Mike Cooley. Larimer Lounge. 02.23.13 / 02.24.13

mike-cooley-of-the-drive-by-truckers (1)

If Mike Cooley seemed a little on edge on Saturday night, it’s probably because he had been awake since 4:30am.  By the time he took the stage at Larimer Lounge, after a full day journey from Seattle, “delirious and drunk were staring each other down and neither could see shit”.  That might also explain why he was drinking a Stella with a water back, instead of taking long pulls off a 3 liter bottle of Jack.  Unlike the numerous Drive-By Truckers concerts I have attended, this was not a rock show, and damn it if people weren’t going to respect that.  Having learned his lesson from the extremely vocal drunk dudes on his live album, The Fool on Every Corner, Cooley made it clear from the get-go that this was going to be a “quiet show”.  He might “appreciate the enthusiasm”, but he didn’t have a band hiding backstage and the crowd needed to respect those who came to hear the songs.  And overall, the crowd obliged.  Sure, there were those who insisted on flash photography, and there were those who just couldn’t help but sing along at certain points in certain songs (I will admit to being guilty of that just a few times), but overall, from where I was standing, Denver proved itself attentive and well behaved.  And although that might sound like a boring way to experience a show, I can assure you it was anything but.

If Mike Cooley seemed a little on edge on Sunday afternoon, it’s probably because his wife had flown home the night before, and cold weather makes him horny.  For a man like that, waking up alone as a blizzard rips through the city can be all kinds of frustrating.  Add a hangover and a 4pm start time and you’d forgive the man for being a little grumpy.  But I’m guessing it’s also easy to lose those feelings of ill will when you show up to the “extremely unusual” afternoon show, only to find the place packed to capacity by fans who fought the ice and snow to hear you play guitar and tell stories — even if a few of those fans were assholes.  I would have expected the audience to be on their best behavior for an afternoon show, but it seemed quite a few people had been enjoying their Sunday Funday a little too much.  One guy in particular, with his sunglasses and his tallboy of PBR, who could not help throwing devil horns and yelling ‘yeeaaahhh!!!’ at the most inappropriate times, made me miss the crowd from the night before.

Cooley

“Next time I’m in Denver, you’ll have to show me some local culture, you know, now that we’ve done the snow thing…”

Those of us who were lucky enough to make it to both sold-out shows were rewarded with three and a half hours of unadulterated Cooley.  The performance of almost every song he’s ever written for Drive-By Truckers, as well as a couple covers and new tracks, is only a fraction of what went down.  Like a dive-bar episode of Storytellers, almost every song came with a back story.  Not only did the man with the guitar reintroduce us to all the characters we knew so well, he also let us get to know him a little bit better.  For a guy who once compared touring alone to a colonoscopy, the confidence he wore this weekend suited him just fine.

…his own personal experience with the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina…watching windows of houses pass by outside the bus…adapting to life off the road…getting high on acid and staring at things that you believe have much more significance than they do…being drunk when he proposed to his wife and being drunk when he conceived each one of his children…his love of Hee Haw…his discovery of what a champagne handjob really is (and asking the crowd to Google it)…this list goes on and on.  All these random bits of information start to paint a clearer picture of an artist who’s always lived in the shadows at the side of the stage.

I joke about him being on edge, but that edginess is another part of what makes him such a captivating figure.  He plays that grumpy old man with a smirk.  Yes, he wanted that dude to stop flashing light in his face, and he made that very clear, but without actually sounding like an asshole.  He took jabs at people recording the show on shitty phones, but he did it with a smile on his face.  He introduced “Pulaski” (a song about a girl who moves to California and dies) as the “happy one”.  He joked with the best and worst of us as if we were all old friends.

I will admit I was one of the drunk ones on Friday night.  Drive-By Truckers and Lucero shows are the one time of the year I change up my diet to include whiskey (vs. beer and/or vodka drinks) and it always hits me hard.  So I was a little nervous that the intimate, acoustic versions of my favorite songs might be a buzzkill, but I just realized I have written this whole review without even really talking about the songs.  Sure, they were great — you really got a sense of what was happening in each one without the distraction of the band, but it wasn’t the songs that kept me standing there for two full performances — it was the man.  Cooley might not feel like he should be center stage, but he is a born entertainer.  Although I would never want to see him stop doing rock shows with the Truckers, these performances really put a person with the music.  And aside from being tired, cold, hungover and horny, I hope Cooley enjoyed getting to know Denver as well as we enjoyed getting to know him.

An Interview with Cooley

02.23.13:
Uncle Frank
Drinking Coke and Eating Ice
Gravity’s Gone
Guitar Man Upstairs
Eyes Like Glue
Pulaski
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Marry Me
3 Dimes Down
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
Cottonseed
Women Without Whiskey
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
Self-Destructive Zones
New Song
Love Like This
Birthday Boy
Panties In Your Purse
Weakest Man
Shut Up And Get On The Plane

Loaded Gun in the Closet
Zip City
Everybody Needs Love

02.24.13:
Ghost to Most
Perfect Timing
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Birthday Boy
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
3 Dimes Down
One Of These Days
Self-Destructive Zones
Marry Me
Cartoon Gold
Sounds Better in the Song
Gravity’s Gone
Women Without Whiskey
Uncle Frank
Cottonseed
Panties In Your Purse
Drinking Coke and Eating Ice
Guitar Man Upstairs
Shut Up And Get On The Plane

Space City
Zip City
Everybody Needs Love

spotify-logo

02.23.13

spotify-logo

02.24.13