Cooley showed us the songs by The Drive-By Truckers' songs, and Patrick Ainsworth got the pictures at both shows.
Saturday night was a good night for fans of Americana, with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock at Chickie Wah Wah and The Drive-By Truckers’ Mike Cooley at Gasa Gasa. Both shows were packed. Photographer Patrick Ainsworth made it to both shows; I saw Cooley.
Patrick found the audience for Gilmore and Hancock quieter and more respectful than the one for Cooley, a difference he attributed to the age difference between the crowds. That might be true, but I also wonder if the Truckers’ simply attract a rowdier crowd, whether as a group or on their own. And in fairness to the audience, it really only got louder late in the set when played some of his most popular songs.
I’m not sure that people who weren’t Truckers fans would have got as much out of the show. The songs worked just fine on their own, but for those who follow the Truckers - almost everybody in the room Saturday night - Cooley’s show was a glimpse behind the scenes. Without the band’s 4/4 stomp, he often sang in a higher register with a slightly skittery phrasing that took a little of the ominous edge off “Cottonseed.” Across the board, the songs shed weight without electricity. “Women Without Whiskey” lost something in translation, but “Gravity’s Gone” might be better without it as some of the phrases sound less literal and more like figures of speech in the more casual setting, getting the song’s scale down to one it’s easier to identify with.
The set drew almost entirely from the Truckers catalogue, leaning a little toward the more recent albums. Cooley did play one new song and a cover of Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors,” which he introduced as “a song about old people fucking.”
Patterson Hood once said that he’d have a good life if he got to play “Zip City” every night for the rest of his life, and the song was more impressive Saturday night as its voice and point of view are so strong that it came across with the same power played solo on an acoustic guitar as it does with three electric guitars to shape its sound. “Keep your drawers on, girl, it ain't worth the fight / By the time you drop them I'll be gone / And you'll be right where they fall the rest of your life” sums up a 17-year-old, small teenager desperate for a way out with devastating precision.