The Wagoneers: Austin, Texas – live review
The Continental Club, Austin, TX
March 10th, 2013
A long drive was punctuated by a live music experience of a lifetime with Texas legends, the Wagoneers, for LTW’s wandering reviewer Chris Hearn.
I cannot lie to you. At this point in my life I have seen hundreds and hundreds of bands and artists live in venues in a wide range of places. This, however, goes down as being one of the top overall musical experiences of my life. This was a truly magical, amazing night that I will remember forever. This was cooler than cool could possibly be. To witness and experience this was worth driving 6400 kilometers for!
I have long been a fan of the Wagoneers. When I first heard their debut album ‘Stout and High’ I was hooked on this hip take on traditional country mixed with ’50s rock sensibilities and ’70s punk attitude. They only released one other album ‘Good Fortune’ before, for some unknown reason, they decided to call it quits.
Well, now they are back together, and have landed the Sunday night regular slot at the Continental Club that used to be filled by Junior Brown. There could not be a better fit than these guys in the Continental Club. It was as if this venue was built specifically for them.
It’s an old, dark room with red lights and a red velvet background on the stage. It’s a little rough around the edges, with stickers and posters and neon signs. Okay, it’s a LOT rough around the edges, with tons of stickers, posters and a slew of neon! To me, it seems like the CBGB’s of Austin. It has a long history on the South Congress strip, and it felt like I was part of it this night.
The setlist was good and long, with songs being played from both albums, and a whole lot of new stuff from an album that is apparently all ready to go, just awaiting some kind of deal to get it out there. The energy was high. Lead singer, Monte Warden, is a ball of fire with moves that would shame Elvis and more charisma and style than all of Nashville put together these days. He’s an amazing guy to watch, but he also has a ton of talent as a songwriter and solo artist. Apparently, he has written songs for artists like George Strait who is one of the big guns of country music from the great state of Texas.
He’s got the front man swagger down pat, which makes up for the mellower style of the rest of the band. Guitarist Brent Wilson is, indeed, probably one of the best guitarists out there, both in their early days and now. There was just phenomenal work by him all night on lead guitar. He looks classic country in his neatly pressed suit and piled high Porter Wagoner hair.
Bassist Craig Allan Pettigrew is rock steady on the bass, just doing his thing on stage left. His spiked up greaser haircut, puffy tuxedo shirt and shiny black and white leather shoes went perfectly with the Continental Club décor and atmosphere. And, back on the drums, Thomas A Lewis Jr., kept perfect rhythm, in his calm cool way. Hair slicked back, and sporting a 50’s style black vest over a white shirt, the exceptionally tall Lewis was apparently the guy who put the Wagoneers together way back when. He’s also done drums for a ton of other artists, including the aforementioned Junior Brown, and with Rosie Flores, Wanda Jackson and the list goes on. I think he just lives to play drums and put together bands.
Every second of this show was perfect. No faults whatsoever. Mind you, I was wearing rose coloured glasses because I was just completely taken back that I was even there to witness this, let alone blown away by what I was watching. After 20 or so years, I can finally say that I have seen the Wagoneers. And it was worth the wait, and more than worth the drive!
Words and pics by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.