Review: Goodnight, Texas, Elliot Randall, Jesse Thomas @ Cafe Du Nord, 10/26/12
November 1, 2012
Written by Jody Amable
Café Du Nord was a sea of orange and black on Friday night last week, and it wasn’t because Halloween was drawing near. Swinging through San Francisco as they wrapped up a U.S. tour in support of their new album, A Long Life of Living, Goodnight, Texas played their record-release show — almost a month after the record’s actual release — to what eventually became a sold-out crowd.
The night was a strange slice of cozy Americana in a city known for constantly flinging itself into the future. The PBR and the Budweiser flowed freely, for once feeling authentic and not ironic. Banjos, pedal-steels and harmonicas were omnipresent throughout the entire evening.
L.A.’s Jesse Thomas, who does not at all sound like she is from L.A. or even California, got things started with her bluesy, deadpan ballads. Elliot Randall and the Deadmen followed with a blistering, by-the-book country set, a fiery lead-in to the headliners’ more stripped-down — but no less affecting — performance.
Goodnight, Texas’ main men, Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf, are from, respectively, San Francisco and Chapel Hill. Whatever you’re thinking that sounds like in your head is probably pretty close. The new record definitely takes you somewhere, but it’s hard to decide whether it’s to the West coast in the ’70s or West Virginia in the ’30s. Acoustic guitars are accompanied by banjos and mandolins. The songs have a latent thump, a grind, a front-porch stomp. The lyrics hover around topics like cotton-pickin’ and coal-minin’.
Though Vinocur and Wolf have collaborated before, A Long Life of Living marks their first time out as Goodnight, Texas. Without much of an official catalog to draw from, the band broke up their set of album cuts with covers and new, experimental material. For certain songs that required it, they crowdsourced present musicians: friend Kelly McFarling was among those chosen to provide vocals and tambourine duty for “Jesse Got Trapped in a Coal Mine,” the lead single off of Long Life. Though they’re a brand-new, mint-in-box band, fans at the front of the stage already knew the words to several songs, and howled with a strange but sincere enthusiasm for songs of somber subject matter like “Maggie’s Farm Forever” and “Old St. John” — a good sign for a band that’s just barely out the gate.
It was a short set . . . or so it seemed. After 45 minutes or so – a healthy set, but not terribly long and certainly shorter than the band before them – Goodnight, Texas quickly said thank you to the crowd and scurried away to the dressing room. Before the crowd even had a chance to chant for an encore, they re-emerged in Giants gear.
As if they had never left, they closed out the night with more up-tempo work to match the World-Series excitement; a few more group sing-alongs and one explosive cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”: an appropriate tribute to another band that was able to easily transcend time and space.