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Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

Dave King Trucking Company January 15, 2011 Loring Theater, Minneapolis

Saturday night, the Dave King Trucking Company not only inaugurated the Loring Theater's return to its roots of cinema, theater, music and variety performances, but also taught us what that one really snobby, totally way-too-hip genre has in common with that one really podunk, really redneck and missing teeth cousin-humping other genre. I kid - not all jazz fans are snobs, and not all country fans are missing teeth. But close.

The $12 ticket price may have seemed steep to those who didn't know what the show would hold in store for them. This wasn't your average performance - it felt intimate, special, beginning with a Q&A with front man/percussionist Dave King and the concert series' organizer, and ending with what proved to be a performance full of personality, King's humor and knack for storytelling just as much a highlight as the musical performance itself.

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

During the Q&A, King shed a little light on what we could expect from the night's performance. He explained the music we'd be hearing would sound like Americana meets avant-garde. That the name came about because he's obviously the leader of the band, but prefers to think of the assemblage of players as a trucking company rather than the more traditional alternative of "Dave King Quintet." A little on how he composes, and how he leads. On the art of remembering music (note, it doesn't involve charts). That while the idea for the band has been in the works for years, and the band has played at both his 2010 Walker Art Center festival and at the Artists' Quarter, the group was coming together this weekend for the first time to record, and in fact had written a few of the newest tunes during their practice for the session and sound check for Saturday night's show.

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

From there the band, comprised of Erik Fratzke on electric guitar, Adam Linz on bass, Brandon Wozniak and Chris Speed on tenor sax, and King on drums, launched into a nearly two hour, two set performance marked by consistently solid groove and illustrative song titles. The group has been described as "if the great Nashville bands of the '60s and '70s could improvise and were Coltrane fanatics."

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

This country meets jazz thing - I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that one, because for me, each genre exists in such discrete terms. Think Cash, Miles. Waylon, Parker. Uhhh... Statler Brothers, Marsalis Brothers? Taylor Swift, Lorie Line? Right. Anyway, I hadn't the foggiest where that twain'd meet. King's Q&A description of what this group hoped to accomplish here, however - Americana meets avant-garde - made my foggy thinking a little bit clearer. Think Americana, sans the rootsy Garrison Keillor vibe, add experimentation, and there you have it.

So, how country was this show? Well, Adam Linz was wearing a blue long-sleeved International Harvester shirt. Is that country? Is it? I defer to Craig Morgan for a response:

That said, I wish these guys would dress more country. And I don't mean boots, cowboy hats, rhinestones or bolo ties. I mean nu-country: bad goatees, frosted tips on spiked hair, two tribal tattoos each - one for each arm. Because that would be funny. To me.   Additionally, there's one major difference I notice now between jazz and country. When jazz dudes are truly "in the know," they nod their heads knowingly during the raddest solos, smiling, all "you don't know why this is so good, but it is SO GOOD! And I know, because I'm one in-the-know kinda cat." Then they close their eyes and shake their heads at the solo, still smiling. They maybe then cross their arms, unless they're in the band in which case they kinda stumble backwards quickly, instrument at the ready, in a temporary state of disbelief.

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

On the other hand, when country dudes are truly "in the know" - and note, I researched this extensively at the David Allan Coe show at Toby Keith's last week - they sing along not to the choruses of any songs, but rather, with their beer bottles (or Dixie cups, should it be the venue's wont) held aloft, but shout along to any string of lyrics involving, you know, mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin' drunk. Then, instead of crossing arms or stumbling backward with saxophone at the ready, they cheers their friend, offer up a fist pump, and yell one more time, usually a "Yeeeee-ah!" or a "Hell yeah!"

So here's where the jazz meets the country. There's definitely something very heartland, something very Frank Lloyd Wright and wheat fields to this music, and it often seems centered around the bass and guitar parts of Linz and Fratzke. Which is kinda funny - as these gentle tones emanate from his guitar, Fratzke is poised as if he could be fronting a speedo-adorned, glittery-faced Maynard James Keenan at a Tool show.

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

But bottom line and all joking aside (mine, and more importantly, King's), this music feels genuine, makes you wanna pull it in right close to your heart. With a name like Trucking Company, that was the last thing I expected. I expected rhinestones and twang, I didn't expect to feel anything. It was a nice surprise.

If there was a detective movie about my life, with a plot line involving someone killing my father in what was originally determined to be a freak hunting accident but later proven (by me, the rogue investigator) to be a vast murder conspiracy motivated by the South Dakota political machine, I'd want this music to be the soundtrack. The Coen Brothers would direct it. Fuck that - I'd direct it.

Critic's bias: For a brief period of time, I maintained a music, meat and taxidermy blog, and one night in a drunken stupor brush with genius! I wrote an entry about Dave King, after he provoked me with the challenge of, "Why don't you put THAT in your blog." Or some such thing. I forgot about this blog 'til tonight. Apologies for the made-up term I use throughout. I was at the time operating in some kind of post-political correctness lalaland, which I've since realized doesn't exist, by combining the word "gay" as used disparagingly to imply something was "not cool," but then co-opting it into something that was "totally cool," incorporating not just the word lasers, but "laaaaaaayzers." You follow? Didn't think so, which is why by my late 20s I'd abandoned the term. I hope you'll forgive me.

Critics's disclaimer: When I shoved my plastic glass of chardonnay (the theater only serves beer and wine, FYI) between my legs so I could take a picture of bassist Adam Linz during his solo early in the second set, the glass broke. I guess my legs thought the solo was awful exciting.

Critic's postscript: By the end of the show, I was nodding my head like a (let's eliminate the) "r-word." I blame the wine. Coupled with the inherent need to feel like I belonged. :(

The crowd: The floor level of the Loring was almost at capacity for this show, I'm guessing full of people who consider Dave King to be their homeboy.

Dave King Trucking Company at Loring Theater, 1/15/11
Photo by Nikki Miller

Overheard in the crowd: Let's instead go for an overheard Dave King quote, on the song "Dolly Joe and Ben Jay." I was the best man in a wedding in 1992 of some Southern people in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and they said when I arrived that I was gonna be sleeping below Dolly Joe and Ben Jay, and no one had ever said that to me before. They were two twins who slept together in the top bunk of a bunk bed. I've never slept that well in my life.

Random notebook dump: An aside about Chris Speed, billed as reedist. When someone is described as a reedist, I imagine they'll be playing every reed instrument known to man during his performance, that half his time onstage will be spent wetting reeds. So spitty.

Set List: "You Can't Say Poem in Concrete" "When in North Dakota" - written for King's grandfather in North Dakota who gave a lit cigarette to his four-year-old brother in 1970 to light fireworks with. "Anthem for the Courageous at Heart" "The Road Leads Home" "The Making of Star Trek: What It is How It Happened How It Works" - don't think I got that song title quite right, as King then waxed on about Star Wars, not Trek. Intermission "Church Clothes and Wallet Chain" - introduced as "We have a ballad, it's called," "Church Clothes and Wallet Chain" (redux?) "Policy of Truth" (or did he say "Palsy of Truth?") aka "Hawk Over Traffic" (Critic's note: Palsy of Truth? Oh man, my setlist's gonna suck.)

For more photos: See our full slideshow.


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