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  THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS w/ Hick'ry Hawkins and Amy Pike and The Last Cold Beer  
  The Earl  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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This is the second of my Drive-By Truckers reviews. If hard rock/country music doesn't appeal to you, leave now. This review has nothing for you - it's not an insult or criticism, it's just that The Drive-By Truckers appeal to a certain type of person and (barring extreme alcohol intoxication) they don't try to have much crossover appeal.

If you are just tuning in to this series, it might make sense to read part 1 first.

One week to the day after seeing them last and being somewhat disappointed, I went over to The Earl on a Friday night to see The Drive-By Truckers. Sometimes when you walk up to a venue, you just know things are going to be weird. Sometimes you just know that ought to turn around, go home, and lock the doors behind you because it'll be so over the top. This was one of those nights.

You see, when I arrived with Zythos and The Evil Lawyer, we found The Earl decorated from top to bottom with souvenirs and ribbons from Pabst Blue Ribbon, favorite beer of a many a hard-drinkin' music geek. Then, as we paid our admission, the doorman handed us an ice cold can of PBR, pretty much ensuring my own relative state of non-sobriety. Yup, it was definitely going to be one of those nights.

Shortly after we walked in, the first act, Amy Pike and The Last Cold Beer, began to play. I had seen Amy Pike on her own long ago, opening for someone. I don't remember much about her set, but obviously it didn't strike me too hard, as I never went out of my way to see her again. But on this night, I found the combination of her deep rootsy voice and classic country-blues sound really enjoyable. At times she reminded me greatly of Patsy Cline; more realistically, it all was reminiscent of the recordings of the new alt-country chanteuses, like Neko Case or Kelly Hogan. I liked her, and she provided a pleasant background to survey the décor and the influx of people.

I had been aware of the members of the second band ever since we had entered the bar. I thought they were a little out of place - looking more like they belonged at some northside country bar than at the dive-y Earl. I became a little more scared as they took the stage: the singer bore an unhealthy resemblance to Billy Bob Thornton, and someone was pulling out a glittering metallic green bass. From the first few songs, this band lived up to my fears. You see, they were singing songs that could only be termed "farcical." With titles like The NRA Took My Cousin Away, they were all over the over-the-top spectrum. PostLibyan and I have a question we occasionally ask ourselves as we watch yet another opening band: how many beers do I need to enjoy this? I'm used to the one and two beer bands; I can think of the occasional three (and maybe even a four) beer opener. But this, at last, was the pinnacle of an opening band - a full 6 beer band. Wow, it certainly was something.

After that, there was really only one question in my mind: could The Drive-By Truckers live up? Normally, I wouldn't have any doubts, but the previous week's show was still fresh in my mind. I was hopeful, but not exactly expectant.

I shouldn't have worried; from the first notes, I could see that The Truckers were in rare form. The were on a drunken edge, but they weren't falling over (like they had been the previous week). They were fast and hard, but not completely out of control. They were balanced. Even the songs themselves were balance. The setlist seemed to balance the older crowd favorites with newer material (like Boys from Alabama or the standard Let There Be Rock) from the upcoming album. Unlike the previous week, there weren't many of the rawer, newer songs that have been written in the last few months. And guitarist/vocalist Patterson Hood kept a more central role this week, but he didn't go overboard on the between song stories, like he is occasionally wont to do.

It was fun, and it was obvious the drunken, loud crowd was having a blast as they shouted along with the songs and danced along with the music. As far as I could tell, no-one was sitting back and watching the Truckers critically; rather everyone was involved with the music, willing to follow the band wherever they would lead musically. And this week, instead of ending with a loud punk cover, they finished up with one of their own songs: Steve McQueen,a song which epitomizes the best of The Drive-By Truckers' material.

Afterwards, Zythos yelled his rating at me ("7," he would cry, "7"), and I was left to ponder the differing energy and feeling between the two weeks. To the naked eye, there probably wasn't too much that changed: The Drive-By Truckers still played their Neil Young influenced brand of rock music, and they were still singing about the rural South. But during this second performance, it seemed like they weren't just going through the motions. They were enjoying themselves and their music (and their beer), and the performance was better for it.

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