SXSW Music Preview: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at the Jackpot Music Hall
Prior to researching SXSW 2011 I had never heard of the Detroit, MI based duo (they are a trio live) that goes by the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. When coming across their name my initial gut reaction when seeing clever, witty and potentially hipster ironic names for bands is to dump them (unfairly I should state) into a gimmick category.
Having now had a chance to see the band live they certainly keep their Nascar inspired name rooted in their stage show. When the band took the stage on their first night opening for Tapes ‘N Tapes in Lawrence, KS at the Jackpot Music Hall the group looked as if they had just arrived fresh from a Nascar pit at the nearby Kansas Speedway were I envisioned they had just completed a four tire change and a splash and go on a stock car. I can only imagine that Nascar and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are linning up lawyers and cease and desist letters as I type this. Which is a shame in todays such “brand” conscious world as I like the look that I’m sure confounds audiences at first blush. To further add to their stage appearance american flags are everywhere and two large home made letter boxes spelling out Jr Jr loaded with light bulbs flanked the band on either side and were crammed on to the tight Jackpot stage.
Appearances can be deceiving as the bands sound is anything but what the images of Nascar typically cause to enter ones mind. Its also far from anything you will ever hear blaring out of the PA or infield at Kansas Speedway or any other Nascar speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. have an ethereal pop sound not far from the likes of the Beach Boys. It’s light cheery stuff for sunshine days. They drove the comparison home both on their four track EP The Horse Power EP and live with a very worthy cover of arguably one of the finest pop songs ever in The Beach Boys God Only Knows.
The still early and sparse crowd at the Jackpot was quickly getting behind (drafting if I were to work in a lame Nascar term and comparison) of the band as a member in the crowd behind me nearly lost his mind when they pulled out the cover of God Only Knows midway through their short opening set. Besides God Only Knows their own material comprised the rest of their set and its stuff worth seeking out. Nothing But Our Love shows their writing prowess of catchy light pop tunes that encourage one to roll down their windows, pick up their favorite person and blast on the way to a picnic.
The band is Detroit proud as that towns naives tend to be. I’ve got family in Detroit and know of their undying and unwavering commitment to the city. Thus I found the song they called Its a corporate world and I’m a Corporation an interesting song. I couldn’t quite tell if it was a commentary on the Detroit big three or not. Much like Tapes ‘N Tapes would later in the night the band suffered through some tech issues. The band showed some seemingly Detroit Motown inspired roots on a groovy bass lined song they called Almost Lost Detroit. It was all good stuff I was enjoying and look forward to revisting on their full length album due to drop some time this year as neither song is included on The Horse Power EP.
I quickly found that I had unfairly judged Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. While I’m undecided on weather the Nascar jump suits they don on stage and the name are a gimmick or not their song craftsmanship is far from any gimick. Those that arrived to the Jackpot early enough to catch Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were rewarded for the early turnout.