Dave and Jimmie

Show Review: Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore at Birchmere

Show Reviews

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore with The Guilty Ones
Dead Rock West
The Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia
August 16, 2023

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Flying down the highway, bound for The Birchmere for this show, I was enthralling my bestie with the 1991 installment of my never-ending Chronicles of Concerts Past, expounding the circumstances of that first time I saw Dave Alvin play, and of how amazing that show was, while she was surreptitiously fumbling with the lock on passenger door of my car in a futile attempt to eject, stop, drop and roll at 60 mph. In an effort to spare her poor ears the pain of what I’d considered an unnecessary detail at that moment, I did not mention the venue.

That particular detail I shared with Dave Alvin himself and Joe Terry back in the early 2000s, post-show at the venerable Iota in Arlington, and mentioning it became a “Holy Shit” moment. That November 1991 gig, at Pauly’s Hotel in Albany, New York, carried some psychic weight, because Dave and Joe lit up at its mention. It was an over-the-top triumph for the fans, and it must have meant something to the band too because they were recalling the evening with enthusiasm.

Some venues just have that magic.

The Birchmere is one of those – it’s survived good times and bad, and has hosted just about every music industry luminary ever to have graced the industry for the past 55 years. In light of Dave Alvin’s continuing battle with stage four colorectal cancer, and no doubt confronting the likelihood that he’d never see The Birchmere ever again on this plane of existence, playing there provided ample cause for celebration – both on stage, and in the audience.

Celebration there was – the mood was evident just walking in the door, and it engulfed the capacity crowd in a tidal wave as the band kicked off the opening strains to “Downey to Lubbock,” the title track from Dave’s and Jimmie’s 2018 album, and it did not let up until after the reprise at the end of the show. Drummer Lisa Pankratz and her husband, bassist Brad Fordham kept the action moving in perfect time through the whole show. “Fancy” guitarist Chris Miller’s countrified playing wove and ducked through Dave’s Stratocaster blues, and Jimmie’s serene presence, soulful voice and rhythm playing added a touch of the Divine to the proceedings. The nearly two-hour long set drew from Jimmie’s and Dave’s solo material, along with nods to The Blasters, songs from the aforementioned Downey to Lubbock album, and some new songs – most notably “Borderland,” from a forthcoming album.

During the show, Dave made special mention of the recent passing of Shelly Haber, who managed his early solo work and The Blasters, and expressed profound gratitude for her role in the path that led us all to The Birchmere that night. More poignantly, Shelly succumbed to the same disease Dave continues to fight today. He also sent up positive vibes for his brother Phil, who has been battling medical issues for some time.

Dead Rock West

Dead Rock West

Cindy Wasserman and Frank Drennen, otherwise known as Dead Rock West, carried the opening act duties with aplomb, delivering a wonderful acoustic set of original songs, as well as a couple of Everly Brothers tunes. Their a-capella delivery of The Everly Brothers’ version of Jenny Lou Carson’s “Chained to a Memory” rendered The Birchmere audience wowed silent and ecstatic, until the room erupted in applause.

Do not miss this show.


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