Words and pictures by Duane Clawson
I consider myself an out with the old, in with the new kinda guy when it comes to celebrating a new year. And to kick off the New Year, I wrote a review of a fairly new band’s recently released album; as for album reviewing, that was also new. But with all of the things I love that are new, I have not forgotten the things that first turned me on to music. Throughout my love affair with music, there have been certain concerts and moments that I can recall with great detail. One of these moments was the first time I heard Jason and the Scorchers' music. I had moved this memory to the back of my mind but it was brought back to the forefront a couple of days before my review of their live show. I remember I had first heard their music on one of those early 80's radio segments where listeners could vote songs onto a station's playlist. Their music caught my attention with its blend of country and rock, two genres of music I liked but had not heard together. So fast forward some, dare I say 30 years later, I have a chance to cover Jason and the Scorchers. Let me clear my schedule. All cleared!
First off, I want to say thank you to Off Broadway for bringing these quality shows to St. Louis. It is a real treat to see the fast-risers and veterans of the music world at their intimate venue. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Jason and the Scorchers. The band has two remaining founding members in Jason Ringenberg (vocals/guitar/harmonica) and Warner E. Hodges (guitar/vocals). Hodges, in my opinion, is way underrated on the guitar god scale. Al Collins (bass) and Pontus Snibb (drums) round out this current version of the band. Jason and the guys brought an over capacity crowd to Off Broadway; thirty years in the music biz, that’s what you get. Brian Henneman, founding member of the Bottle Rockets, set the tone for the evening. Brian played some Bottle Rockets' faves and heightened this oversized audience’s anticipation level by ending his set with a couple of Bottle Rockets sing-a-longs. While Brian was onstage, Warner E. Hodges watched as a fan, from the bar tapping his boots (complete with spurs) and applauding when the time was right. Off in the corner by the bar, I spotted a man taking in Brian’s set. This man somehow looked out of place with his black jeans, graying sideburns and John Deere t-shirt. The man happened to be Jason Ringenberg. At that moment I thought of how out of place Jason must have felt while forming the Scorchers and melding two forms of music that typically don't go together.
As the band took the stage, Jason now in his red satin, rhinestone-studded jacket, white shirt, black ascot, and a road weary cowboy hat, gave the impression he was surveying the audience to see how this show was gonna go down. Mr. Ringenberg didn’t have to wait very long to find out the answer to his question after the rousing round of applause the band received after launching into “Mona Lee”. The band seemed a little slow to warm up but once they hit their stride, they were unstoppable. Throughout the night, Jason shared many tales of his thirty years on the road and some insight as to how songs were written and those that helped write some of these songs. The band threw a new song into their setlist, “Thanks for the Ride”, which basically thanks the fans for their years of support. Stacie Collins, wife of Al Collins, lit up the Off Broadway stage with her version of the band's “200 Proof Lovin”, as well as one of her own songs, ”Lend the Devil a Hand “ from her latest album, Sometimes Ya Gotta… Stacie had the stage presence of a rabid cat and she may have had on the coolest shoes of the evening, a pair of black leather Chuck Taylors. Taking full advantage of what Stacie started, the band kept things rolling slowing, only briefly, for “Bible and a Gun”. During “Bible and a Gun”, I felt compelled to check Twitter. To my surprise, I saw a tweet from Off Broadway, “Brian Henneman on stage now, JATS next @Offbroawaystl, Todd Snider maybe”. Now that would be the icing on the cake if that happened.
Warner E. Hodges blew the roof off of Off Broadway with his growling guitar and vocals during “Better Than This”. He and the Scorchers injected new life into one of the few covers they performed, the Byrds “Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man”. The band wound down the pre-encore portion of their set with “Broken Whiskey Glass” and “Moonshine Guy”, both of which only left you wanting more of the band. By now, a combination of the suspense of a possible appearance by Todd Snider and the frenzy of covering Jason and the Scorchers was almost more than I could take. Hold on kids we ain’t done yet. Brian Henneman and Warner shared the guitar work of the first encore, ”If Money Talks”. And then all suspicions of a Todd Snider appearance were confirmed. Jason began to explain his collaborations on the PBS series Farmer Jason and in particular, a song he had performed with Snider on the show, “He’s a Moose on the Loose”. With a formal introduction, Snider took the stage after his sold out show at The Sheldon earlier in the evening. Snider, Henneman, and Ringenberg proceeded to play a Scorchers' version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, a version that probably woke John Denver from his eternal rest. By now, Off Broadway was at near collapse as this one-song supergroup left the stage for a second time.
Returning for a second encore, Jason and the boys burnt down what was left of this night of pure rock and roll rowdiness with the song that first got my attention, “White Lies”. When the band left the stage and the house music came up, I had a feeling similar to the one I had in 2006 while at Busch Stadium, witnessing the Cardinals winning the World Series: "Ok, that was fun. What do we do now?” Well, just as I did in 2006. I soaked in the moment, and told myself, “You have just seen something you may never see again”. Thanks to Mike Farley of Michael J. Media Group and Deb Whittington for making it all possible. Photos of the show are below:
Contributed by Duane Clawson
Jason and the Scorchers @ Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 12:49:00 PM Rating: