The Cowboy Angels rolled through Athens last night for a free show at Casa Cantina. Let me say that again: free show. Sadly, for a free show, there ended up being less people there than shows I've been to in town with a $5 charge.
Of course, one must take into consideration the day of the week. It was a Thursday. Some of the college crowd (myself not included) still had class the next day, and Thursdays in general are not known for having a huge amount of patrons in the bars, but regardless, Casa seemed rather empty.
That said, it was not a bad evening in the slightest. After paying the $2 underage charge to get in (which I was totally expecting, since "free show" in Athens only ever seems to mean "free show for those 21 and up"), I took a spot next to the bookcase and waited patiently for the show to start. Speaking of that bookcase, they've got a nice selection there! I mean, shoot, if I could have actually seen the words through the dark, I might've finally started reading The Da Vinci Code!
Kicking off the evening at around 10:30 was a band known as the 65's, who I hadn't heard of and still don't know much about. Definitely some former members of the Sad Bastards in it, though. A very good band through-and-through, if anyone ever gets the chance to see them. Country-tinged, but what seemed to be a folk-indie influence as well. They're all very talented and seem to be veteran musicians.
My mind began to wander toward the end of the band's set and while the Cowboy Angels set up. This is what happens when I'm ungodly tired. I began to update my Twitter for no reason whatsoever, even going as far as quoting Kindergarten Cop. I cursed my underage-ness since I'm thirsty and I'm in a bar. I began to wonder if eating all those burritos beforehand was a good idea (spoiler: it wasn't). I began to debate whether or not the Punk Goes (insert genre here) compilations deserve to exist. And finally, I decided to open a hipster loft in Portland and form a bluegrass band featuring a drum set worthy of Neil Peart, just to be really ironic. All true facts.
The Cowboy Angels finally took the stage and my mind snapped back into focus. I had interviewed the guitarist earlier in the week, and he told me that the band was country rock, the Stones with some Drive-By Truckers in there. And you know what? He was pretty much spot on.
The Angels are pretty much the quintessential bar band... not that they can't and won't expand beyond that. The songs are generally mid-tempo, there're no crazed guitar solos going on, and singer Dan England is actually a good vocalist. I had thought of a comparison to him at the show, but sleep has caused me to forget it. Let's put it this way, though: he could certainly front more than just a country-rock band.
I must express my disappointment at the lack of people at the show, once again. This is mostly out of respect to the band... I know people are going to have other things to do, especially on Thursdays, but I feel bad for them in that they're a touring act just trying to get their music out there and make a little bit of cash. One show like this isn't going to be a problem necessarily, but if a whole tour gets like this... well, I can't help but think that funds might be a little sparse by the end. Then again, you know what they say: Rome was not built in a day. Every band goes through shows like this. When my bluegrass band finally hits the road, we'll no doubt encounter the same problems.
When the set was complete, I made my way to the back of the place to pick up a copy of the band's CD, The Burden of Love and Sin. There I met both the vocalist Dan, and Gavin, the band's tour manager. Really nice guys. I really do hope nothing but the best for them. I expressed my hope that there would be a few more people out the next time they came around Athens, if by chance they do head out here again. Maybe on a Friday or Saturday night in much warmer weather.
-Kevin Rutherford, Senior Critic