"I was faced with a choice at a difficult age," Neil Tennant sang at the House of Blues in Atlantic City. "Should I write a book, or take to the stage?" My choice on Sunday night was no less fraught. Should I go visit my mother at the beach and see the Pet Shop Boys, or stay in Philadelphia and take in the roots-rock cavalcade at the World Cafe Live that was the Bloodshot Records Bar-B-Q, featuring a host of estimably scruffy acts, including the greatest of bar bands, the Waco Brothers?
There was a third way. Thanks to my colleague Steve Klinge, I found out that the Wacos, fronted by Welshman turned Chicagoan Jon Langford, were playing the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth, Delaware on Friday night, due to the special relationship between Langford and Dogfish brewmastermind Sam Calagione, who has hired the multitalented songwriter to do label art for several of his small batch brews. Check this one out. Calagione's featured in Wednesday's New York Times, and here's The New Yorker story that focused on Dogfish Head from last fall.
So: It was down Route 1 in the First State to Dogfish to see the Wacos. That's Langford in the center, with Calagione to his right and mandolinist Tracey Dear to his left, at Dogfish, where all the beer I drank was superb, though I only managed to quaff a 60 Minute I.P.A., the Shelter Pale Ale, and some particularly delicious lip smacking bitter citrus brew whose name has somehow slipped my mind.
But enough about libations. As good as the beer was, the Wacos were better, hilarious as always (lots of how to pronounce "Rehoboth" jokes leading to impromptu demented incarnations of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab") and holding together nicely despite having spent most of the day in the dangerous environs of a brewpub. The Waco originals, courtesy of the triple threat front of Langford, Dear ("The Greatest living Englishman!") and Dean Schlabowske (the guy in the glasses) were first rate, with standouts like "See Willie Fly By" and the one that suits my own personal philosophy best: "Do What I Say (don't do what I do)." But it's the cover list that demonstrates what a devastating band the Waco Bros are. In Rehoboth we got T-Rex's "20th Century Boy," The Clash's (and Bobby Fuller Four's) "I Fought The Law," George Jones' "The Girl At The End Of The Bar," Bo Diddley's "Hey Bo Diddley," Neil Young's "Revolution Blues," The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks," and I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple others.
Anyway, here's a bunch of photos, most taken by Anne Carter. They mix up the crazy visuals of the PSB show, with Tennant doing the singing (and dancing badly with the New York City skyline) and Chris Lowe behind a bank of keyboards, and the Wacos, sweaty and in your face, each brilliant in their very different ways. My Pet Shop Boys review is here.
Previously: Jay-Z To Play The Wachovia Center