So it’s 1959, and I’m in this tired old blues bar in Mississippi. A sickly looking gent stumbles onto the stage nearly spilling his drink on his telecaster. He slurs into the microphone, “I’m Paul Westerberg I mean Grandpaboy.” He begins playing.
Though it’s supposed to be rock ‘n’ roll, it sounds an awful lot like the blues. My toe taps. I can’t help it. It’s catchy. Something about being “Born in ’59.” Nice little ditty, like having the intimacy of the blues mixed with a far-from-sober Jerry Lee Lewis.
The singer is bathed in grease, smoke and alcohol. His sloppy recklessness seamlessly holds the music together. He stumbles around the stage and through a crowd-pleasing rendition of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” My eyes roll back and Grandpaboy officially wins. The repetitive blues progressions send me into another world.
Hmm, I hear a Minnesota accent tacked onto that country twang. Never mind that. It feels authentic. He means it when he sings, “Honey come on, let me drink your spit” and “Next time I O.D. babe, I’m gonna wear a dirty shirt.” My heart bleeds in the name of poetic genius.
Ending with a beautifully lazy-faced version of “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (complete with perfectly off-key sustained croon/yelp), Westerberg – or, rather, Grandpaboy – flops off stage.
I walk outside. 1959 turns into 2003, Mississippi to Isla Vista, and Grandpaboy’s Dead Man Shake sadly ends. In the distance, I hear someone bumpin’ Slim Shady.
Kudos to Grandpaboy for making me nostalgic for a time that existed before I (or he) did.
[Joey Siara can often be found twiddling on a banjo, deep in a sweaty gin joint.]