Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets

Concert review- Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets, Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 1/25/13

(The ubiquitous Mr. Phledge gets some religion… alt-country style! — Ed.)

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” Welcome to the Hotel Ponte Vedra..”, as Don Henley might say!

” If you give me some direction/ I would give it a try/ It’s Friday night wherever I am/ And I feel like gettin’ high…” – Brian Henneman, ” Alone In Bad Company”

We can all relate! The little Baptist church on A1A just north of Guana State Park may have saved lots of souls over the years, but its mission was never more righteous than in its present incarnation as a concert venue. Praise the Lord and pass the earplugs! The tony Beaches area ( that’s PON- tuh  VEE-druh to the locals ) has golf and churches out the wazzoo, so the conversion ( take that, evangelicals!) to a concert venue has been widely applauded, and rightfully so. The former sanctuary is now an acoustically balanced listening room with comfy padded seats and a targeted capacity of about 800 lost souls seeking redemption through rock and roll.

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Hold that collection plate– I gotta hit the merch table!

With the Bottle Rockets winding their way south from the Famous Dave’s gig in Minny so ably reviewed by Harry last month to front and back Marshall Crenshaw’s tour, the odds seemed good to avoid any lingering lightning strike that might be waiting for one last heathen to cross that threshold. Does ” don’t Tase me, bro! ” count as a prayer?

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Not alone, but in bad company nonetheless!

The Rockets hit their Opening Act mark, striding onstage unassumingly at 8pm sharp, and promptly tore into their alt-country rock catalog with great vigor and enthusiasm that belied the thin crowd of jaded Ponte Vedrans for whom standing O’s are apparently reserved for the Symphony. Drawing heavily upon the tracks from their monster ” Live in Heilbronn, Germany” CD, Brian Henneman lead the band through ” Get Down River “, ” I Wanna Come Home “, ” Alone In Bad Company “, and their well-known ” Thousand Dollar Car “, which Henneman claimed could be found on the ” Springsteen conversion table on our website ” as the Bottle Rocket equivalent to  ” Born To Run “.  The band’s own twenty-year run was evident in the close guitar interplay between Horton and Henneman and the steady thumping of the rhythm section. Noting that Tom Petty was one of his favorite songwriters, Henneman shared his joy in ” playing a Rickenbacker in the state of Florida ” as a tribute to Gainesville’s gift to rock. The highlight was perhaps the driving ( pun intended) rocker ” Radar Gun “, with Horton blistering the strings to the crowd’s delight.

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” Get down, river, get down! “

The tight, all-too-short set ended with Henneman’s promise to turn like genies into the         ” Marshall Crenshaw Band “, which they magically did after a brief intermission.

Horton, Crenshaw, Henneman

Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets

Marshall and the Rockets have compatible tastes and mutual admiration, and the pairing worked well as Crenshaw played a rousing set of original tunes highlighted by two outstanding covers of Richard Thompson’s ” Valerie ” and Buddy Holly’s ” Crying, Waiting, Hoping “, and his recent vinyl release ” I Don’t See You Laughing Now “. Crenshaw has adapted to the current self-release business model by putting out a new EP on wax every couple months, and touring behind old favorites like  ” Mary Anne” and ” Cynical Girl “. His voice was clear, strong, and charming, and his guitar chops were welcomed into the          ” three guitars or a life of crime ” lineup with Henneman and Horton. But unlike any church service known to mankind, the show ended all too soon, with the lights coming on and people giving the Peggy Lee ” Is That All There Is? ” look to their fellow worshipers .

A final note of props and love to local promoter Tib Miller for bringing great acts to small venues at considerable financial risk. Buy that man a drink the next time you see him, and get your ass out to the rock show!

( Our apologies for the photos. Phledge has apparently found a camera app that renders photos like his world view– dark, unfocused, and without perspective! — Ed. )

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