Written by Samuel Barker
Sep 02, 2010 at 10:00 PM
ImageOne of my earliest introductions to alt-country was Drag the River. Being a fan of pop-punk stalwarts, ALL, I was quick to pick up vocalist Chad Price’s side project, Drag the River. At first, my punk rock loving self was turned off, but after I turned it off, songs were stuck in my head for days.

That was their first album, Hobo’s Demos. Since then, I’ve been a fan and, like so many, absolutely fell in love with their album, Live at the Starlight. It captured a live set in front of a thrilled audience and translated their music well. It made the studio albums sound better to me.

Now, we jump ahead nearly 10 years and I’m finally seeing them in person. Sure, it wasn’t a band show, but seeing Jon Snodgrass and Price performing those old favorites together was awesome. And on this night, tourmate Cory Branan got in on the action.

For the past month, they’d been tour with Branan doing an opening slot and Drag the River closing it down. But, due to a late start, they set up for a 3-man throwdown and it worked out wonderfully. One of the highlights was Snodgrass and Branan doing songs from their split together.

When the show started, you got the fun vibe from square one. Snodgrass began by asking for requests, the first wave of which, he turned down due to them “forgetting” the songs. Finally, a voice screamed out “Disbelieve” and the show was off. Price laid it down perfectly with Snodgrass on electric. In fact, the first 3 songs requested were Price-led songs. It led to Snodgrass doing an impromptu song, “Everyone Came to See Chad.”

ImageBranan was someone I was not overly familiar with, but when his first turn came up, he tore through a great solo version of “Wayward and Down.” I’d heard the full band version on his CD and none of the intensity was lost, at all. One thing about Branan is that the intensity of his solo performances rivals that of most bands. “Wreck of the Sultana” sent shivers up your back and the rocking out of “A Girl Named Go” put it all together for Branan’s turns at the mic.

Drag the River did their thing well. Snodgrass tore through songs like “Br00tal” on the electric and fittingly switched over to Branan’s acoustic for “Calloused Heart.” Price’s performances on songs like “Caleb’s Grave,” “Tomorrow Morning” and “Tobacco Fields” were stellar. It felt good to see some guys from the old punk scene bring quality songwriting and folksy goodness with complete honesty.

The set had its funny moments as a few new songs were abandoned after the first chorus due to forgotten lyrics, freestyle ditties about the way the show was going, an audience member acting as a teleprompter for Branan so he could do “All These Little Cowboys” for her and Price leaving the stage to go to the restroom. Everything sounded great and these little moments kept it light and loose.

The three men played for over two and a half hours. They kept the show going and finally ended because the witching hour of 2 a.m. had been reached. Honestly, I don’t believe they would have stopped had it not reached closing time. The best testament to the show was the audience staying until the last note. There may have only been about 50% of Rudyard’s filled upstairs, but those people stayed until the end and that is better than a large audience that ducks out early.