I went to a concert with shiny new acquaintances a few weekends ago. To give a little bit of setting, this was my first experience at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado after having moved west recently. The venue is majestic to the point of being almost surreally incomprehensible; the type of place that makes you believe that a stargate must’ve swooshed you off to a far off planet of paradise. Well. At least it made me feel that way.
I spent the first 20 minutes of the show gaping in wonder at my surroundings.
The next three hours however were spent marveling in a different kind of speculative wonder.
We went to see Shakey Graves and Devil Makes 3. Not my typical scene, but, hey, live music is live music and the tickets were free so I thought why not? I’m still glad I went, but in the aftermath I find myself laden with introspective questions and rather harsh curiosities.
I don’t listen to much country, at least much new country, but I grew up with drives to school filled with rich stories about adulterous husbands a la Garth Brooks, and Trisha Yearwood’s teenage lovers rebelling against practical parents. I kind of expected more of the same, maybe a little more red-cup party antics. And while I got my stories, I also got a rather heavy feeling of… disappointment? something not good with Devil Makes 3.
Part of it was how they followed Shakey Graves. He’s got Deep South heart so rich and full and contagious that I came down with the blues for his set. Melancholy of the best sort. Creative and humanizing and unifying. My companions relished the up-tempo beats and howling choruses but didn’t know the words and weren’t particularly concerned with his message. Of course, perhaps the twenty to thirty minutes while the main act is preparing to take the stage is not the best time to engage in deep meaningful conversations about nomadic life free from societal expectations.
Even when he mentioned alcohol or drugs it was still casually… uplifting. I say that hesitantly because I’m not sure that’s the point of the music. It seems more like it’s about acceptance, but overall his tone makes you want to try harder or be better or just move forward.
Better off dead than waiting in line
I was clearly impressed by Shakey Graves and will admit to looking up lots of his live music on the good ole Youtubes post-concert. Another favorite: Love, Patiently.
And then Devil Makes 3 came on and I started to notice a lyrical rule: Booze and overt Christian references. Now keep in mind, I wasn’t exactly going in blind here; their big hit is called ‘Old Number 7’ after Jack Daniel’s Whiskey and hell, devil’s in the name. However I wasn’t anticipating such overwhelming bleakness dressed in jovial banjo beats. I get it, it’s supposed to be dark gloomy blues. Shakey Graves is also blues. Groups from Black Sabbath to Band of Skulls have all danced in the occult and ominous without living there for an entire show. Black Sabbath’s ‘I’ is a fucking epically motivating ode to the individual.
Back on track: The Devil Make 3 and the idolization of alcoholism and religious damnation.
2015 – Forty Days: “Forty days and nights of rain and we would start all over again… These fools believe that they can turn the tide No one turns the tide and everybody swims when the waters rise”
2015 – Stranger: “I get high as the morning sky, this song I sing will never die I get low as a gravel road, in a thousand tongues my story’s told I’m throwing heat like a funeral pyre, we can get along like a house on fire This world she’s cold, this world is mean, my heart is stone, my hands are clean”
2002 – Old Number Seven: “Thank you Jack Daniel’s Old Number Seven Tennessee Whiskey got me drinking in heaven Angels start to look good to me They’re gonna have to deport me to the fiery deep”
2009 – Do Wrong Right: “I’d rather be a devil in a life on a tear Than be an angel at a church of hell Like electric sound in the deep of the night Burnin down the house along with everything in sight”
2009 – Gracefully Facedown: “Consequently I’ve been drinking nearly every day It’s hard to keep your head up when they’re knocking you down So I been making that all go round Drinking bottom shelf bourbon to ease my mind Seems to work alright ’til closing time… But when you squint real hard through the bottom of the bottle Things really don’t look so bad You drink a cheap malt liquor from a 40 ounce bottle Swig some bourbon, some pills if you’ve got ’em But you know you’re gonna come down every night And there ain’t no way you’re ever gonna feel satisfied There’s years of my life I don’t remember at all”
… I tried to get a good sample from different albums and their most popularly searched songs on YouTube, but really I think I could’ve pulled lyrics from any of their songs because they all fit this same bill of near cheerful apathy and substance abuse.
This band is someone’s favorite. They listen when they wake up, drive to work or school or whereever, while exercising, eating, day dreaming… shouldn’t music have more to say than “Life Sucks, Drink Through It?”
I’m not sure where I intended to go with this post. Perhaps I feel as though I’m missing what makes this band enjoyable especially since I found the venue so breathtaking. However, writing the above made me want to carefully consider the lyrical content of the bands I do love, so maybe sometime in the not too distant future I’ll delve into lyrical inspections of my own favorite albums and see how they stand up on the depression-inducing spectrum.
Lyrics from: http://www.azlyrics.com/d/devilmakesthree.html