The first thing you notice when you go to a show at Hill Country BBQ here in DC is usually the smell of delicious Texas-style BBQ cooking on the main level. Once you get downstairs, the second thing you notice is how un-DC it is. The small venue which holds about 300 brings lots of smaller (at least in this region) country and roots acts from across the country to a small, intimate stage. Usually you can be right up close and personal with artists who are on their way to never playing to as little as 300 people on a bad night in a different country. I saw Sturgill Simpson play here 2 years ago and I believe there were around 50 people. That singular experience has shaped my love for this little venue in the heart of DC.
So, with that in mind, after the recommendation of this great site's end of year list and word from my girlfriend's sister and her boyfriend, I ended up at Hill Country on Saturday night to watch William Clark Green.
To be honest, I had listened to his latest album a time or two, but I just didn't put in much time with it for whatever reason. Life, other albums, and work can sometimes get in my way, but that's neither here nor there. As the show got closer to start time, the bar filled up with ex-Texans (you don't have to ask Texans if they are from Texas, they'll proudly tell you without provocation).
The show kicked off with "Next Big Thing" off of Green's recent album Ringling Road. By the end of the song, I knew it was going to be a hell of a show. While the song on the album is a damn good song, the song live hit another level. I mean, it had more bite than what is already a biting song- the sarcasm soaked chorus was a stellar singalong among the nearly 300 people there. It did leave me wondering how many people in the crowd had labeled WCG as the next big thing themselves. I mean, it's so easy to do these days where we WANT an artist as honest and as talented as WCG to be the next big thing. We try to will them to be the next big thing. But, as WCG asks, "what's that mean?" But, that's a conversation for another day and beer...
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn't really heard much of WCG until the last few months, so I had no real idea what to expect out of the show. And, let me tell you, that may have been the best way to see the show. I mean, WCG and his backing band played with a cohesion many bands I've seen wish they played with. On songs like "She Likes The Beatles" and "Ringling Road," the band truly shined. WCG commands his bandmates to keep up with his never-ending energy, and they are more than capable of responding to the task.
By the end of the show, it's safe to say that WCG had gained a few new fans. A few years ago I really couldn't get into the whole Red Dirt/Texas Country scene. For some reason, it seemed somewhat bland. It wasn't long after that that it hit me (I think it was when I saw Reckless Kelly and Randy Rogers Band). Since first becoming truly enamored with the whole scene, I don't think any band has been more invigorating or more fun to watch live. I saw Drive-By Truckers a couple of weeks ago at the esteemed 9:30 Club here in DC. It was amazing. I don't know how William Clark Green's career will go. I know how it should go. He SHOULD be the next big thing. He SHOULD be selling out the 9:30 Club along with the likes of Drive-By Truckers. It starts with us, the fans. This guy is the real deal, y'all. Go see him when he comes around. Go buy his whole catalog.