So more than three years ago, two days before 2008 happened, after the worst six months of my life, I went to see Jason Isbell at the Lincoln Theatre; there’s another story there, too, and it ends with me punching someone in the face, but it’s not the important story here (perhaps someday it will be; not today). This story is: on December 30, 2007, I was miserable. I was lonely and depressed and supremely fucked up, and I was only just figuring out how to start fixing all that. Isbell’s set was great, it really was, probably still the best set I’ve seen him play, but I ended up crying on the sidewalk in front of the Lincoln for a large chunk of it. (That was the middle of a year long period where I cried at shows a lot. More than usual.) And I ended up talking to Marianne Taylor about Jason Ringenberg, for some reason, I don’t even remember why now — about how I’d never seen Jason & the Scorchers before they split, even though they were, like the Mekons, so formative to that cowpunk sound that I love so much.
Except they hadn’t split, not really; just a really, really long hiatus, and in 2010 they released Halcyon Times, which was a fantastic cowpunk album, exactly what I expected of them, and in 2011, Marianne booked them at the Berkeley, because they were touring, and I finally got to see them.
So it’s appropriate that my strongest memory of Jason Ringenberg was superseded last night by having my face absolutely rocked off in a blistering two hour set. He’s one of the most consummate showmen I’ve ever seen front a band, and he knew exactly how to work the crowd. He’s funny, he’s sharp as a tack, and, man, can he ever write a song. He’s backed by an incredibly tight band, so it doesn’t matter that he spent half the set without a guitar, swinging the mic and himself around the stage while the fringe on his shirt spun out. Jason’s getting older, but he can still sing, he can still dance, and he can still hold a room in the palm of his hand — and the rest is up to his band, and they’re worthy of the task. I listened to Halcyon Times on the way to the show, and while it’s still a great album, what caught me was the drumming, which is just out of this world crazy good; and Jason’s drummer, a long-haired metal-looking dude from Sweden, of all places, really is that good. Better live, in fact, because he has to keep up with Jason and still keep time, and he managed it like clockwork.
It was a face-melting, brain-bending, excellent rock and roll set. It was worth crying on the sidewalk and waiting three years for.
A few more shots, of Jason, and of Terry Anderson & the Olympic Ass-Kickin’ Team, who opened, behind the jump.