"I had the pleasure of seeing the Band in 1970, and these guys have got that soul. They don't hit the mark every time, but they've got it."
My friend may have been 73 sheets to the wind, but that is still the nicest thing anyone might say about an ensemble like the Gourds. And I couldn't help but agree: From their first chords at the Lab show on Friday, August 9, we heard straight-up music for the love of it. As the Gourds rolled slow into "You Bought the Last Bottle Last Time," the crowd's heels jittered in anticipation of the bounces to come. Heads bobbed, and lips synched to lyrics. Just four songs into the set, and after false starts to check a crapping-out sound system, one could witness the rarity of mandolins and accordions inspiring a near-mosh.
The Gourds "hit the mark" three times, by my count, and each time the stage glowed a little brighter — once in a rather Band-like Bob Dylan's "Oh, Sister," once in the four-part harmonied refrain of "Join the Band," and once in the Stones' "2000 Man." Other covers of note were "Midnight Moonlight" and a wonderfully ragged version of the Pogues' "If I Should Fall From Grace With God."
Unfortunately, sound problems plagued the show, to the point that lead singer Kevin Russell ended the night — before one of the encores — saying, "With all due respect, I'd like to take the Lab to task tonight for their technical malfunctions." Less diplomatic was bassist Jimmy Smith's mid-show bitch: "I can't hear fuckin' shit. That'd be fine if I was 21 in a punk band, I wouldn't give a fuck." The Lab likely wasn't responsible for Smith's loose amp jack, but it was clear that the venue's new ownership needs to get its act together if it wants to continue hosting music for the masses.
It is a testament to the Gourds' perseverance that, bitch as they might, they played long and hard. If drunken abandon took over in the end, devolving the show into a gerrymandered smackabilly medley of "Gin and Juice" and songs indiscernible, well, call it a dream of being 21 in a punk band.