TB, as has been said before, ain’t no music critic. But I do like Robert Earl Keen and it just so happened he was playing a show at The Lyric in Oxford Friday night, so I went to watch it. The first thing I noticed as I came in the doors–ok, the second thing, after locating the bar–was that the crowd was decent but not large and that the college crowd was small relative to the old timers like me out for a special occasion. I don’t know if REK doesn’t resonate with the gang under 30 any more or if they are clued in to information I don’t have about the quality of his show lately, but I can say he wasn’t up to the standard he set the first time I saw him several years ago in Charleston, S.C.
The show started really slow, really mellow, and though I don’t have any first hand knowledge of the band’s pre-show routine, it appeared to me that Robert Earl was really high. The tunes were introspective and the expression on REK’s face was a perma-grin, like he was onto some joke to which the rest of us weren’t privy. The perma-grin, some might call it a (redacted)-eatin grin stayed the whole show, but fortunately the song list picked up in the second hour and most of the crowd was able to join in the pickin and grinnin and singin, TB included. The second hour of the show the band played classics like “Gringo Honeymoon”, “Feelin Good Again”, and his signature song, “The Road Goes on Forever.” At an hour and a half the guys took their bow. I knew an encore was coming, but I was pretty disgusted the show was going to be so short. REK came back out solo for the encore and played and told stories for about 15 minutes, and then surprised me by bringing the band back out for what amounted to a shorter second set rather than a typical encore, which was nice. He ended up going well over the two hour period I was hoping for and in spite of the slow start and the nagging feeling that he had mailed in this performance, I had a great time and I’m glad I got to see him again.
Saturday morning was a little rough on me, but after a little caffeine and sugar I was ready to brave the crowds and headed for the Square and the Double Decker Festival. There were several acts we were interested in catching a bit of including Charlie Mars and George McConnell and both these guys along with several other bands I wasn’t familiar with all put on nice shows. The weather was perfect–mid 70’s, bright sunshine and a gentle breeze–right in the sweet spot. The food was good, if overpriced. The crowd was manageable. It was really a great day. On top of all that TB received my first interview request since the origination of the blog. Not that the request had anything to do with the blog, or even me at all. I actually think it was my beautiful daughter that got the attention of the local reporter, but as she’s too young to talk he was left to ask me the questions. At any rate, it was my chance to get some publicity. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. In italics is what we said to one another and what will appear in some form in the local rag. In parentheses is what I would’ve said if I hadn’t completely choked.
Reporter–Hi, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
TB–Sure, go ahead. (Sure, go ahead.)
Reporter, after getting names and hometowns–So, are you having a good time at the festival?
TB–Absolutely. It’s a beautiful day for it. (Absolutely. It’s a beautiful day for it.”)
Reporter–What brought you up to Oxford?
TB–Ummm, <to self–thinkthinkthink> we like to be outdoors? Like to look around. Oh yeah, food. (Well, you see, I have this blog, http://www.Travellinbaen.com and I thought this would be an interesting event to write about. I really dig Robert Earl Keen, as do many of the readers of Travellinbaen.com and I wanted to check out his show. Also, I’m looking forward to the George McConnell set to see how he’s evolved since his Widespread Panic days.)
Reporter–That’s really great <blank stare>. How did you find out about it?
TB–Ummmmm <to self–don’t screw it up again, thinkthink> we are alumni? My in-laws live here. But they’re out of town this weekend. Well, not both of them. We always come. <to self–Dang> Say, you’ll clean up my quotes a little, right? (Oh, my office, the Ben White Law Firm–that’s B-E-N etc had some meetings up this way and it made sense to mix a little business with pleasure. That, combined with my Travellinbaen blog work helps me stay abreast of all the major events in the area.”)
Reporter–The quotes are fine. <blank stare> What’s your favorite part of the day?
TB–Ummmm <to self–please let this end soon> outdoors? Weather. FOOD! (For me its the chance to see so many old friends and fans of the blog, Travellinbaen.com, and of course to meet with some of the Ben White Law Firm’s important clientele.)
Reporter–That’s great. Have a nice day.
TB–<calling after reporter, who quickly disappeared into the crowd> WAIT! You’re not going to print that are you? I want to start over, I just thought of some stuff! (You’re doing a great job son. Here’s my card. Have a nice day.)
TB–<to RockStar> That didn’t go so well did it?
RockStar–It wasn’t your finest moment.