Bottle Rockets revisit their roots at Hideout concert
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter December 16, 2013 8:33PM
The Bottle Rockets return to the Hideout for a sold-out show Friday night. | Supplied photo
With Otis Gibbs
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Where: The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia
Tickets: Sold out
Info: (773) 227-4433;
The Bottle Rockets exploded on the national landscape in the mid-1990s with a self-titled debut record followed by “The Brooklyn Side.”
The rock-country band sang about white trash, thousand-dollar cars and trailer mamas.
Could they have been from anywhere besides Festus, Mo.?
The Bottle Rockets will revisit the weird old times Friday to promote the double-CD reissue of the long-out-of-print records with 17 bonus tracks, now available on Bloodshot Records.
The remastered package comes with a detailed 36-page booklet featuring testimonies from Marshall Crenshaw, Lucinda Williams and James McMurtry, who was just as odd as the Bottle Rockets when the sizzling package tour came to this year’s edition of the American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. The “Deluxe Edition” package also includes a map, so you know that Festus (pop. 11,600) is just south of Mapaville in southeast Missouri.
“Those songs definitely came out of living in Crystal City-Festus, Mo,” Bottle Rockets lead guitarist-vocalist Brian Henneman said from his home in St. Louis. “That’s been lost over the years. We left there and saw the world. It’s never going to go back to that kind of view unless it is ‘remembering’ it. We went through a period in the 1980s when I wrote an a--load of songs and it all came from living in that place. Even the songs on ‘The Brooklyn Side’ [‘Welfare Music,’ ‘Sunday Sports’ and the timeless pop of ‘I’ll Be Comin’ Around’] came from before. Listening to ‘The Brooklyn Side’ 365 times in a row is as boring as a year in Festus, Mo.”
The Bottle Rockets formed in 1992 after Henneman, an Uncle Tupelo sideman and guitar tech, broke away from the St. Louis band Chicken Truck. Uncle Tupelo songwriters Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar helped name the Bottle Rockets after bringing a sheet of notebook paper filled with band name suggestions to the studio. “It was perfect,” Henneman told me in 1998. “Cheap, Midwestern fireworks.”
The Bottle Rockets broke through in Chicago and the East Coast.
The debut record featured backing vocals from Tweedy and Farrar. The reissue project was remastered and supervised by New York rocker Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Del Lords, Steve Earle), who is from west suburban Batavia. Ambel recorded “The Brooklyn Side” in 1994 before Brooklyn was cool.
“Roscoe heard the first album and came to see our first show in New York City,” Henneman said. “He was the first ‘famous person’ who was interested us. This time, he’s reverted back to our George Martin guy. We fooled around [with producers] in the middle years and now we’ve realized to dance with the one that brung us. He knows what we do, we know what he does. Trust is great when you can get it. You can continue doing other things while you’re trusting this guy to do stuff you don’t necessarily know how to do. It’s good to throw all the technical stuff on Roscoe. He loves it. I don’t even know how to program my thermostat in my house.”
Bonus tracks include Henneman’s acoustic demos with Uncle Tupelo (circa 1991), including Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” popularized by Doug Sahm and a dense grunge version of the garage classic “Farmer John” with guests Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and vocalist Syd Straw. “Some of that stuff had been laying in shoeboxes on cassettes,” Henneman said. “It was neat to hear it again. The [anthemic rock] song ‘Building Chryslers’ has never made it on any record. [Current Wilco manager] Tony Margherita was managing us at the time, I’m not sure if I dreamed it, but I have vague memories of Tony being worried about ‘Chrysler’ because that was in the Lee Iacocca days. I think he advised us not to put it out. And two weeks ago we worked up the first band arrangement of it ever. It was like sawing out a caveman and bringing him back to life.”
And there are lots of caves around Missouri.