The Flatlanders in Bloomington

We saw the Flatlanders last night: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely.

The show was scheduled to begin at 7:30 and there did not seem to be an opener, so we got there at 7:45, figuring we’d still need to sit around for a while.  Apparently they’d been on for 15 minutes already.  The show proper was over by 8:50 or so, first and final encore concluded by 9ish.  Wow, that was one early show!!  I guess that’s what you get with 65-year-old (ish) musicians.  Hey, I was happy to get to bed by 10 on a school night myself…

I interviewed Jimmie Dale Gilmore for an article in 1991 when More a Legend than a Band was released.  If I understand correctly, these were sessions from the 1972 album that was never released: Wikipedia tells me that “the planned album, All American Music, was all but scrapped, being released only in a small run on 8 track tape in order to fulfill contractual obligations.”  Jimmie Dale was totally charming and fun to chat with at the time.  He looked kind of wan and greenish on stage, I hope life on the road is not wearing him down too much.   He did always have this ethereal-mystic vibe, only buttressed by the long grey ponytail these days.

I also just learned from Wikipedia that Joe Ely sings backup vocals on the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” — I had no idea!

I’m a bit unclear about is the respective histories and drawing power of the three solo artists. My impression is that both Ely and Hancock had bigger names in the 70s and 80s but that Jimmie Dale experienced more of a revival in the 1990s.  Is this true?  I am going to forward this to George in hopes of getting a clarification: check the comments.

Anyway, we enjoyed the show.  It was pretty Nashville, slicker and less “alt-country” than you might have thought.  Gilmore’s “Dallas” for example, which is spooky and otherworldly in the 1972 recording, was more of a lively, upbeat bluesy stomp.  They have this extra lead guitar player who cracked me up.  He looks a bit like Jon Lovitz and kind of lurked behind the three, and then occasionally when he got a solo he’d sort of creep to the forestage with an insinuating kind of movement — “here I come again!” — and a lot of shoulder shrugging.  It kept making me giggle.

An enthusiastic, but modest-sized crowd (very few below age 50 or so, and more than a few over 80, I’d guess).  I wonder if “the Flatlanders” may have lesser name recognition than the three solo artists at this point…

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4 Responses

  1. I have seen each of these guys individually , Hancock more than once, unbelievably here in the tiny town of Northeast Harbor of all places. I was mostly struck by how funny they each are in between the songs, but maybe that does not come out in the band concert setting. Hancock’s concerts would go on for hours, he never seemed to run out of songs.

  2. They were pretty funny and genial. There was one long shaggy-dog-ish story involving a song that came to Hancock in a dream; the punch line was, “we’re not going to play that song now, though, this is a different song.” Sarah commented that you could easily imagine them playing together in Lubbock at age 20 or whatever it was (she imagined them all wearing bolo ties at that point).

  3. Miranda and I saw JDG at the Boston MFA a few summers ago. The concert started outside but after about 30 minutes had to be stopped because of rain/lightning. Instead of packing up, they brought their guitars into an adjacent cafeteria and sang for about an hour in a corner–no amps, speakers, or electronics of any kind. It was incredibly generous, especially because only 30 people or so stuck around. At the end Gilmore couldn’t even talk.

    p.s. ads! I’m going to click on Cedar Rapids Coupons now!

  4. I’ve written a preview of their upcoming show here in Tulsa. I hope they play a bit longer here than they did for you all! The lead guitarist you mention is Robbie Gjersoe – he’s really, really good…

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