Photos and Writing by Lee Flythe
Lucero has been one of my favorite bands for more than 20 years. The first time I got to see them perform was way back in 2001, in Austin, TX, as part of a weekend-long BMX bike contest which has taken on mythical and legendary status in the years that followed. There was a new bike video being premiered that weekend (FBM, All Time Low), and Lucero’s cover of the Jawbreaker classic “Kiss the Bottle” was on the soundtrack. Before Lucero took the stage that night, only a few people in the crowd had ever heard them. By the time their set was done, however, the whole place was in an uproar, and everyone went home that night with a new favorite band.
Lucero strikes a delicate balance between a country sound and a punk rock ethos. It hits a certain kinda nerve for lots of folks like myself, who grew-up country, and no matter how punk they were, never shook their rural roots. Their music has an edge to it, especially when performed live, that is unmistakably punk, even though Ben’s drawl belies their Tennessee upbringing.
Their lyrics inhabit a place lots of us used to reside. A certain alcohol soaked existence centered around dingy bars, guitars, good friends, and unstable relationships. A place a lot of us have grown out of by now, but still have fond memories of, and can still relate to…….even if the fans and the band are a little less drunken this time around.
All these years later, not much has changed. They’ve got more tattoos, and more gray hairs, but their sound is still as raucous as ever. Last weekend at the Neighborhood Theatre, they played one of the most “lucero-esque” show’s I’ve seen in years. The kinda show where extra whiskey found its way to the stage, and the set-list was jettisoned midway through the set in lieu of song suggestions yelled by the crowd. There’s a new album about to come out, and the band definitely worked-in a good number of new tunes, but they made sure to play a LOT of the old classics so everyone could sing along. The set ended with a couple of crowd favorites, and then a two-song encore. It was the best Lucero show I’ve seen in NC in at least a decade, and took me back to those earliest days, more than 20 years ago.
Justin Wells, the opening act, set the stage by playing a solo acoustic set to get the night started. Justin is a man of large stature (seriously, you should stand beside him), and his presence managed to fill the entire room. He belted out song after song, even throwing in an unexpectedly powerful acapella tune. He put on an exceptional performance, and his music was superb. I was not familiar with him beforehand, but I’ve checked out his albums several times since the show, and I’ll be on the lookout for the next time he comes back to town, cause I’d definitely like to catch another set.