My last California concert for who knows how long was at the Smithsonian of California music. Magnolia Electric Co. opened for Son Volt. I thought they were great, but I'm not sure the beauty of their songs was there live...or maybe it was just the night. I was glad to be front and center when Jay Farrar graced the crowd with his presence. In most alt.country/americana circles he's royalty. Going back to the days of Uncle Tupelo where he teamed with Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt both now of Wilco, Farrar has been a pioneer in this generation of music. Uncle Tupelo is one of the bands that you can credit for splitting the mainstream up in the early 90's. Along with grunge, there was this other alt music happening with the Jayhawks, Pavement, and Uncle Tupelo at that time.
Son Volt is to Jay Farrar what Wilco is to Jeff Tweedy, and both men show they are happy and in complete control. Son Volt played loud and long. I didn't catch how long they played or how many songs, but it was definitely longer than your average rock show. There was stuff from the first Son Volt album Trace, and stuff from the latest release The Search and everything between. During one of two encores, Farrar jumped on keys to play the piano lick for "Slow Hearse", and it added to the magic of the song. What makes Son Volt special is the ability they have to jump between a rock song and a folky alt.country song. The guitar tech certainly got his fill of changing guitars from acoustic to electric, to Gretsch to Epiphone and back again. He got his money's worth when he joined the band on stage to play guitar in the finale. If you get a chance to see Son Volt, I recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to see a great solid rock band. And if you have a chance to see a show at the Fillmore, do it. Get there early and wander around the halls.