The Old 97’s turned the Urban Lounge to a good-ol’ hootenanny! Photo: Greg Notch
Something was in the water on Thursday night at the Urban Lounge, and by water, I mean beer, and by beer, I mean whisky. Promises of fierce hangovers were made throughout that night and I’m sure those promises were made good on when it came to the dawn of many clouded Urban Lounge patrons. Despite the hardcore implications of the rock scene, it is in fact the country scene that dominates the guzzling of booze with its seasoned accomplices. Now the pairing of the Nikki Lane and the Old 97’s isn’t exactly modern country, but they allude to a former country back when Waylon Jennings was getting drug raided onstage and Loretta Lynn was passing out on Johnny Cash’s lap. This is country from when it rocked and led to many Sunday mornings coming down.
Now, if you’re like me, you get to a show early and take your pick in seating or standing positions up close. This serves for picture-taking and mingling with the more rowdy side of concert goers. If you don’t plan to rock out then the stage is a terrible place to be. I always notice some unfortunate individual with space issues having a miserable time with the constant bashing and splashing of beer and sweaty arms. The front is not for the faint of heart. However, the chaotic fans of the Old 97’s pay little regard to these types of things and happily smush oil from the various types of cars their rebuilding, all over each other. The crowd was a mix of late-’90s hippies, female lawyers, individuals who could probably fix your computer and those you might find at a truck stop. In this smorgasbord of potential Jeopardy categories I took late nineties hippies for 500. The sway, half-sway, and twirl-sway are all types of these people’s signature moves, and if you answered the two people in front of me, you are correct. Age enhanced hippies are the friendliest of folks, and I was happy to have chosen them to stand by.
Rhett Miller, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the Old 97’s, came out and introduced Nikki Lane to the audience. This is of note because headliners seldom introduce opening bands—they tend to just acknowledge them haphazardly during their own set. So, points to Miller for being a gentleman and introducing a lady. Nikki Lane comes out and was just a darling to watch onstage. Her adorable, cheeky banter was only matched by her band and their country meets 1950s doo-wop drums. She sang songs about heartache; she sang a song about smoking pot; and also one about sleeping with strangers. I’m sure the order was irrelevant, but in hindsight, I see a little sense in their structure (heartache and indulgence leads to all sorts of imaginative situations). The audience probably could have listened to her witty discourse most of the evening, but, alas, her set had to eventually end, and so she promised to be back in July.
The audience, at that point, was a casually slurry presence. I sat in the fenced-in cement box they kept the smokers in and watched the plunder of pick-up lines and attempted cute outfits, slowly swirl into nonsensical chatter. It was safe to say everyone was having fun, and the poor bastards that had to clean up after this bash would definitely have their work cut out for them.
The crowd was so excited about the Old 97’s that just the sound check from the guitar tech sent everyone running inside. Shortly after that, the Old 97’s did come out, and then shit really got crazy. I joke all the time about Utah’s dancing crowd, which was usually oriented toward the female kind, but on May 15, 2014, the males were ready to flail in every which way. The poor hippies in front of me were overcome by the relentless, dancing horde. Miller of the Old 97’s encouraged that behavior with songs of good-hearted debauchery and the high ends of social drinking. It is important to understand that when a band hits the 20-year mark, they are experts in crowd management. Each member of the band wailed against the other to the point they even acknowledge their competitive drive for rocking the hardest. The crowd, which was the largest Urban Lounge crowd I’ve seen this concert season, was a sweaty mess by that time. I believe that the air conditioning was intentionally turned off to give the atmosphere a healthy country bar–like ambiance. The Old 97’s played their finely tuned hearts out, all the way till the end, and I do believe Nikki lane crowd surfed at one point. They performed a three-song encore, breaking form from the more traditional two, and closed out the evening to a crowd that was still going very strong. Miller and company wished everyone well and hung around the stage for high fives and non-sober tidings. Eventually, the Urban Lounge cleared out, and the wave finally retreated back to where it was from, but that night, a brilliant watermark was left by one of Salt Lake’s most amazing concert crowds. Good job, Salt Lake City. Who knew it just took a little country to bring it out of you, and thanks, as always, to Nikki Lane and the Old 97’s for entertaining us so.