Review and Picture Book: Butch Walker at Smith’s Olde Bar on September 7th and The High Watt in Nashville on September 10th
Deadheads. Phans. Fanilows. Beliebers.
There is a long and storied tradition of diehard music fans and the bands fortunate enough to have them. Butch Walker fans are sometimes called Walker Stalkers. While it may come with a not-so flattering name, Butch regularly rewards his fans’ loyalty. In this case the reward came in the form of secret shows, at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta and The High Watt in Nashville this past weekend.
The shows were announced exclusively through his Facebook page and were not publicized through the typical channels, to ensure as many of these loyal fans as possible gained access to the special stripped down shows in venues substantially smaller than the rooms he normally plays. These “fan only” shows sold out fast, just a matter of hours for the Atlanta show, and had people traveling from California, Michigan, Indiana, and New York.
How do I know? I played host to four of these fans in Atlanta and then we road tripped to Nashville. Yes, with approximately 100 shows (I’ve lost count) in eight states, I’m one of the few, the proud, the diehards.. er, Walker Stalkers. Oh, and we had a friend from Australia coming in for the Nashville show. No really.
Friday night’s Atlanta show, despite being scheduled at just an hour thanks to Please PleaseRock Me’s set later that night, packed in about 10 songs, though no new songs, as teased in the original Facebook post. The set list did included standards like “Going Back and Going Home,” “ATL,” and “Race Cars and Goth Rock”. He also threw in covers like Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls,” a quick clip of Bryan Adam’s “Cuts Like a Knife,” before beginning the BA namedropping “Summer of 89,” and “Come On Eileen” in the middle of “Synthesizers,” both from his latest record, last year’s The Spade.
These hometown shows always feel a bit like being in a secret club, but it was especially true for this show. Seemingly everyone in the room knew every word, sang and danced along, and showed no concern for looking cool. And why should we? Almost the entire room could be dubbed “the regulars”. From my front and center locale I could spot no less than 14 people that I consider good friends, many of whom I’ve road tripped with, plus his parents and former band mates Jayce Fincher, Mitch “Slug” McLee, and Chrystina Lloree. Butch also regaled us with stories of the old days when he hung out at Smith’s, worked the door, and played there regularly with old bands, such as Marvelous 3.
Speaking of his old bands, the surprise of the night came during planned set closer “Suckerpunch” when bass player Jake Sinclair, the only member of Butch’s backing band The Black Widows to join him on these shows, called Jayce and Slug on stage for an impromptu Marvelous 3 reunion on “Freak of the Week”. Remember those rewards I mentioned? Rather than sing the song himself Butch asked for volunteers and called up Rosie, who happens to be my best friend and the fan that flew in from California, to take the lead. The crowd roared – easily the loudest point of the night – over the reunion and the inclusion of a fan. Marvelous 3 reunions are something that are always hoped for at hometown shows, but rarely delivered. At the post show recap the a group of us agreed that this was like asking Santa for a pony then waking up Christmas morning to a unicorn.
The reunion put him over time and he was forced to make a brief and less than ceremonial farewell before leaving the stage to be prepped for the next show and 250 sweaty exhausted fans to be moved down stairs to recap the evening over drinks or in clouds of smoke out front on the curb. And it was only 9:30.
Where Atlanta felt like a secret club, Nashville on Monday had a decidedly different feel. With the inclusion of opener Nikki Lane this felt more like a “real” show. This set was also a bit longer, adding songs like “She Like’s Hair Bands” to the mix. The big surprise this time around was the addition of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels and Rope, who appeared on Butch’s last couple of records and last year’s tour. This was one of my favorite parts of the show, and not just because I adore Shovels and Rope, who did their songs “Birmingham” and “The Winner” in addition to backing Butch. Every time that I’ve seen Butch at a Shovels and Rope show, both on stage and off, he always turns into a total fanboy. He is positively giddy, even more so than when he’s doing his own material. When you are a silly fangirl like me it’s quite comforting to see the object of your adoration just as giddy as you.
That said, it was not the trend of the night, though Nashville crowds typically rival Atlanta in enthusiasm. Save for a few of us, I couldn’t help but feel like much of the crowd was too cool to do anything but look aloof, reminiscent of crowds in New York and Los Angeles, despite having eagerly lined up early for the show. I suppose this was appropriate as this show had a few celebrity sightings, like past collaborator Pat Monahan from Train and Martina McBride.
Even still, it was an awesome show with surprises and great friends that was well worth the effort of a road trip and camping out in line. And yes, I will be anxiously awaiting the announcement for the promised full scale tour, because that’s what we Walker Stalkers do.
Full Gallery after the jump…