Roots-tinged Athens, Georgia rock outfit Drive By Truckers released American Band last year, an album with a strident political and social consciousness that many in the music world aligned strongly to the heated election year. While the connection was undeniably there, those who have been paying attention to DBT for a minute know that the stories of the marginalized working class, the people left behind in the race for wealth and power, have been a lyrical concern of Patterson Hood and his bandmates across their nearly two-decade career.
Their charged XPNFest set yesterday was a reminder of this; two songs into their set, the band ripped into “Puttin’ People On The Moon,” and though its lyrics outlining economic depression, unaffordable medical care, and shaky jobs at Wal Mart ring true today, the song actually dates back thirteen years to 2004’s The Dirty South.
Matching their lyrical tales, the band are masters of instrumental tone: Hood and Mike Cooley’s rumbling, low-end guitars blended with Matt Patton’s bass to create a forceful, urgent sound emanating from the stage. Brad Morgan’s drums were punchy and commanding, while Jay Gonzalez sometimes amped the sound up with a third guitar, other times coaxed warm notes from a keyboard draped with a Black Lives Matter banner.
“It’s not a matter of left and right, of Republican and Democrat,” Hood said of the sign. “It’s a matter of simple human dignity and simple human decency. Of loving your fellow human being whether they’re a man or a woman, no matter what they look like, no matter who they pray to, or if they pray at all. None of that really matters.”
The band then launched into the beautiful “What It Means” from American Band; as much as the Truckers fill out their songs with heavy content and commentary, Hood didn’t share a ton of banter outside of that run of remarks, preferring instead to let the music do the talking.
Standouts from the DBT back-catalogue included the wonderful “Gravity’s Gone” from A Blessing and A Curse and a powerful performance of the crowd-pleasing “Let There Be Rock” from 2001’s Southern Rock Opera. A lively “Buttholeville” from their 1998 debut Gangstabilly was mashed with Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” from Nebraska — a 1980s analog to American Band — and as the sun set over the Delaware River, the band sent XPoNential Music Festival 2017 out into the evening with a poignant song borrowed from John Lennon: “Gimmie Some Truth.”
Puttin’ People on the Moon
Surrender Under Protest
Made Up English Oceans
What It Means
Let There Be Rock
Gimme Some Truth
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