Dallas alt-country pioneers Old 97’s and Austin by way of Ohio garage rockers Heartless Bastards are currently in the midst of a a co-headlining tour, which, as we previously announced, will bring both group backs to tonight, May 5 at Cannery Ballroom with American Aquarium’s BJ Barham. Prolific, unbelievable live, and genre-bending, both of the evening’s headliners should delight fans of country, rock, punk, indie, and garage, while Barham, ahead of his solo debut, will showcase some personal new songs in an intimate setting. Tickets are still available right here, so grab yours now and read all about the lineup below!
Formed in 1993 in Dallas, alt-country pioneers Old 97’s have long been one of the most interesting, prolific, and important bands to exist just below the bubble of broader mainstream recognition. That’s not to say they haven’t found success, with countless film and tv placements (including a cameo in The Break-Up), late night appearances, a major label stint at the turn of the millennium, and praise from an eclectic array of high-profile fans like Vince Gilligan and Tommy Stinson (who contributed to their most recent LP, and whose band the Replacements had an obvious influence on Old ’97s’ sound), but just how integral the group have been to helping shape the entire alt-country scene has not been given credit nearly enough over the years. Since 1994, the quartet have released 10 LPs and 2 EPs, in addition to splits and a live album, and have amassed a loyal following, thanks in no small part to their energetic, electrifying live show. Combining country sensibilities with rock and roll influences and punk spirit, the group have refused to adhere to any one sound, and, in doing so, have forged a personal, genre-bending, and unique style all to their own. Their most recent effort, 2014’s Most Messed Up, was partially written in Nashville, and shows that more than 20 years in, the Old 97’s rock just as hard and remain just as relevant as ever.
Like Old 97’s, Heartless Bastards have spent years shaping their sound, building up a fervent fanbase through good old fashioned touring, and flirting with breakthrough mainstream success, without yet quite becoming a household name. Fronted and anchored by powerhouse vocalist Erika Wennerstrom, the band originally formed in 2003 in the Cincinnati adjacent city of Dayton, Ohio, where Wennerstrom cut her teeth sneaking into shows in her teens, developing a strong love for musicians who carried themselves like normal people. After some early regional success, thanks to a chance meeting with fellow Ohioans The Black Keys, Heartless Bastards relocated to Austin, shuffling lineups a bit before settling on a permanent roster around the time of 2009’s The Mountain, their third LP after landing on Fat Possum Records. 2012’s Arrow, with new label Partison, would prove to be Heartless Bastards’ breakthrough, and continued to broaden their bluesy, indie/garage rock sound to more expansive heights, including elements of country, and adding more pop accessibility. In recent years, and leading up to last year’s Restless Ones, the bands have made multiple festival and television appearances, scored some high-profile placements, and have continued to tour relentlessly, drumming up constant critical praise throughout. They’re a fantastic live outfit, and they’re a wonderful addition to this bill. If you haven’t yet seen them, you’re in for a real treat.
Best known for fronting North Carolina alt-country outfit American Aquarium, singer-songwriter BJ Barham is currently prepping to release his debut solo album, Rockingham, this summer. While we don’t know a ton about the forthcoming effort, it’s the result of a trip to Europe, where BJ composed a batch of songs that felt too personal and intimate for the full band, and decided to try his hand at crowdfunding through PledgeMusic, to explore a new solo outlet (don’t worry, American Aquarium are plotting to hit the studio this fall as well). It’ll presumably be an extension of his main gig’s blend of timeless country and tasteful rock, with a more sparse and personal bent, and given Barham’s pedigree, it’ll suit this show nicely. Show up and be among the first to hear his solo work (and, likely, some familiar favorites)!
Old 97’s, Heartless Bastards, and BJ Barham will perform tonight, May 5 at Cannery Ballroom. The show is 18+, begins at 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.), and tickets are available for $30.