Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cory Branan and Drag the River, Oct. 4, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto

Photo by MatzohBall77
I have been following the music of Cory Branan and Drag the River for a long time. In fact, Drag the River's album You Can't Live This Way was my favorite album of 2008. I've been trying to see these guys live for years, and have been stewing about the fact that they haven't toured Toronto in my tenure in this city. It turns out that they hadn't toured Toronto, or Eastern Canada, period. Their Toronto debut at the Horseshoe Tavern on October 4th was their last stop on their North American tour before heading off to pillage Europe.

Branan opened the show with a short acoustic set. There were only about 30 people there, which is, sadly, not surprising for an alt country show in downtown Toronto on a Monday night (see my Scott Miller review where only about 10 people were paying attention to him). Despite the low turnout, everyone there was there to see Branan/DTR, and everyone was paying attention to the show (i.e. minimal background chatter). Branan sounded fantastic. He's a hell of a guitar player and one entertaining dude. After the second song Jon Snodgrass of DTR joined Branan on stage for some sweet harmonizing. Holy crap do Branan and Snodgrass sound great together. Their voices are completely different, but they complement each other incredibly well. Even my buddy Jenny leaned over and said, "This sounds really good." Branan and Snodgrass put out a split album last year, but they should seriously consider doing an acoustic duets album. See the video below.

I got a chance to chat with Branan after his set. What a totally nice dude! He said that he has a new album ready to go and it should be released some time in the spring of 2011. Branan mentioned that he is "very proud" of the new album, and that it is full of storytelling, something which Branan excels at. My pea brain is already plotting to somehow get Branan to play a gig at the Dakota Tavern in support of this new album sometime next spring. Please?

Cory Branan Set List
1. Eh? I couldn't place this song and I wasn't even drunk (yet). I will presume that it's a new one.
2. Survivor Blues
3. Karen's Song
4. Tall Green Grass
5. The Corner
6. Sour Mash
7. Tame
8.Walk Around.mp3
Buy (Vinyl): Cory Branan & Jon Snodgrass (2009)
-->Also widely available in MP3 format.
9. Wreck of the Sultana
10. Girl Named Go

Check out this video that my virtual pal romeosidvicious, contributor to, filmed in Houston in early September.


After a short break, the audience doubled in size, and Drag the River ambled onto the stage, with singers Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price on electric and acoustic guitars, respectively. I'm going to describe this set as pseudo-disorganized chaos. DTR is not the kind of band to show up with a prepared set list. It was basically Jon asking the audience what they wanted to hear, selecting a random request, then ripping into it. This is essentially how it went down for three hours. Snodgrass and Price alternated lead singer duties, while bassist J.J. Nobody and drummer Steve Bauer kept the singers in line.

The band meandered through originals and covers. They covered their favorite songs by their contemporaries such as Bad Astronaut and The Bottle Rockets, classics by Sam Cooke and Thin Lizzy, and even songs by their previous bands, Armchair Martian and ALL. I am pretty sure that I was only person in the audience, maybe in all of Ontario, or maybe even in all of Canada, who got it when Snodgrass, a native of St. Joseph, Missouri, threw in a reference to Festus, Missouri, during "Indianapolis." Spending six years of my life in St. Louis finally pays off in obscure Missouri geography references.

Drag the River was all over their extensive catalog, going back to some of their 2000 demos, right up through new, unreleased songs. Everyone got to hear their favorites. How Snodgrass and Price have the stamina for this type of show, I do not know. But hell, they are professionals. As Snodgrass said, "I'm looking forward to my 40s since I've never had a fucking day job!" Which made me seethe in jealousy.

Drag the River set list
1. Me and Joe Drove Out to California
2. So Lonely
3. Strange
4. Calloused Heart #2
5. Brookfield
6. Mars Motors
7. Disbelieve
8. Br00tal
9. Booze and Pills
10. Indianapolis (The Bottle Rockets)
11. Death of the Life of the Party
12. Tobacco Fields.mp3
Buy: You Can't Live This Way (2008)
13. Medicine
14. Eh? I went to get a beer and missed this one.
15. Amazing G.
16. She Used to Smile
17. Spiderman, Wolfman
18. Until I Say So (ALL)
19. Tomorrow Morning
20. Dancing in the Moonlight (Thin Lizzy)
21. Having a Party (Sam Cooke)
22. Get Drunk.mp3
Buy: Closed (2002)
23. New
24. Jessica's Suicide (Bad Astronaut)
Note: I'm hammered at this point, so my set list taking skillz really go to hell.
25. New, I think
26. New
27. Hybrid Moments (Misfits)
28. Eh? Drunk. Maybe new?
29. Crocodile
30. Hang Dog
31. Tired and Fired
32. Break Your Frame (Bad Astronaut)
33. Peachy Tuscadero

Yeah, 33 songs is nuts, and they weren't finished! I had to leave at this point because I was, as the French say, "Chateau Shitfaced," and I had to be at work in six and a half hours. I only know that "Peachy Tuscadero" was playing when I left because I ran into Branan on my way out and he told me that "Peachy Tuscadero" is the name of Chad Price's dog. At least, I think that's what he told me. I hope I didn't just make that up.

I bought their goofy gig T-shirt (logo below). A friend said to me, "That is the most ridiculous shirt I have ever seen." Which is exactly the point. When people ask about the shirt, which looks like it was drawn by a five-year-old, I say, "It's by Jon Snodgrass who is in Drag the River. They put on a killer show at the Horseshoe with Cory Branan...." and I get to tell people about what a kick-ass, crazy night I had, and introduce them to their new favorite artists.

DTR first formed in 1996, and put out their first demos in 2000, and Branan released his first album in 2002. That's 18 collective years from first album to playing in Toronto. Gentlemen, let's tour up this way a little more often, OK?

Snodgrass, Price, Branan, and Austin Lucas are currently touring Europe. I know there are a bunch of readers of this blog from Germany and the UK. I insist that you catch one of these shows. In fact, I would love it if one of you would write a guest post, a little European perspective. Contact me at rockstaraimz at gmail dot com if you are interested. I would love a review from Barcelona because that city rules and Nov 2 is my fucking birthday, dammit.

17 London @ Windmill Brixton
18 Aachen @ AZ
19 Hamburg @ Logo
20 Hannover @ Mephisto
21 Kiel @ Roter Salon @ Pumpe
22 Leipzig @ Conne Island
23 Zwiesel @ Jugendcafé
24 Vienna @ B72
25 Budapest @ Könyvtar Klub
26 Ljubljana @ Metelkova
27 Ora (Auer) - Piccolo Teatro Aur-Ora
28 Freiburg - Swamp
29 Pontlevoy - Le Commerce
30 Alsasua @ Squad
31 Madrid @ Sala Pequenya Betti

1 Orihuela @ Sala La Gramola
2 Barcelona @ Rocksound
3 Toulouse @ El Camino
4 Besancon @ La Cour des Miracles
5 Trier @ Exhaus
6 Basel @ Kaserne w/ Mad Caddies
7 Munich @ 59 to 1
8 Berlin @ Lovelite
10 Bad Hersfeld @ Zigeunerkeller
11 Schwalmstedt @ Bunker
12 Dresden @ az conni
13 Prague @ Akropolis
14 Wiesbaden @ Schlachthof


Huntley Slim said...

They put on a hell of a show in Vankleek Hill at the Beau's Brewery Octoberfest. Can't wait for the new Cory Branan record.

WhiskeyT said...

Festus is the town the Bottle Rockets are from

Anonymous said...

If I can spare some time, I'll write a review for their Muenster, Germany show and shoot you a mail. One of the best nights of my life. Esp. the Chad Price solo parking-lot encore. And Muenster had about 120 people in the venue.