In a world increasingly worried that Macaulay Culkin’s band The Pizza Underground is becoming the only appetizing option on the table, The Dandy Warhols have procured classic meaty staples and fresh green sounds on the side. Writers Baltimore-native David Leigh Abts and DC-based Leslie Blodgett feast and dish.
It’s early May and the pools have all just opened in Nashville. After a dip with Courtney Taylor-Taylor, lead singer of The Dandy Warhols, we have followed our ears to the Mercy Lounge where the legendary bandits are nearing the end of a mostly sold-out tour. We arrive as they are sound checking to “Boys Better.” The song is one of the constants in their 20-years-and-running brainwashing experiment to mold mankind into a sexier race.
They invite us backstage while opening act The Warlocks warm up. For some reason Zia McCabe, the multi-instrumentalist, is stuck with two G-key harmonicas. To avoid a Code Red, someone runs out to grab a C. Tonight she also has her signature keyboard and tambourine; a bass, a melodica; and various knobs, synths, and noises.
The band has joked to press before that they don’t know how to play their instruments. We think they mean the music has created them as much as the other way around. After 20 years, not only is Zia the heir apparent to Stevie Nicks; the tambourine bruise on her thigh has blossomed into a callous.
“It’s not a callous,” she corrects us. “It’s just conditioned!” She applies eyeliner and asks whether we’re including this in the write-up.
“Keep it in,” suggests band cofounder and guitarist Peter HolmstrÖm. His expression is deadpan, like Bill Murray. “No problem getting ‘the condition’ past the fact checkers.”
Like siblings, all four of them chuckle and move on. Out front the doors open, and soon everyone is rocking out to the high-spirited Warlocks. They’re killing it, and as they keep reminding the crowd: “It’s good to be in Dandyland!”
Just before the suspense is too thick to drink, the Dandys materialize onstage. Drummer Brent DeBoer’s presence dominates center right. We suspect all the rib cages will be sore the next day because soon every heart in the venue is in sync with the drums.
Zia is holding up stage right with her playground of toys. “Bring us the West Coast!” someone shouts from the audience. She grins and shouts back: “Are you talking about weed?”
Meanwhile, across the stage, Pete slices into his riffs as we admire his dancing fingers. Like a sculptor, carving clay with the same chisel Slash once used.
Courtney is the man behind the wheel of this performance machine. The audience can’t help themselves; throughout the set they toss him bouquets of “I love you Courtney!” Here in what he calls “Nashville with a capital G,” twentysomethings on a mission to reinvent rock party peacefully alongside 70-year-old honky tonkers. It’s a motley crew, but no one is here to play Fashion Police on Courtney’s watch; everyone is too busy enjoying the set. The place is packed.
The band is giving everything to the show, and the audience is giving everything to the band, and everyone gives everything they’ve got. At the end of the night everyone goes home in their underpants, and the venue staff are left to sweep the bras off the floor.
So, the choice is yours. Bask in their tutelage as soon as you can: spring U.S. tour just wrapped, but don’t worry, they’re hitting Europe and Australia this summer and will be back in the States in the fall.
Or, you can keep waiting for the Second Coming.
The band’s first-ever live record, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia: Live at The Wonder—the new incarnation of their beloved 2000 constitution—dropped in March. The LP has two bonus tracks. Visit http://www.dandywarhols.com/.