Pestering makes perfect

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I’d like to think that my incessant pestering had something to do with Lucero’s upcoming show at the Wild Buffalo.

Since Lucero last came this way, very nearly every time Wild Buffalo owner and booker Craig Jewell told me about a great show he’d confirmed or almost confirmed, I would respond with whatever degree of enthusiasm the announcement warranted—and then promptly ask him when (not if) Lucero would appear on his stage again.

One would expect I subjected Jewell to such single-minded harassment because I’m the world’s biggest Lucero fan. Such a thing would not be outside the realm of reality, given the fact that, during its decade-and-a-half of existence, the Memphis band has become known for its rabidly enthusiastic fan base.

However, that’s not exactly the case. Don’t get me wrong: I very much enjoy Lucero’s tough-to-pin-down variety of alt-country/punk/soul-tinged rock ’n’ roll. Singer Ben Nichols has a decided knack for songwriting that resonates with real-life, eminently relatable emotion, and has married that skill to an ability and willingness to remain musically curious and creatively nimble. Songs, style and personnel have shifted and changed for the band over the years, but throughout the years and evident on all eight of their albums (yes, even those featuring horns) is the authenticity of feeling that has kept their fans coming back for and always wanting more.

But, as excellent as the majority of Lucero’s albums are, they are not the reason I’m so sold on seeing the band onstage here again.

For a band so closely identified with Memphis’ modern music tradition, Lucero actually spends very little time there. The reason for this is simple logistics: The band has, for most of its existence, played somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 shows a year. That’s a lot of time spent on the road and, along with teaching them the ins and outs of gas station food and rest stops, all those shows have turned Lucero into, quite simply, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

Whether they’re cranking out the known crowd pleasers, busting out the acoustic guitars and slowing things down or, as happened in Bellingham, Nichols blows out his voice, kicking his already considerable rasp up a couple of notches, magic happens when Lucero takes the stage. When Nichols tosses back a shot of whiskey and launches into a song about love, loss and the lessons he hasn’t quite learned, audiences from Bellingham to points near and far beyond respond by throwing their fists in the air and singing along. By the end of the night, Lucero isn’t just performing for would-be and established fans, they’re preaching to the converted.

Given that, it’s no wonder I hounded Jewell so hard. And if this Lucero show is as much fun as the last one, I’ll probably start pestering him about the next one before the band plays its final encore.

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