Southern Rock Opera

SXSW 02 Music Fest Wrap-up

Drive-By Truckers

Antone's, Thursday 14 Last year during SXSW, Athens' Drive-By Truckers played an acoustic set in someone's living room. This year, they cranked it up to full volume electric in front of a packed house at Antone's. Out in support of their recent tour de force, the 2-CD Southern Rock Opera, a three-guitar homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd, theirs was one of the most anticipated headline showcases of SXSW 02. Not that SRO is just mythology and stolen guitar licks. It's also about the rise and fall of arena rock, George Wallace and Bear Bryant, and the duality of what they like to call "the Southern Thing." These are topics songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have obviously spent time thinking about, because their songs capture glimpses of life in the latter part of the 20th century that are easily recognizable, and since this is rawk, unremittingly forceful. At their showcase, the Truckers played most of SRO, and their classic rock hooks and blazing guitars had a roomful of heads banging to tunes like "Ronnie & Neil," which drops the whole "Southern Man" vs. "Sweet Home Alabama" debate into another musical setting, and "Let There Be Rock," which steals its title and energy from AC/DC. To most music critics, the Southern rock thing is d-e-a-d, and good riddance at that, but the Truckers' gig was truly energizing and their songs are so well done that perhaps that notion needs to be rethought. This was no flag waving or bar band boogie, just a lot of shit-eating grins after it was all over.

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