Todd Baker’s Ticket Stubs (The Dead and The Drive-By Truckers)
Today’s installment of The Loop, consists of a book excerpt. In Ticket Stubs: Vol. 5 / Pt. I — The DBT Years, Todd Baker walks back through his Drive-By Trucker ticket stubs and shares his thoughts and memories of each gig
Feel free to send your show diaries (and your ticket stubs, whatever form they might take) our way…
Concert # 342) Drive-By Truckers (First show) Little Brothers / Columbus, Ohio 3/24/2005
It was an average night in Columbus, Ohio. Bram was going to see yet another band I had never heard of and I planned on getting drunk and playing video games till 2am. So, we’re drinking and unbeknownst to me listening to Drive-By Truckers. Something caught my ear and I uttered the words Bram rarely hears me say, “Who is this?” Bram proceeded to tell me their back-story and put on “Southern Rock Opera”. Being the Alice Cooper and KISS fan that I am, I love concept albums. It was the Randy Rhoads reference in “Let There Be Rock” that did it. I remember the night I heard the news Randy died and it was devastating to me. I could relate to the character in S.R.O who never got to see Lynyrd Skynyrd because Ozzy’s next stop on the tour after Randy’s death was in Philly. I didn’t have a ticket.
I didn’t have a ticket for DBT either. All night Bram was trying to talk me into going. Eventually, I relented. “How much are tickets?” I asked, figuring the usual $5. “What?!? I’m not paying $15 bucks to go to Little Brothers!” was my exact quote. I paid the cover and my life has improved infinitely ever since. Unfortunately, since Columbus has kowtowed to the non-smokers of the city I spent much of the show outside. So, I missed my one and only opportunity to see Slobberbone, now the Drams. It was pretty packed by the time DBT came on and I got a good spot near stage-left. I didn’t know it at the time but that little area would eventually take on a life of its own and become my usual place to watch the ROCK SHOW. The side door opened and I watched the band load in their gear. (Impressive) Damn! If I had been smoking out there I could have met them. I’m such a starfucker.
As usual, I was chatting with the people around me—basically making sure I wasn’t around any non-smokers. There was a tall, skinny, not quite Goth looking girl standing next to me and I asked, “Have you seen this band before?’ “Seven times.” she said. That’s encouraging. I like a band with a dedicated fan base. The guy in front of me was also a smoker so we decided to break the law together. Shit, I paid $15 to see these mutherfuckers. I’m smoking, goddamnit! To be honest, I didn’t give the band my full attention. In hindsight I missed a fantastic show and I wish I could go back in time to see it as the fan I am now. It was a really great set and many songs I would like to see again.
There were three songs they played that night that have become some of my favorites: “Tails Facing Up”, “Shut up and Get on the Plane”, and “Company I Keep.”* I would eventually get to see the first two songs on many occasions, but it took nearly three years before I finally got to hear them play the latter. It was as if I was chasing it like I used to chase “U.S Blues” when I went to Dead shows. DBT closed the night with “Let There Be Rock”, the song that was responsible for my attendance that evening. I’ve seen them play it at nearly every show since, not that I mind. It’s a great song and a good way to end the set. Some people may take this statement as blasphemous, but I can see certain similarities between DBT and the Dead.
A Dead concert was always a group effort based on experimentation and improvisation. Every night Jerry and Bobby alternated songs while occasionally letting Phil, Pig Pen, Brent and even Donna sing a few numbers. Dead Heads always knew it was going to be a Bobby night or a Jerry night based on who opened the previous show. DBT has three prolific songwriters, singers and kick ass guitar players** who can improvise seamlessly for hours. That is one of the many reasons why I love the Dead as well as Drive-By Truckers.
Like the Dead, you will never see the same DBT show twice. It’s different every night. For bands like the Dead and DBT it’s all about feeding off the audience’s energy, and following the muse wherever she goes. Like the Dead, the Trucker’s allow fans to tape the shows and trade them with other fans. Most bands will charge you $30 for a souvenir cd. Both the Dead and DBT write haunting songs about lost love, lost hope and the frailty of life. Both bands use artistic symbols of skulls, skeletons and women in their cover art. Both bands tour extensively and give their fans a longer than average show. The Dead always did two sets. The Truckers just rock until the audience is drained of all energy and the Jack Daniels is gone. Oh yeah, neither the Dead nor DBT use a setlist. That blows my mind.
The next day I couldn’t get “Let There Be Rock” out of my head. I played it so many times I’m sure Bram started to regret turning me on to them. God, I felt so alive! It was like I had seen the light and I wanted to follow it. I immediately checked their tour schedule on the web looking for the next closest place they were playing. I was ready to drive anywhere in a six hour radius to see them again and the sooner the better. I also began reading liner notes and memorizing lyrics, being the obsessive music fan that I am. When I find a band I really like, I dive in head-first and submerge myself in the music. I want to know everything there is to know about them. I listen to songs in a permanent repeat mode on my car stereo. It’s a bit compulsive. I admit it. At least I’m not as bad as I used to be as a kid when I was obsessed with owning all things KISS. However, I will say this, if they made DBT dolls I would probably buy them.
*I finally heard “Company I Keep” (Jan 12, 2008), but that’s another story.
What originally began as an attempt to chronicle a lifetime of concerts, Rev. Todd Baker’s first novel, Ticket Stubs, took a surprising turn in 2005 and became an all-consuming quest to document life on the road with Athens, Georgia rock band, Drive-By Truckers. Seventy-five ROCK SHOWS and five years later, Rev. Todd continues to search for the ultimate DBT experience. He is currently finishing his second book, “Ticket Stubs: Part II— Let There Be Rock” and has begun work on, “Ticket Stubs: Part III—The Life I Live, Is the Life I Choose.”
To see YouTube clips from “What The Hell Was That?” (Rev. Todd’s personal video diary), or purchase “Ticket Stubs: Part I— The DBT Years” go to www.hellwasthat.com and check it out. When you order through the PayPal link, Rev. Todd will personally sign your copy and include your name in the “Thanks” of Part II or III.