Picks to Click

The SXSW Class of 2002

Picks to Click
Photo By John Anderson

The Weary Boys

Saturday, March 16, Continental Club (9pm)

It could be their creed: "We put surprisingly little thought into it." Those are the words of Weary Boys fiddler Brain Salvi, describing the decision of the band's California contingent -- Salvi and guitarists Darren Hoff and Mario Matteoli -- to relocate to Austin from Humboldt. "I didn't even know where Austin was when I got in the car to drive," confesses Hoff.

The same day the trio of foreigners hit town, they met their bass player, Brian Sluyter, while playing on the street. "Then we met our drummer in a bar," Salvi recalls. "He wanted to sit in with us, and we were really anti- 'sitting in.'" Despite that, they agreed, at which point Cade Callahan left, then came back in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and set up the snare. "We were like, 'You're in,'" laughs Hoff.

So were born the Weary Boys, five men in black taking Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lefty Frizell et al., and spewing it back out with the fire and reflexivity of a bunch of punks. A year after their inception, they've become beloved enough for locals to forgive the fact that 60% of them are Californians. Maybe it's attributable to the Zen of caprice or either of its variants -- simply not giving a shit, or finding humor in what could be otherwise humorless situations.

To wit: The band recently played for inmates of Angola State Penitentiary, subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Farm: Angola, USA. They got the gig after a local filmmaker doing a doc about lifers without parole set it up for them. "He saw us play and said, 'You guys belong in prison,'" cracks Salvi.

The Boys were somewhat surprised not only at how well they were received, but also how familiar many of the inmates were with the music. Explains Salvi: "There was this choir, and they were right up front, and half those guys knew every song. I talked to one of them, and he was like, 'I'm just a country boy.'" The fiddle player starts on about the universal message of music before Matteoli clarifies. "A good portion of the audience also got pulled out of the fields for a day, so they were just happy not be picking potatoes."

Funny, true, and even a little touching. And maybe the Weary Boys, like much of their audience, are just country boys at heart, and that self-effacing sense of humor is just masking some genuine sensitivity. That might be true, but then realize that what the band really wanted to talk about was the relatively new phenomenon of "hot chicks" starting to show up at their gigs, and that they got to spend four straight days getting drunk at Mardi Gras. At that point, the words "surprisingly little thought" are just about perfect.

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