After three decades, eleven studio albums and one solo album from principle songwriter Ben Nichols, the distinctly Memphisian alt-country quintet Lucero has arrived to cut the ribbon on Chattanooga's newest live music venue, The Signal.
And though this is no ribbon cutting ceremony that you can attend, with tuxedos cued out front holding a pair of scissors and a few promises of prosperity and affluence, it's a start nonetheless. This band of brothers is more like your high school football team busting through a banner held by face painted cheerleaders onto the grassy stadium field of your hometown, if the team's uniforms were blue jeans and work boots and the quarterback had smoked camel cigarettes for the last twenty years. I imagine Lucero as a group of guys that grew up on a steady diet of barbecue and blues music who later heard Jawbreaker and never looked back.
Their southern roots would account for the laid back approach that they take to their songs. On the last few releases, they have even been known to incorporate a horn section into the mix. But there were no horns tonight, just a group of guys that has spent years living out of a van and sleeping on floors.
The night began with a song titled "The Last Song" with the prescient lyrics "stay here and dance with me a while." After that, they played a song from their new album and then launched into the opening guitar riff of the instantly recognizable "Sweet Little Thing." And the crowd loved it. There was definitely an audience here for Lucero's music, even if some people in the audience weren't aware of it beforehand.
As the band continued through their set, the crowd stayed rooted to the floor and even danced. In the middle of the show, most of the band left the stage with only the singer remaining out front holding an acoustic guitar. He proceeded to play through a few songs that were, as he put it, "about his old man." After this short solo set, though, it was back to the races as the rest of the band returned to the stage to carry out what could be described as a sing-a-long.
Lucero is not a new band, and I got the distinct impression that the fans weren't new to the music either. There were even a few concertgoers traveling from Atlanta to relive old glory days of late nights and long weekends as heralded by the songs of lead singer Nichols. The band didn't seem to be in a rush to reach the end of their set. Each member knew what he was there to do, and there was no holding back. This was a venue that, unlike most concerts locally where a band may need to meet the room where it is, fit the band like a glove. Two distorted electric guitar, keys, drums and bass rolled over the audience with excitement as the gravely voice of the ring leader brought it all back home.
It was great to see Chattanooga show up tonight. After all the excitement caused by an event at the Mahogany Ball, and now Songbirds Guitar Museum absorbing the Revelry Room, in order to continue bringing bands to town as well as giving local talent a launching pad to grow, the city needs to fill the seats. Now the only questions that remain are: will they continue to show and how big does the city of Chattanooga desire to be?