Concert Review: Drive By Truckers - Columbia, SC - April 23, 2023 - The Senate

This is probably gonna be a long one so there’s your warning. 

As anyone who knows me knows, Drive-By Truckers are one of my favorite bands. They’re also one of the most important bands to me personally for reasons that I’ll get into. The show last night was my 6th time seeing them and I think it was my favorite. When you go into a DBT show, you never know what you’re going to get setlist wise. They don’t use a setlist and generally just play what they feel. This always leads to the anticipation that they’re gonna play that song that you want to hear. Even if they don’t, by the end it doesn’t matter. You just witnessed an incredible rock show. In fact, at this show, they completely ignored my favorite period.  They played nothing from American Band, The New OK or the Unravelling. And that was ok. They seemed happier than any time I’ve seen them before. It was almost a competition to see who smiled the most. Even Mike Cooley got into the smiling game. Of course, Matt Patton won the smile battle. But that dude just looks like the happiest person that ever existed. I love it. 

Lydia Loveless opened the show with a short set that was a great warmup. I don’t know much about her, but after her set I want to know more. She was funny and her songs were heartfelt. The backing band was tight and seemed to be having a lot of fun. DBT guitarist/keyboardist Jay Gonzalez joined her for the closing song. 

After a brief changeover, the Truckers were on stage and taking no prisoners. They opened with the double shot from their newest album Welcome to Club XII, "Maria’s Awful Disclosure" and the incredibly rocking "The Driver." Then Cooley started the opening riff for the 2001 classic "Zip City" and it was on from there. Apart from the opening two songs and two others from the new album ("Every Single Storied Flameout" and the title track) plus a brand new unreleased song, no song was newer than 2014’s "Shit Shots Count" from English Oceans

Midway through the show, Patterson Hood mentioned that they once played a St Patrick’s Day festival here in Columbia and it was wild. It was 2016. It’s funny because I was there and they mentioned some shenanigans they saw that day from the stage. When the crowd roared their approval, Cooley admonished them that “no, that’s not something to be proud of!” I find it hilarious that they remember that moment. However, that was also the day that probably saved my life and is the reason why I love this band so much. 

2016 was a dark period for me. I was going through a lot of personal shit that I won’t get into here. I’m not going to say that I was necessarily suicidal, but all of a sudden that idea didn’t seem to be a bad one. I was headed to work that Saturday morning and I was listening to the DBT live album. It got to the song "A World of Hurt." It hit me. Hard. I had to pull over to compose myself. That’s a song that I’d heard many times before (and even live once), but truth be told, it wasn’t a favorite of mine. That morning though. That particular live version. The joy and defiance in the performance. The way Patterson shouted “it’s fucking great to be alive!”  All of a sudden I believed it. For the next few weeks, any time I felt I needed it, I would go to my car and throw that track on. It didn’t solve all the problems, but I began to see that it could be a “beautiful world if you put away the sadness and hang onto every ounce of beauty around you.”  For that reason alone, I’ll always feel indebted to DBT and Patterson Hood. 

And that brings us back to last night. The show was winding down with a particularly rocking version of "Buttholeville" complete with the "State Trooper" segue. Cooley was ripping that solo on the lip of the stage no more than five feet from me. It was fantastic. Then he went into my white whale of a song. He started "Shut Up and Get on the Plane" which I’d always wanted to see but never got. I got it tonight. That song has another line that’s always resonated with me and has helped shape my outlook: 

“Dead is dead and it ain't no different than walking around if you ain't living

Living in fear's just another way of dying before your time”

I finally got it. I figured they would close the show with "Angels and Fuselage" which is a song that they often follow "Shut Up..." with. Patterson announced they were doing one more and that Lydia Loveless would be joining them again. She had previously come out and sang on "Feb. 14." He then said it. This is a song called "A World of Hurt." 

“Fuck fear.”  

I’ve never felt the reaction that I had last night in the hundreds of shows I’ve seen. My chest got tight and I could feel my eyes welling up. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was really hard to keep my composure. Between the mile wide smile on my face and the watery eyes, I must have looked insane. I tried to keep it together because, c’mon, Cooley is right there. 

THAT is the power of music. I feel bad for people that haven’t ever experienced a connection to something like that. It was an experience that I will never forget. 

So thank you Drive-By Truckers. And thank you Patterson Hood. I possibly wouldn’t be here today without you. And I can never thank you enough. 

So yeah, ALWAYS go to the rock show!