After thanking the crowd for coming out, Watson made the first of his many pitches for Lone Star Beer. (When I saw Watson perform at the Continental Club in Austin is September, Watson made several Lone Star pitches. At the time, I thought it was something he only did at his regular gigs in Texas.) Iota doesn't serve Lone Star, but the club does have another Texas favorite, Shiner, on tap. A member of the audience was quick to point this out. Of course, Watson argued Shiner just wasn't the same and went on with his Lone Star pitch with his right hand curved as to say "someone put a beer in my hand".
(Dale Watson on stage at the 2008 Richmond Folk Festival)
Seeing Watson wouldn't settle for the Shiner alternative, it wasn't long before members of the audience presented Watson an option he could live with, a steady stream of whiskey shots. After throwing back the first shot, Watson settled into a pattern of performing a song or two, making a pitch for Lone Star and/or telling a story, throwing back a shot, and then taking a request. Many of Watson's shows revolve around audience requests, which seems to work well for him because most audience members know his material and the classic country artists whose material he likes to cover. But, occasionally some dumbass in the audience will begin to yell for something totally absurd. This time around someone in the back of the club began yelling for Watson to sing something by Mojo Nixon. Watson played it off well, saying Nixon was friend of his.
After being on stage for an hour so, Watson had knocked out a few requests, including his own "Wine, Wine, Wine" and Ray Price's "Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Women". At that point, Watson had also knocked back a few shots and a few beers. The between song Lone Star pitches were replaced with drinking stories about bad experiences with different types of liquor. For better or worse, these stories just inspired the audience to supply shots of the liquor the stories centered around. Soon, Watson found himself trying to knock back a shot of Southern Comfort. During the song that followed, Watson showed a little facial contortion. After the song was over, he admitted to throwing up "a little" in his mouth. Lucky for him, the Peppermint Schnapps shot that followed went down a little more smoothly.
During Watson's second hour on stage, and for obvious reasons, the pace of the show slowed somewhat. Watson did perform his version of "Fox On the Run", a song brought into the country & bluegrass world by groundbreaking D.C. bluegrass band The Country Gentlemen. (A mention of the Gents would have been nice, but maybe Watson learned the song from the Tom T. Hall version?!?!) Fiddler Don Raby was featured on "Orange Blossom Special", with the kicker being the band playing a portion slow motion, as opposed to kicking the song into hyperdrive as many bluegrass bands do. And, Watson played two of his odes to Ginny's Little Longhorn in Austin, "Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint" and "No Fussin', No Cussin'".
Around the two mark, Watson broke into one of his anti-Nashville establishment songs, "Country My Ass". The song has a slightly awkward meter to it to begin with, but with the number of shots Watson had put down at that point, the song became somewhat of a trainwreck. But, Watson did quickly comeback with a nice version of Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings", which Watson said would be his last slow song of the evening.
After two and half hours on stage, at least eight shots and with Watson working the Del McCoury squint, he had outlasted me. I headed for the exit as the clock neared midnight, but Watson was showing no signs of leaving the stage. I'll readily admit the show was well worth the $15 cover and I'm sure the folks who stuck around until Watson wrapped up the show more than agreed with me.
(A short postscript. "J.D." attended Watson's show in Richmond the following night and reported that Watson showed no ill effects from Monday night's show. "J.D." also reported Watson continued with the Lone Star pitches. So much so, "J.D." thought Watson was on retainer for the brewery.)