October 27, 2024
105.5 Triple M Presents An Evening With

Drive-By Truckers

Southern Rock Opera Revisited 2024
October 27, 2024
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
The Sylvee
$39.50 ADV / $45 DOS GA
Reserved Seating Available
All Ages Show

BAG POLICYBags (max size 12" x 6" x 12") are allowed and will be searched upon entry. Exceptions will be made for necessary medical equipment and bags for nursing mothers. We encourage you to pack light with only the necessities to make the entry process as smooth as possible.
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Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers released their third ‘studio’ album Southern Rock Opera on September 11th, 2001. They self-released it on their own tiny Soul Dump label, pressing 5000 copies with a tiny budget they raised by crowdsourcing (as it’s come to be known), raising the money online from fans turned investors. They ended up selling 10,000 copies independently without any sort of distribution, mostly sold at shows during the massive tour that they booked themselves. A tour that began with 75 shows in 90 days and that stretched well into the following year.

The success of the Southern Rock Opera Tour and the album that inspired it led to the band getting proper management and being picked up by High Road Touring, who have been their agents ever since. The band signed their very first record deal with Lost Highway Records, who reissued the album in the summer of 2002 as the tour stretched to the end of the year. A trajectory that saw the band moving from small dive bars and sleeping on floors, to playing bigger rooms and theaters, and touring on a bus.

Southern Rock Opera became the first of a string of albums that has seen the critically acclaimed band morph and continue to thrive for nearly a quarter of a century. The band is well known for its high energy and cathartic shows, as well as for a prolific string of albums that combine astute politics, southern storytelling, and an eclectic approach to rock and roll that has been played at thousands of shows on three continents.

Always restless and never a band keen on repeating itself, people have asked the band for years about the possibility of another Southern Rock Opera Tour to no avail. Guitarist Mike Cooley, never one to mince words, has long responded that it should only be done when it could be performed “On Ice!” Meanwhile, the album has continued to sell, eventually recouping its original record deal, and often appearing on lists of the best albums of the 2000s.

To commemorate the reissue, DBT will embark on Southern Rock Opera Revisited 2024 Tour, playing almost all of the album in its entirety, alongside a few songs that feel like part of the work’s continued relevance to the band. Although the band still holds onto the dream of SRO On Ice one day happening, it’s no coincidence that 2024 is also an election year. Another year full of some of the same contentious issues that inspired much of the original album’s content, which was set in the post-civil rights deep South, in the era of George Wallace and the like. The band plans to play the album, not as a relic of another time and place, but as a continued conversation about where we came from, and where we are headed in this crazy time in history that we currently reside in. As the band says in one of its songs, “It ain’t about the past.”

It’s been nearly a quarter century since we began writing something we called Betamax Guillotine. A love letter to the 70’s arena rock of our youth and a coming-of-age story about a fictitious rock and roll band in the post-civil rights South. An examination of coming to terms with the conflicted emotions many Southerners have had about our home region and something that we referred to as “The Duality of the Southern Thing”. Mike Cooley and I had played together for over a decade in a band called Adam’s House Cat before forming Drive-By Truckers in 1996. We had known Rob Malone since the early 80’s from various bands back home. Brad Morgan had joined us in 1999 and in 2000 Earl Hicks, an old friend who had produced two of our albums, joined to play bass.

We were batshit crazy and wildly ambitious. We couldn’t afford motel rooms so we’d call out from the stage and ask if anyone would let us crash at their place. Most nights someone would oblige, then we’d stay up late, regaling them with this crazy story about an album we wanted to make. A Southern Rock Opera. It would begin with a car wreck and end with a plane crash. It would talk about Lynyrd Skynyrd and George Wallace. It would take a classic rock approach but play it with wild punk rock abandon. It will be loud as hell.

If writing Southern Rock Opera was one of the best experiences of my life, recording it was easily one of the absolute worst. We had this super ambitious project with very specific guidelines of how it should be executed and absolutely no money to do it with. The further we got into it, the more it became a nightmare that seemingly had no end. Tensions mounted and tempers flared. A rift began between me and the rest of the band that festered beneath the surface for the better part of a year or so, before blowing up into a volcanic mass of anger and hurt that nearly ended the band before we could see it through.

Through all of that, we continued touring. Slogging it out in the van and playing shows all over the country. On my 36th birthday, March 24th, 2000, DBT played Betamax Guillotine live for the first time as a work in progress at Atlanta’s Star Community Bar. Up to that point, Betamax Guillotine had just been a wild, some would say insane, idea that we had been pontificating about in our travels. Suddenly it began to sound real and perhaps not too bad.

In our early days of touring, we met Wes Freed. He was based in Richmond, Virginia where he and his late wife Jyl used to host us whenever we would play in their town. He was a gifted and visionary artist, and upon first seeing Wes’ artwork, Cooley and I both agreed that he would have to illustrate Betamax Guillotine. He went on to do our artwork for nearly 25 years. My sister Lilla Hood is a graphic designer, so early on we incorporated her into the team to ensure that no one would ever alter or disrespect Wes’ art on a DBT project.

The search was still on for a place to record the album. Preferably one with a level floor.

Mike Cooley’s wife’s family owned a uniform shop in downtown Birmingham. The top floor of the old building was unoccupied, and we could use it during evening hours when the shop was closed. We would go in at six o’clock at night until around five or six in the morning. We could play as loud as we wanted, as that part of Birmingham was pretty empty back then. The room was huge and cavernous. The acoustics boom-y, not unlike an empty arena, so the sound would be perfect for keeping with the feel of a 70’s live album. And into this mix came our dear friend Dick Cooper.

We recorded all the basic tracks on Hi8 Tape, a now long-extinct format that was often used for video production in the 1990s. It was affordable but often problematic. At one point, all the kick drum tracks on one cartridge of tape just disappeared. By the second week, we knew we had some good stuff, but technical problems kept occurring and the mood of the proceedings was tenuous at best. Somewhere around that time, Dick Cooper talked us into changing the name of the album from Betamax Guillotine to Southern Rock Opera.

In January of 2001, we reconvened at Cooley’s house in Atlanta to complete the Southern Rock Opera. We had done all our basic tracking in the uniform shop space, but now we were attempting to do the overdubs, some guitar solos, and backing vocals. The mood was dark and sometimes awkward as we attempted to get the behemoth finished.

We asked David Barbe to mix the album. He had previously mixed Alabama Ass Whuppin (2000) for us and was previously in the band Mercyland, as well as Sugar with Bob Mould. He was a former road warrior before quitting the road to open Chase Park Transduction recording studio.

Tensions within the band were so bad that several of us were barely speaking. It was Barbe who brokered a peace truce between me and the band and enabled this story to continue as it has. With that, he earned a much-deserved producer credit for the album and has gone on to produce every DBT album since.

Somewhere along the way, we all managed to push the bullshit aside and get on with doing what needed to be done. In the end, we recorded, mixed and mastered Southern Rock Opera for just over $7000.

Southern Rock Opera was released on September 11, 2001. Wes Freed’s cover design featured a red-eyed owl flying up Highway 72, symbolizing dying on the road.

We hit the road harder than ever, playing New York City only a month after that horrific day with the wreckage still smoldering. Over two decades later, some of the songs from SRO are still staples in our live show, and the phrase “The duality of the southern thing” is often used as a way of describing the mixture of shame and pride that so many Southerners feel about our heritage.

A ridiculous album isn’t going to change the world on its own, but perhaps it can provide background music and tonic for the troops as we rally to make a better South, a better country, and a better world. Love your kiddos and do the best you can.

-Patterson Hood (Fall 2023)