A little more than two months after Drive-By Truckers blew down the walls of the Anthem with Lucinda Williams, Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood recently rolled into the Rams Head in Annapolis with nothing more than a few guitars, stories, songs, and their humorous nom de guerre as a duo. The Dimmer Twins, a play on The Glimmer Twins of Rolling Stones fame (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards), without an opener or a setlist.
The Truckers have an exhaustive catalog, especially for the uninitiated, spanning more than two decades now. As Mike and Patterson shared, the two have played music for a lifetime now, first playing their acoustics when Patterson was 21 and Mike was 19 years old. Patterson moved out of his parents’ house after a fight, living with a “shit” roommate for awhile, and remembered hearing about a room. He called the number, Mike on the other side of the line, who promptly hung up on him after Patterson said, “Don’t fucking hang up on me.” They moved in together, living in a basement that the builders forgot to erect a house atop. Mike called it a storm shelter, and Patterson said the water came through the floor every time it rained, but they remember buying the cheapest beer they could and playing their guitars all night.
Thus began Adam’s House Cat, the predecessor to Drive-By Truckers, and a partnership spanning three decades.
On April 15 in Annapolis, the room buzzed with excitement while the crowd waited for The Dimmer Twins, cheering and quickly silencing when they ambled onto the stage. Mike looked into the audience, pulling on his guitar strap, and shared that they wondered backstage if DBT had ever played Annapolis. A loud, “NO!” answered him, and he responded, “Well, I guess not, then” and commented on how they should have before deftly slipping into “Carl Perkin’s Cadillac,” a standout from The Dirty South.
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A pair of themes quickly emerged: the singers alternated for each song (much like DBT shows) and Mike would still live up to his nickname Stroker Ace with an acoustic (though Patterson had a few solos of his own throughout the night). Patterson sang the first of two unreleased songs next, “Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun,” before Mike elicited whoops during “Gravity’s Gone.” I find it especially interesting that a band like the Truckers can have two principal songwriters (more than that in their history), can release almost a dozen albums, and the audience knows all of the songs, even the lesser known cuts and the hit songs. Patterson’s “Heathens,” “Sink Hole,” and “The Living Bubba” all quickened the crowd equally to unreleased songs like “21st Century USA” or somewhat less frequently played songs “Pauline Hawkins,” and “The Opening Act.”
Interestingly, the textures and melodies of these songs stood out differently without the raucous rock beyond them, the sadness in Mike’s songs punctuated by the spaces left between the notes. “Sounds Better in the Song,” “Pulaski,” and even “Birthday Boy” felt heavier than any time before, their unrepentant truths just a little more evident.
The album most played by Mike and Patterson was Decoration Day, with five of the 24 songs from that record, including “Sink Hole” and “Marry Me” back to back, just like on the tracklist, a perfect little connection to the way so many of us first listened to them. Every DBT album had at least one song representing, along with two unreleased tunes and an Adam’s House Cat song (the “shoulda been a hit” “6 O’Clock Train”).
The songs, as always, were beyond reproach. What makes a Dimmer Twins show special, though, is the stories and the interplay between Patterson and Mike . The long and meandering paths Patterson takes to get to his point and the terse additions of Mike acting as punctuation. Like the nearly five-minute story about “21st Century USA,” including comments about South Dakota not being southern at all, waterfalls that don’t fall, and 3-star Mexican salsa. Or a lengthy comment by Patterson followed by Mike announcing even George Sr. Knew trickle-down economics is bullshit. Or when Patterson talks about recording a new DBT record and Mike quipping, “And we’ll re-record it a dozen times.”
The crowd watched, enraptured, and when Patterson asked about how long they’d been playing and Mike responded, “Almost two hours,” Patterson shook his head, smiled, and said, “What did that feel like? An hour?!” before playing two more songs and an additional two-song encore.
That’s the best and worst thing about a Dimmer Twins show. It’s over so fast.
Here are a few photos from the show, courtesy and copyright of Matt Ruppert.