Sometime during the year 2013 folk singer-songwriter Todd Snider was talking with one of his good buddies Dave Schools, who also happens to play bass in a band called Widespread Panic, about his love for jam music and wanting to do something like that one day. Snider says he never expected it to come to fruition, but Schools said he was interested. Snider contacted keyboardist Chad Staehly from Great American Taxi and told him that Dave Schools was on board. By the end of 2013 they had Chris Robinson Brotherhood and former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals guitarist-extraordinaire Neal Casal lined up. Schools grabbed his friend Duane Trucks, who just so happened to be playing drums with Widespread Panic at the time conveniently enough. In no time they had assembled themselves a southern rock jam super group and decided to call themselves the Hard Working Americans. Within a year they released an album and began touring. Their self-titled debut album consists of all cover songs chosen mostly by Snide. Newest member Jesse Aycock now tours with the band as second guitarist and pedal-steel player and is set to appear on the next album.
It took them awhile to get here, but the Hard Working Americans finally made it to Saint Louis with a stop at the Old Rock House on Tuesday evening as part of what is being dubbed the High Up On It Tour. For the last week or so leading up to the show there were warnings being sent out on social media that this was going to be a sold out show. Chicago’s The Steepwater Band opened the show on this particular evening, though there are a variety of openers offered throughout the tour. As we arrived we found a very long line of folks waiting to get in and no parking in the nearby lots. So we did what we know best… went a block up the street to 4 Hands Brewing to let the line die down, park the car, and enjoy a few delicious local beers before watching some of the finest Hard Working Americans out there. I did hear many people talking about The Steepwater Band kicking some serious ass and that made me sad for missing them.
As we arrived just after 9PM the door man was informing the woman in front of me that there were only seven more tickets available and the band wasn’t supposed to start for another 30 minutes. We walked in and found that a majority of the near capacity crowd had made their way outside to enjoy one of the most beautiful patios that Downtown St. Louis has to offer, with a great view of the Gateway Arch and plenty of seating… plus you can still hear kind of even see the bands playing inside.
Hard Working Americans took the stage around 9:30 and opened the show with a song they were tackling for the first time live, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around.” The crowd that had stepped outside to smoke between bands scurried their way back inside to pack the dance floor and balcony. The band received a smattering of applause after they finished the song and immediately went into “Mission Accomplished”, a song that Todd Snider wrote for his 2008 solo album Peace Queer. The set included many of the cover songs recorded for their 2014 self-titled debut album including a great version of “Run a Mile” that allowed Neal Casal to really let loose and shine for the first time of the night. This will be an ongoing theme throughout the evening. This was followed up by “I Don’t Have a Gun”, during which Snider addressed the crowd for the first time by saying “Thank you for giving us a chance to make music. We are hard working Americans just like yourselves. And we came a long way to tell you very, very, little.” They finished out the song after a spacey little jam and a crowd singalong of the course, repeating “I don’t wanna hurt nobody.”
One of the Hard Working Americans few original tunes, “Dope is Dope” received a great reaction from the capacity (I assume they sold seven more tickets by now…) crowd. This will also be a constant theme throughout the evening. This song features humorous lyrics about a guy getting in trouble by his mama because she finds his “har-on” but he tries to tell her that its only marijuana… she isn’t buying it though because “Dope is dope and you’re high up on it.” Magically during this song the entire room began to smell like a Peter Tosh concert.
“Welfare Music”, a song recorded for their debut album that was originally performed by Crystal City’s own The Bottle Rockets, was done very well. Todd Snider is a well-known advocate for all things Bottle Rockets, and always seems to sneak a song or mention in during his St. Louis stops. The band was really firing on all cylinders at this point and the crowd was very in tune with every note and word. Snider introduced the band after “Someday Past the Sunset”, a Chris Robinson Brotherhood song that they just began playing last week. He then again thanked the crowd for letting them play music for us. “Straight to Hell”, another cover song that appears on their album became a crowd singalong during each course and seemed to get louder each time.
All I can say now is that shit got crazy. The next like thirty minutes or so turned into a non-stop jam… songs segueing in and out of one another before going to an entirely different song and finishing with teases of what was already played… It started with “Throwing Goats”, went in and out of “Blackland Farmer” like three different times, segued into “Born to be Wild” for a few minutes, had a spacey jam that freaked the fuck out of the random guy in front of me that turned to me and said “NEAL FUCKING CASAL MAN!”, before ending with a Todd Snider fan favorite “Is This Thing Working” wrapped up inside a Will Kimbrough song “Another Train.” It was the jam band that Snider dreamed about starting… and it was working perfectly! Not surprising that this little ditty ended the set.
As per usual at the Old Rock House, the encore break was short as there really isn’t a backstage or green room easily accessible from the stage. The first song of the encore was another original, “Purple Mountain Jamboree.” Randy Newman’s “Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)” followed and let Jesse Aycock showcase his pedal-steel skill. The night ended with a raucous cover of Hayes Carll’s anthem-like “Stomp and Holler”, leaving the jam packed crowd wanting more.
If you left this show disappointed, then I don’t think you were actually at this show. This was one of the best shows I have watched in some time.
Around and Around
Run a Mile
I Don’t Have a Gun
Dope Is Dope
Someday Past the Sunset
Down to the Well
Straight to Hell
Born to Be Wild>
Is This Thing Working>
E: Purple Mountain Jamboree>
E: Mr. President>
E: Stomp and Holler