In the documentary F is for Fake, director Orson Welles' famously turns the camera on himself as well as the subjects of the documentary. When asked to write an article on The Gourds, I have tried to keep myself out of it, but like Welles, I cannot.
For the past 13 years, I have been a Gourds fan. Not just any fan, but the type that will fight for a band. When they first started I would call the radio stations to request their songs. I would convert fans one at a time while working at record stores or playing the music at people's homes during parties. I would drag people to shows. I would hang posters.
Increasingly, I am asked why I still like them, and that answer requires some thought. The Gourds was the first show that I saw when I moved here in July of 1997. Even though they are an Austin band, and many consider them to be THE Austin band, to me they remind me more of Asheville. Their music and fans are so diverse and eclectic: a set list can include covers of Bill Monroe, Cheap Trick and The Minutemen, and in the crowd you will see Southern punks, jam-band refugees, good ole' boys and me.
After that 1997 show, I bought their debut album, Dem’s Good Beeble. It is an album that defies its alt-country tag. For me and my friends, it is our Tonight’s the Night. Like that Neil Young classic, it is loose, a little dark and the perfect comedown album. It was played after all the alcohol has been drank, all conversations are over and everyone was figuring out which couch that they were going to sleep on. To us, even though the lyrics were sometimes indecipherable, it became our soundtrack for drunken comraderie.
With the addition of Max Johnson to fill in the empty spaces, The Gourds had morphed into a crackling live band and the audience started growing larger. Then one night in Atlanta in 2003, I realized that I am not the only rabid fan out there. During the song “Ants on the Melon,” Kevin Russell stopped singing, and the crowd finished it for him. After that year I pulled back a little. I realized that I didn't need to fight on the frontlines anymore. Other people can do that for me.
I still see every show and buy every album. Their last performance here was amongst their best, and I see no signs of them slowing down. For 13 years now, through births and deaths, through meetings and separations, through sobriety and addictions The Gourds have been in both the background and foreground of most of my adult life. And even after 13 years, the band can still make me smile.
who: The Gourds with Patrick Sweany
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Wednesday, Sept. 22 (8:30 p.m. show. $15. thegreyeagle.com)