Most of us who have been listening to a lot of music for a long time will tell you that it was much better in “our day.” It’s inevitable, I think. The music of our youth – when we were more carefree and hanging with their friends on hot summer nights with cassettes spinning on a boom box or in a car stereo (or 45s on a turntable, for you folks who are even older than I am) – will always stand the test of time for most of us. But the more we talk about the good old days and revile the music the kids are playing, the more we sound like old fogies.
I suppose I’ve been pitching my tent more and more in Camp Fogey for a while. Quite a bit of the “new music” – I just don’t understand; or don’t like; or both. But I didn’t really comprehend much of the popular music back in my day, either, so I don’t worry about it too much. Still, if all a guy ever listens to is his old record collection, things can get a little stale.
That’s why I’m glad The Mavericks are out there. The Mavericks have been around for 25 years and I’ve been listening to them for most of that time, so they are hardly a new band. But since their reunion in 2012, they have recorded two excellent albums and have toured and traveled farther than Vasco da Gama – and they sound as fresh as ever.
The first incarnations of the band in the ‘90s made headway into country radio with some hits and even garnered CMA and Grammy awards, but were still a little, well, maverick, compared to other country acts at the time. This latest band lineup has taken their genre bending to new levels. With their crunching guitars, raucous horns, spicy accordion, swaying beats, and the incomparable Raul Malo on vocals, they are a rocking Tex-Mex explosion that swings harder than Mickey Mantle on a windy day. Country radio won’t have then anymore, but the Americana scene is eating them up.
And their live show is the stuff of legend. Jennifer and I have seen them six times now – the latest being last Saturday night at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. Every time we see them they look (and sound) like they are having the best time they have ever had. You can’t fake that. Life on the road for a travelling band is hard, so you can’t blame anybody for a sub-par performance – but The Mavericks just never have one.
Back in the day I went to as many live shows as I could and usually didn’t let mileage or having to get up early the next morning discourage me. Stylistically, The Mavericks are much different than most of the bands on my list of favorite live acts (Black Flag, The Minutemen, Soul Asylum, The Meat Puppets; just to name a few), but they share the same “I’ll bleed for you if I have to” premise for entertaining a crowd. I feel the same way about seeing the Mavericks as I did about all those others– I’m going to the show and that’s all there is to it, and I’m going to stand as close to the stage as they will let me. It’s nice to still have that feeling once in a while.