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Old 97s play for the ages

The Fonda, West Hollywood, Cal., March 30, 2017

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Rhett Miller mentioned from the stage how the Old 97s had a chance to slip into the nearby Palladium to check out X earlier. It seems like just yesterday that X's Exene Cervenka was helping out Old 97s with its early recordings. But when the group sang "Longer than You've Been Alive," a song that addresses aging as a band, one realized the 'old' in Old 97s might soon start to be a fairly accurate moniker for the act in an ironically new way.

But you wouldn't guess this from the way the group played tonight. Miller bounced all over the stage and threw in multiple mini-windmill strums while aggressively playing his acoustic guitar. Clearly, Old 97s still dearly love what they do.

They rightfully should be feeling good these days because they're touring behind "Graveyard Whistling," an especially strong effort. From the traditionally country sounding "Bad Luck Charm," to the fast and twangy "Good with God," the album plays to many of the band's strengths.

These songs stand up well, even when matched with some of the better older songs, like "Big Brown Eyes" and "Rollerskate Skinny." Amazingly, this act incorporates many traditional country music elements into its sound, yet still comes off uniquely punk rock. Heck, that's a lot like the band X, which reveals just how much of that act's greatness has rubbed off on Old 97s.

Ha Ha Tonka opened, and everything was going smoothly; well, at least that is until the power went out. But like true showbiz troupers, the act performed a couple of bluegrass-styled songs while up at the front of the stage. They even pulled out a little five-part harmony, which Miller referred to as showing off while praising their set later in the show.

Members of Old 97s may be doing this longer than some in their audience have been alive, but there were a fair amount of people in this crowd that have been attending shows longer than Old 97s have been alive. But no matter the age of anyone in the house, this show was filled with agelessly fine music. If X was able to sneak over to The Fonda after their set, they surely would have been proud.