Joe Buck headlined an intense show at the Mill on Thursday night. Currently stomping up and down the East Coast with the Sawyer Family and Viva le Vox, he’s in the middle of a whopping 170-gig tour this year.
Buck comes through town about once a year, and he’s tried out a variety of venues. From the now defunct Black Cart to the Recovery Room and the Pour House, he’s been trying to find the sweet spot. A show at the Pour House was sparsely attended (I guess the hippies weren’t down with Buck’s intensity), but he’s definitely found it at the Mill.
Park Circle’s army of rockabilly fans turned out in tattooed force to hear Buck’s hellbilly exorcism. There was also a healthy mix of crosstown music fans and bands, including members of the Shaniqua Brown and the Grind Kids.
Eugene, Ore.’s Sawyer Family opened things up with a fresh take on the traditional rockabilly sound that included song intros with cello-like bowing on the upright bass. I didn’t get to hear Viva la Vox’s set because I was interviewing Buck, but I heard good reports from the people up front.
When it came time for Joe Buck to setup, he walked through the room with his guitar and a kick drum — that’s all he needs. It didn’t take him long to get the crowd surging forward to hear the singular pounding of that kick drum.
Buck plays sitting down, so the audience pushed forward in a semi-circle, looking down on him. The people in front end up around five feet from his face. As he snarled and stomped through his set, he picked people out the crowd, connecting like they had known each other for years. He even let C.J. from Grind Kids step up and take the mic for a quick minute.
By the time he got to "Planet Seeth," the fans were pumped and ready for the cathartic, screaming refrain of "Hate! Hate! Hate!" It’s a crowd-stoking peak of his shows, usually coming after the lyrics, "I hate that I hate, I come from planet seeth." Buck earlier said about the song, "There’s just so much bitterness out there. People carry hate and they want to unload it. Get rid of it. I’m glad I can be a part of that."
He mixed it up after that, and even dropped in some David Allen Coe. He was having a lot of fun with his attentive audience.
At the end of the set, a guy came up to him and said, "I’m down here from New Jersey, and I didn’t know you, but I just wanted you to know I really like your music." Buck smiled and put his equipment down to talk with the guy for a while. Then he went back to his RV, probably to have a cup of tea and get some rest before the other 169 shows.