To deal first with the elephant in the room, it is entirely possible that you could actually put an elephant in the room tonight – and still have room for the band.
When there are more onstage than in the audience, then to be honest, it’s about as awkward as a blind date with your best mate’s nan.
More pertinently, however much you’ve looked forward to the gig – and since we raved about the new Speedbuggy USA album we really had been – and however good they might be live (and there is enough here to suggest that in some sweat soaked honky tonk with a full crowd and the beer flowing, that these boys would be a-ma-zing), it’s as difficult for them as it is for us.
“What we lose in number we make up for in IQ – we’ve only got the intelligent fans tonight” smiles singer Timbo and credit to them for giving their all for over an hour.
“Sad And Lonely”, “Truck Driving Man” and “Rusted Car” are all old songs, delivered with passion that is hard to believe. Sounding something like Waylon Jennings, jamming with Warner E Hodges while Jason Ringenberg tops it off, put simply, Speedbuggy USA rule.
The reason I am here (I can’t speak for the couple of others, who have now been joined by a couple more curious drinkers from the other side of the bar) is the quite brilliant new album, “Kick Out The Twang”, they’ve just stuck out. “I Get Around”, a glorious “Rodeo Star”, “Southbound” and “Wood, Screws And Nails” – the latter with the bluegrass turned up to 11 – show why it is so very, very good – while “Hold My Head Up High” is the type of stoicism that gets them through nights like this.
Because a) they are professionals and b) seem to genuinely appreciate those that have turned up, there is an encore of sorts. “Guns N Lightning” is rock n roll done right and “Set ‘Em Up” – just like “Liars, Thieves And Ramblers” which had been dedicated to Woody Guthrie earlier in the set – shows Speedbuggy USA know their history and what their music represents.
They’re over here to play some festivals as well as these shows, and you wish them the success they so richly deserve. Through no fault of their own this wasn’t – probably – a gig they’ll remember too fondly, but everything about Speedbuggy USA should be rewarded with so much more.
At times like this only the title of the Gin Blossoms third album seems to fit: “Congratulations, I’m Sorry”. Congratulations on a great show. Sorry that more didn’t experience it too.