandages and instantly guitarist Chris Masterson brought the overdriven leads with unbelievable precision. Spending a night standing in front of this guy is an amazing experience. To see the way he adds to the layered music Farrar creates is something of pure beauty.

Last time the group came through, Masterson was on his first outing with the band and looked nervous, on this night though, he looked totally at home and made his guitar sing.

The mainstay rhythm section of Dave Bryson and Andrew DuPlantis were rock solid as always. DuPlantis’ backing vocals meld well with Farrar’s voice creating another layer of sound to the overall mix.

Much different than last year’s set here in Houston, Son Volt stuck to a really acoustic heavy set list. Farrar’s Gretsch and Epiphone were rarely seen as the Bonanzinga’s were the mainstay of the night.

This was in no way bad. A jewel from the Wide Swing Tremelo album, Hanging Blue Side, made it into the set as did Uncle Tupelo classic Slate. Farrar also played Big Sur, which he did for a movie soundtrack using lyrics from the classic Jack Kerouac poem at of the book Big Sur.

Sadly, the rest of Wide Swing Tremelo was ignored, as was the entirety of the Straightaways album. While I was disappointed to not hear some songs from my favorite album, it was something I didn’t even notice until the end of the set as the Search and Okemah heavy set flowed wonderfully and made the near 2 hour set fly by.

After a break, Son Volt returned for an encore with Medication, which broke down in a solid jam where Farrar and Masterson both added some leads. That gave way to a Trace 1-2 punch of Drown and Windfall, the latter of which was dedicated to a fan and her ill son, Zane.

The set and the night closed down with a scorching rendition of the Waylon Jennings classic Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? The audience, as well as the entire band, had a blast rocking along with the band and quietly mouthing the words for the quieter songs. It was a great show as always and hopefully we’ll see the band back in town again next year.