Editor’s Note: Today we’re continuing our crossover series with The Larryville Hipster on our favorite shows at Lawrence venues over the years. Last week we swapped stories about The Bottleneck, and this week we’re taking a look at Liberty Hall. The venue turns 100 years old this week, but she honestly looks just as young and vibrant as ever. Here’s The Larryville Hipster’s account of his favorite show there. You can find ours over on his site here.
But what’s my all-time favorite Liberty Hall show? I was tempted to go for a recent choice here, because the atmosphere for Janelle Monae last year was absolutely electric, as if everyone there knew they were about to witness a bona fide phenomenon (and they were right). But the evening was sullied a little (in my opinion) by Of Montreal, who followed up Janelle’s spectacle of talent with a plain old spectacle.
So…I’m going to hop inside the old WABAC Machine (that‘s “way back,” friends) and see what I can recall of Lucinda Williams at Liberty on the Car Wheels on a Gravel Road tour. This would have been (presumably) 1999, and I was a fresh-faced scenester just off the bus from Arkansas and in love with all things twangy and Americana. Lucinda’s Arkansas roots–her father’s the great Arkansas poet Miller Williams, you know–was especially appealing to me, and I still think her Car Wheels album is better (and more “literary”) than most novels. This was my first time seeing Lucinda, and I even remember the opening song, which was not something new but rather “Pineola,” a bone-chilling tale about suicide that immediately shut up every whispering fan in the building with its shotgun drum-blasts in the midst of the line “Sonny shot himself with a 44 / And they found him lyin‘ on his bed.” Having sufficiently floored us with that classic, Lucinda played a short-ish set that pretty much consisted of the new album, Car Wheels, regaling us with comforting Southern snapshots one minute (“Sittin in the kitchen / a house in Macon / Loretta’s singing on the radio”) and wailing about the regrets of lost time in the next (“You took my joy, I WANT IT BACK!”). But she wasn’t done. The encore, at least in my memory, was damn near as long as the set proper, stretching back to earlier tunes and a few old blues numbers: I wouldn‘t bet money on it, but I‘m fairly sure that the terrific “I Asked For Water (He Gave Me Gasoline)” was one of them.
I’ve seen Lucinda three or four times since then (including a wild Beaumont show where ladies threw bras at her and another show at Liberty Hall last year where she had a bad cold but still kicked ass). But that first Liberty Hall show remains THE Lucinda show for me. Which Lucinda title best describes the experience? “2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten,” obviously.
Runner up from Chip:
The annual Victor Continental shows don’t qualify as concerts, but those celebrations of boozing and raunchiness and insider LFK humor have provided many of my favorite Liberty Hall moments. If there’s anyone in town that loves a dick joke as much as me, it’s got to be Victor! I’m already looking forward to the July shows. As Victor would say, “Okay, here we go…”.
by Richard (and Chip)