Old 97’s (CANCELED)
Tickets $20 advance and $25 DOS
Doors 6:00 Show at 7:00ish…
Ages 21UP or with Parent
If for any reason this show needs to be moved in doors…Only the first 400 tickets will be valid for entry…Out door only tickets will be marked before purchase.
In 1996, Old 97’s recorded Too Far to Care. It was their major-label debut—following two independent releases and a year-long bidding war, the Dallas-based quartet had signed with Elektra Records. But rather than venture into some state-of-the-art studio in New York or LA, the band decamped to Village Productions in Tornillo, Texas, a remote facility in the middle of two thousand acres of pecan trees near the Mexican border, with a mixing board acquired from an engineer who had worked on some of Queen’s albums. Now over twenty years later, they have returned to record their eleventh studio album, Graveyard Whistling.
“Too Far To Care is the sound that best defined us,” says Rhett Miller, the lead singer and primary songwriter. “It was a really magical time, and we go back to it a lot in our collective memory.”
And so when it came time for the band—which still consists of the same four members: Miller, guitarist Ken Bethea, bassist Murry Hammond, and drummer Philip Peeples—to record their newest endeavor, producer Vance Powell brought up the idea of returning to Tornillo. “We knew instantly that it was the perfect move,” says Miller. “We weren’t trying to remake Too Far to Care, but to make something where fans would say, ‘This band hasn’t lost a step in twenty-some years.’”
The result is the eleven songs of Graveyard Whistling, from a group that has earned the respect and veneration as one of the pioneers of the alt-country movement, while still retaining the raucous energy, deceptive cleverness, and knockabout spirit that first distinguished them from the pack. The record comes out blazing with the breakneck shuffle of “I Don’t Want to Die in This Town” (based on a possibly apocryphal quote from Frank Sinatra), and maintaining that feverish intensity even when the tempo drops on songs like the more contemplative “All Who Wander.” Echoes of such barroom saints as the Replacements and the Pogues appear on sing-alongs “Bad Luck Charm” and “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls,” but bigger and more mature issues simmer underneath the steamroller swing.
Returning to Tornillo was more than just a novelty, and proved key to the album’s direction. At some point renamed Sonic Ranch, the studio has been expanded and updated, but the band went back into the same recording space. They even stayed in the same bedrooms—Miller opened the drawer of his nightstand and found a note that he had written twenty years earlier.
“The time-travel element can’t be overstated,” says the singer. “It was a beautiful feeling of completing a circle—we’re the same people, but we had grown so much as bandmates and friends. It really made me believe in the power of experience and that you do get better with time. We’re capable of so much more now than we were two decades prior, but it also felt like we just took a coffee break in 1996 and now here we were, sitting back down to make a new record.”
After all this time, Old 97’s also found themselves in the interesting position of following up the most critically acclaimed, highest charting record of their career, 2014’s Most Messed Up. “We didn’t expect that kind of reception for Most Messed Up—in the current climate,” says Miller. “It was very cool, and weird, a great feeling but also a newfound pressure.
Knowing that he wanted to consider as many options as possible, Miller handed over a “huge pile of songs” to the band; they whittled his thirty selections down to fifteen, with producer Powell pulling a few back from the discard pile. “Before, my ego might have been attached to some songs,” says Miller, “but now we’re so far beyond petty squabbling, everybody is so open-minded, I was willing to give up on songs, or be surprised that I was wrong even when it took playing a song 75 times to really find it.”