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will hoge rocks austin

June 11, 2010
Will Hoge and band on stage

Photo by Alison Becker

Nutty Brown Café is not Red Rocks.

I was there the night after my return from the Tom Petty odyssey in Denver, and I had to switch brain gears pre-tty fast to keep up. Nutty Brown’s is an outdoor venue about 25 minutes southwest of downtown Austin, a.k.a out in actual Texas. It’s a sprawling compound marked off the highway with a rotating neon cowboy sign, I could tell the minute I drove in this was going to be a different kind of night altogether. The men in ponytails were replaced with men in ten-gallon hats, the Birkenstocks gave way to cowboy boots, and BBQ replaced pot smoke as the ubiquitous smell on the air. Buzz-cutted Hays County Sheriffs looked on as the crowd kept the bartenders busy in anticipation of their main man – Mr. Dwight Yoakam.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy Dwight’s music, but I wasn’t there for him. I was there to see Will Hoge. Finally.  I’d heard about him first from my good friend (actually see Red Rocks post, same girl) who saw him in Portland several years back opening for another band. She called me raving about a “young Bruce Springsteen” (admittedly this was right around the time of the Born to Run anniversary and we might have been watching Springsteen’s ’75 Hammersmith Odeon concert a touch excessively…) I’ve been dying to catch a show of his ever since but hadn’t been able to until last weekend. Though, that was not entirely due to a lack of effort on my part. Hoge was sidelined for more than 10 months after a 2008 motorcycle accident landed him in critical condition, with so many broken bones that he would end up having to relearn how to walk. Hoge and the band were in the midst of recording when he was struck by a van one night riding home from the studio on his motorcycle. The accident delayed the recording and release of his latest album The Wreckage by almost a year.

Will Hoge at Nutty Brown Cafe

Photo Courtesy of Rozone Productions Inc.

At Saturday night’s concert he showed no trace of the accident, tearing across the stage, dripping sweat, and even lifting off his own gear at the end of the set. The music was strong, confident, genuine roots rock. Although before launching into the heart-wrenching ballad “Someone Else’s Baby,” he admitted to, as he put it, “channeling the Everly Brothers.” The 10 song set displayed a wide range of sounds and kept Hoge’s guitar player Adam  Ollendorff busy – jumping from a Gibson hollow body, to a pedal steel, to a lap steel several times during the show and even sometimes during just one song. The set was a mix of new and old material, including the first single off The Wreckage “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” Coincidentally, I recently used that song as the anthem for my post so you want to be a rock & roll star. Opening sets are never long enough and 10 songs certainly didn’t do the band justice, but it does have me excited to catch one of their headlining gigs where they can stretch out a little bit.  They are a tight ensemble and they deliver a show every bit as powerful as their studio work.

Will Hoge stage set

Photo by Alison Becker

I caught up with Will and the boys after the show, and they were just as sweet as could be. They’re playing a few headlining gigs in the Midwest through the end of June and then heading out West to open for superstar country duo Sugarland in July. Will hinted that they’d be back through Austin this fall after their next single off The Wreckage, “Favorite Waste of Time,” is released sometime in August. If he does make it back through these parts you can watch here for a full-length interview with the man himself (!) In the meantime, check WillHoge.com for tour dates in your area, this is a band you don’t want to miss.

musicnotesSomeone Else’s Baby” absolutely beautiful live, and recorded.

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