By Evan Sernoffsky
“So what do ya’ll want to hear?” shouts Hayes Carll over the hootin’-n-hollerin’ crowd at Sam Bond’s Garage on Wednesday, September the 29th 2010. Tonight, the audience has more important things to think about than what time it is—better yet what day it is. Whiskey and beer flow freely amongst the devoted fans of Carll, and the man on stage is definitely having his share.
“I don’t want to grow up!” shouts one fan hoping to hear Carll’s version of a song popularized by Tom Waits. Something about his elocution screams either hard liquor or Novocane. Judging from this evening’s ensemble, I bet the former.
Ten bucks is a lot to pay on a Wednesday night for band touring through Eugene all the way from Texas, but somehow Carll knows how to pack the place. His long hair, beard and plaid shirt are the standard uniform of the working-class guitar hero.
Carll’s songs carry a long lineage of American folk and country. Jimmy Rogers, Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt and Johnny Cash all laid the foundation for the songs being played tonight. Carll however, knows his roots and doesn’t pigeonhole himself into one kind of music. “Outlaw country, love Cat Stevens,” sings Carll in one of his jams, right before the band’s guitarist busts into a guitar riff straight out of the Chuck Berry handbook. The crowd gobbles up every note played and every word sang with drunken delight.
Carll is in the middle of a five and a half week tour that started in Texas, headed north through the Midwest into Canada, and is now heading down the West Coast to California. His receptions have been great. “First time we were in Eugene, whoever was here was here. Now we really got something going,” says Carll after the show while being surrounded by a horseshoe of devoted fans.
Onstage Carll remarks that there are a lot of familiar faces in the crowd from last night’s gig in Portland. Driving two hours to see a man they seldom get to hear off the record player is well worth it to the diehard Carll lovers. “The first time we heard Hayes Carll, a bunch of us were painting the inside of a house and listening to Blood on the Saddle on KWVA. We were all in different rooms of the house and this song came on, and we all started laughing and came to the main room. Then we got the record,” remembers Ayumi Kamata. “Now we see him whenever we can.”
Carll isn’t the only one bringing his A game to tonight’s show. His band lays it down hard and provides a rock solid back bone to the man in the middle. “I tell you, I think Hayes Carll relies on his band like nothing else. Those guys are pros,” says Quinn Brown right after throwing back a shot of whiskey.