It’s uncommon that Monday night shows in Tulsa bring enough people out to sell out a show. When it happens, you know it’s an artist or band that people have been dying to see. That’s what happened this past Monday night at the Mercury Lounge. Lost Dog Street Band, with opener Matt Heckler, filled the small dive bar to the brim. Like the Sarah Shook show I attended in January, this show brought out a diverse crowd. Sorority girls in sundresses, bikers with sunglass tan lines and a whole lot of people who really seemed to love plaid. There might have been all kinds of people represented that night, but they all came together to enjoy music from Appalachia, good, truth-telling, raw songs and some musicianship that you’d scarcely believe you saw with your own eyes.
Up first for the night was opener Matt Heckler. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t familiar with him, but I was blown away by his performance. However, Matt has been around for awhile. Before joining Lost Dog Street Band on their tour, he was opening for Lucero and Flogging Molly. If you’re a subscriber to the YouTube channel, GemsonVHS, it’s highly likely you’ve seen Matt on there, either solo or playing with Benjamin Tod. It’s rare that I enjoy an opener as much as I enjoy the headliner, but that’s what happened Monday night. Alternating between fiddle and banjo, Matt’s skill on both instruments was evident from the first note. With his lanky frame, glasses and worn plaid shirt he looked the part of a traveling musician. Road weary, but still giving the room a solid set, he started out on banjo, hand held in the clawhammer style. “Haw River Ballad” was the first song, which comes from his new album, After the Flood, which was just released in February of this year. Also coming from the new album was the song, “Leaving Heaven”. Among the other songs, was a stellar cover of “Rock, Salt and Nails” included in the set. At one point during a long fiddle solo, I couldn’t tell if there was dust from the bow flying into the air, or it was actually smoke. I’ve never seen fiddle playing like that in my life. It truly was a sight to behold. https://www.mattheckler.com/
Headlining the night was Lost Dog Street Band, a duo comprised of Ashley Mae on fiddle, and Benjamin Tod on guitar. This evening, like the rest of the tour, they were joined by Jeff Loops on stand-up bass. I didn’t hear about this group until I somehow stumbled up on their name as a recommendation in a music group about a year and a half ago. My searches brought me to GemsonVHS, a channel created by Anthony Simpkins, that features many videos of this talented pair. For the last year I’d been hoping they’d make their way through Oklahoma, but until Monday night, this is the first time they’d played in the state. The band may not be as well- known as some of their contemporaries, but they’ve got a cult like following. With a streak of sold out shows on this tour, as well as millions of views on YouTube, it’s obvious that the fans love this band. Whether it’s their old-time feel or just the relatable and raw songs they sing.
The set began with “September Doves,” off their 2016 album, Rage and Tragedy. Ashley Mae was the spokeswoman for the night, introducing each song and dealing with well-meaning, but obviously intoxicated hecklers. “Terrible and True,” “Coming Down,” “War Inside of Me,” “Using Again” and “Lazy Moonshiner” were just a few of the songs in the set. Although there were a few exceptions, like “When I Went Down to Georgia” or “Oblivion” that were pulled from earlier albums, most of the songs came from the band’s latest two albums. Two covers, one being Townes Van Zandt’s song “Lungs” and the other “Tom Ames Prayer” by Steve Earle, completed the set. The set was about twelve songs total, and it was a crowd pleaser from start to finish. During every song, you could hear at least a few people singing along, if not the whole crowd. When the set ended, shouts of “one more song!” could be heard from the enthusiastic crowd, but alas there was no encore. Oklahoma fans of the band will have to get their fix the next time the band is in Oklahoma, which is an August show at Tower Theatre. The band will be taking a couple months off, before hitting the road again for the second part of their album release tour. Dates for that show can be found here: http://www.lostdogstreetband.com/home/