In 1997, I ventured to a venue with some new friends, anxious to hear this young band play in support of a phenomenal record that had been gathering some major critical acclaim.
After the show, the band members ventured out to the 100 or so people in the audience and talked with as many people as possible, regaling them with tales of life on the road, musical influences and the pleasures of playing before such passionate people.
I knew then that this band was headed for bigger things. You could feel it in their music the way they talked to you and made you feel like you, too, were part of something special.
And while I don’t venture out to the Lexington bars much (or ever, really) these days, good fortune smiled upon me last week while standing in line to see Shooter Jennings at The Dame. As we prepared to enter the soon-to-be-destroyed club, I saw a sign advertising an April 5 show by Vandaveer. I randomly discovered Vandaveer 2-3 months ago on an XM podcast, and I was almost immediately intrigued by the band’s sound and lyrics.
Further investigation (God bless Google and MySpace) revealed that the band had strong Lexington ties, making my interest grow that much more. I filed the name away, hoping to someday catch them in town.
I had no idea what to expect when I made to the Dame this past weekend. There were two other acts on the bill (The Scourge of the Sea and These United States), and I was familiar with neither. Since the concert poster listed Vandaveer as the headliner, my companion and I assumed it would be safe to roll in to the 9 p.m. show just a shade past 10 (thus giving her ample time to get ready after leaving work).
The show’s headliners were actually Scourge, and for reasons I’m still not fully sure of, Vandaveer was the first to take the stage. We ultimately only caught 10-15 minutes of the group’s act, but we enjoyed every second of the performance. When we arrived, the crowd wouldn’t approach the stage, prompting lead singer Mark Charles to ask people to not be shy and move forward. We weren’t shy, so up we went, where we were quickly greeted by Mark taking note of my Boston Red Sox cap. This later proved important because after the set, vocalist Rose (and when you’re like Rose, really, no last name is needed; she was amazing, so check her page out and dig her songs) approached me to talk Sox baseball.
At that point, we were hooked. Rose told us all about this next act, These United States, and how they were doing something like 33 shows in 33 days, all of which was being recorded for a documentary. The band arrives early in each town to rehearse 4-5 songs with a local band, bringing them on stage to play that night. As lead singer Jesse Elliott later explained to me, this created a level of excitement for TUS, making each show different and allowing them to be fans of the music being created and not just performers.
Look, all I can tell you is that these guys – Vandaveer, These United States and The Scourge of the Sea – are the real deal. They are talented musicians and lyricists, and (this is perhaps just as important to me) they’re honestly nice people. Back in ’97, there was just something about Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that made me root for him, and I see the exact same thing in these bands, every single one of them.
I can’t stop listening to them. I can’t stop talking about them.
I guess it’s just because I believe in them.
I hope you’ll check them out.