The Old 97’s
Music Farm
Jan. 25

Windmilling Pete Townshend-style through a high-energy set of songs old and new, Rhett Miller and the Old 97’s drove the melodies home to a smallish but enthusiastic crowd on Wednesday night at the Farm. With relentless energy, charm, and good humor, the twin telecasters of Miller and Ken Bethea soared across the boom-chicka-boom momentum of Murry Hammond’s bass and Phillips Peeples’ drums.

Playing a set of 20 years’ worth of tracks, they appeased older fans with renditions of classics like “Victoria” and “Barrier Reef,” and they added newer songs like “Champaign, Illinois,” which Miller says was “co-written with Mr. Bob Dylan.”

Miller and Hammond traded lead vocal duties toward the end of the show, with Hammond plugging a charity close to his heart, Project Mercy, which he called a “sort of Mexican Habitat for Humanity.” Defying the boundaries of the term “alt-country,” they wound surf, punk, rockabilly, country, and plain old rock ’n’ roll throughout the entire set. The band wrapped the night with a ramped-up version of their brilliant classic “Time Bomb,” a ferocious onslaught of plaintive self-doubt and unrequited love.

All in all, it was a terrific night of music from a truly great band. A special thank you goes out to the soundman, who didn’t make a single misstep all night — not an easy task when switching between two bands and a solo opener.

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