The two icons of red dirt music have hit the road once again
Texas came to DC by way of the 930 Club on Thursday (Feb 23rd). Josh Abbott Band and Pat Green played dozens of authentic Texas country songs for an enthusiastic crowd.
It’s often forgotten that inside the DC “beltway” is a gateway to the south. This means that country music of all stripes does exceptionally well in a town known more for stuffy suits than shiny pearl snaps.
But those pearl snaps were plentiful as Josh Abbott Band took the stage and plowed through an 80 minute set. The sight of both a fiddler and banjoist in the band signaled what was to come: Melodies driven by whisky-soaked strings.
“Live it While You’ve Got It” and “Where I Wanna Be” set the mood, while “The Luckiest” turned a rowdy standing room crowd into thoughtful listeners. Abbott has a wonderfully rustic vocal range that serves the party songs just as well as the ballads.
Abbott and crew’s music is incredibly textured. Each number has its own groove, deeply immersing the listener in each story. This is a hallmark of Texas country. Not beholden to mainstream rules, the music can be played with a bit more freely.
This was also true for Pat Green. “Me and Billy the Kid” had a southern rock vibe, while the more mellow “Baby Doll” focused on a guitar-driven melody. Every feeling in between comes through, a product of the transcendent strings that are trademark to Green’s music.
Pat Green’s voice carries another secret to his success: his aching vocals. Whether celebratory (“Carry On”), wistful and melancholy (“Build You a Bar”) or aggressively pensive (“Southbound 35”), there is an ache in Green’s voice. It’s as if he is the living embodiment of a longing for Texas.
His set felt unplanned and free-form “Southbound 35” was intro’d with a spontaneous “Thunderstruck” riff. Side note: if Brian Johnson is really ready to retire, Green would make an amazing fill in. He spent time talking to the crowd and pointing out vintage tees that were older than the people wearing them.
Green also regaled the crowd with stories about his songs. “All Just to Get to You” started with chords he said didn’t make sense. While still another song was “chaotic” because he, “Wrote it at Willie Nelson’s house.” And, well, we know how that goes…
Earlier in the night, Green popped up with the Josh Abbott Band to sing the song of theirs he features on. It’s called “My Texas.” And that’s a theme that runs through both their catalogs: a very specific pride in Texas that’s at once individualistic, yet broadly patriotic.
Pat Green is proof positive that one does not need to break record after record to have staying power. And indeed the more authentic an artist is to him or herself, the less attention the charts tend to pay. But that means fans pay that much more attention to the music they love, because they have to seek it out.
To that end, Green is celebrating his 30th year as an artist. It was clear at 930 Club that his fan base is as loyal and devoted as any. It all comes down to music that strikes a nerve.
The music makes clear that Texas can be any thing to anyone. And these red dirt rebels have no shortage of metaphors: a girl (“Texas on My Mind”), a highway, a sunset, a child’s innocence (“Crazy”), and so much more. By the end of the night, 1,200 people in DC felt as much a part of the Texas tapestry as much as Abbott and Green themselves.