Band: Drive-By Truckers
Date: Saturday, May 16 at 6 p.m.
Stage: Hangout Stage
From R.E.M. to The B-52’s, Athens Georgia’s rich and versatile musical legacy boasts numerous innovative Southern bands. The Drive-By Truckers have been one of the most prolific bands to come out of that scene. According to front man/guitarist Patterson Hood, this group began with himself and guitarist Mike Cooley, along with what Hood described as “an open-ended collective” of Athens musicians he admired. Through regular gigs at the infamous 40 Watt Club, Drive-By Truckers slowly established a local, regional and national following.
“The 40 Watt Club is probably the reason I moved to Athens and our band definitely couldn’t have done what we ended up doing without their help and support,” Hood said. “It’s one of the finest venues in the world, and they supported our band when we were pulling less than 50 people to our shows. It’s great to now get to sell it out three nights in a row every year.”
Drive-By Truckers began touring with a new brand of Southern rock that appealed to a mass audience. With each performance, the band began to gather a dedicated cult following that continues to grow. Along the way, Hood and Cooley have helped bring other notable Southern bands, such as Alabama Shakes, into the spotlight, and the Drive-By Truckers will be joining Alabama Shakes on the road this summer.
“They have the No. 1 album in the nation this week, and we’re all beyond proud of them,” Hood said. “What an amazing band and incredible group of people. I think that we are their biggest fans in the world. The new album is beyond fantastic. We’re going to have to bring our A-game.”
In total, Cooley and Hood have spent 30 years maintaining the Truckers’ stellar reputation as one of the hardest working acts in the business, both on and off stage. As years passed, the roster has naturally gone through shake-ups and changes. However, Hood admits that the band’s current configuration is one of the best yet.
“Brad (Morgan/drums) has been with us for nearly 17 years and Jay (Gonzalez/keyboard/pedal steel) for over 7 years,” Hood said. “Even Matt Patton (bassist/formerly of The Dexateens), our new guy, is in his fourth year, so we’ve actually become pretty damned stable, lineup-wise. I’ve been super proud of every version of this band that we’ve had, but this one is by far the tightest and best we’ve ever had. Everyone plays so well together and plays off of each other so well. Plus, there’s a bigger sense of camaraderie and family than we’ve ever had.”
Drive-By Truckers’ Hangout Fest set will include cuts from their latest studio effort “English Oceans,” where Cooley and Hood took a tag-team approach to songwriting duties. The band has also recently released “Black Ice Verite,” a vinyl-only recording of what began as an invitation-only free show at the 40 Watt Club the night before their 2014 “HeAthens Homecoming” shows. After a dangerous ice storm hit, the band decided to open the performance to the public and entertain the crowd with the entirety of “English Oceans,” which is included with “Black Ice Verite” as a digital download. Fans who purchase the album can also enjoy a companion DVD with footage of the performance.
“We filmed it and it turned out really great,” Hood explained. So, we decided to release it. I’m proud of it. It’s not really the infamous ‘Live’ album we keep threatening to make, but stands up as its own thing.”
The band is expecting to release a dedicated live album in the fall, as a 35-song box-set capturing an entire performance at San Francisco’s iconic Fillmore Auditorium. The songs have been completely mixed and mastered, and the band is currently working on cover and box designs.
“It sounds fabulous,” Hood said. “It has stories and songs and captures some of the best performances ever recorded by our band. We’re all immensely proud of it. More details are coming very soon.”
When they take the Hangout Stage at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 16, Drive-By Truckers will be fresh from their acoustic “The Dirt Underneath Tour,” which Hood said was “very hard work but rewarding.” Their set at Hangout will be the first electric show they have performed since their acoustic tour. Hood said that the band is “ready to turn that sh*t up and rock out.” Whether their fans catch them at a smaller venue or on a festival stage, Hood said the crowd should not be disappointed.
“It’s obviously a shorter set than our theater or club shows, but there’s also the element of playing for a big crowd and the general festival vibe,” Hood said. “We’ve done enough of it all by now that we’re pretty good at whatever type of show we play.”