Cory Branan frequently gets lost in a moment of punk bliss. His head snaps down and then back, hair swishing forward, then in reverse. A guttural growl is summoned. His eyes look as if they have just engaged the ghost of Sid Vicious. Then the angst dissipates into the presence of a Southern boy who likes girls and has complicated memories of growing up in small-town Mississippi.
Branan juggles politics, love, and death with such deft as to question whether he is in fact possessed by the ghosts of his heroes. For the oblivious fan who has come to Maitland’s Copper Rocket Pub just to drink or play pool, a treat of deep fried bacon-like proportions has ensued. Branan opens with a handful of new tunes backed by a band he is calling the Low Standards.
There are three of them in toto, Branan with his guitar and pedalboard, a drummer (of Twin Forks), and a bass player. With just his guitar and pedalboard, Branan’s tunes wander from punk to country to metal. With a band, his songs follow the same meandering path just with a thicker body.
Branan obliges us a healthy dose of both. The middle of his two hour set is a request free-for-all of old tunes played solo. His guitar is not cooperating. He lightheartedly curses it, but Branan soldiers on to cover “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis,” “Tall Green Grass,” “Survivor Blues,” and (this author’s request) “The Corner.”
On either end of indulging our retro fantasies is a set that includes almost every song from Branan’s brilliant new album, Adios. A couple standing stage right puts the small group of super fans in the room to shame. They know every word to every new tune. From the first single, “Imogene,” to the climax of the night, “Another Nightmare in America,” Branan’s ability to stir devotion is plastered on their reverent faces.
Among the nuggets from Branan’s latest effort are tunes about his late father, a woman working her ass off in Blacksburg, and the quintessential stoplight town of “Walls, Mississippi.” Those compositions range from waltz to country to rock and everything in between. The most country of the songs on the new album is one about his father.
“There may be some kind of genius in the way he just, did” Branan offers. Whether that observation resonates from your father or some other mentor figure, you get it. There was a teacher in your life who just ‘did’ his or her craft. Some distant relative always seemed to just ‘do.’ Hell, those folks just seemed to ‘do’ life. We may not always want to be them but we sure respect who and what they are.
“Another Nightmare in America” is a tune Branan first mentioned to me in the summer of 2016. I listened slack-jawed as one of my favorite writers told the story of a tale written from the perspective of a racist killer cop. There are only a few songs left in the night by the time Branan plays it. When he first mentioned the song in June, his eyes were doing that thing they do when the heroes take over his brain.
The introduction to “Nightmare” on this night is brief. “America’s been pissing me off a lot recently,” he half-yells before launching into the pinnacle of the evening. Punk Cory takes flight for a few too-short minutes. He is totally gassed afterward. There are more songs, and each comes out masterfully, but there was clearly a reason why “Another Nightmare in America” comes out near the end.
Cory Branan gives a damn about words, rights, art, and people. Writing on his level would be impossible without a deep appreciation for the human condition. He also deeply appreciates his audience. Branan played more requests than we could have reasonably asked to hear and treated us to nearly the entire new album on the same night. Branan is on tour through the end of April. Catch him on this run if you can. If not, keep an eye on upcoming dates in your area and do not miss Cory Branan live.
Paige Keiner, Andrew Kelly, and Austin Young provided ideal support ahead of Branan. Kelly took to the Copper Rocket with a Micah Schnabel-like rawness — stomping, utilizing the entire cluttered space. Guitar cases of questionable ownership were strewn about as he broke into tunes about living up to your dad’s expectations, or not. Fittingly, the Slumberjack frontman’s tunes feel like Cory Branan fronting The Mountain Goats.
Slumberjack shaking our souls with purest phrase: "I NEVER DID LISTEN TO MYSELF!" 😍/😢Watch both sessions here* ➡ http://showsigoto.com/sigt-session-slumberjack"For Ali Rose, Life is always worth what it cost to live." -Andrew Kelly.Filmed, edited, and recordedChad Andrew Pearcearce. <3*Tissues not included.
Posted by Shows I Go To on Thursday, November 24, 2016
Cory Branan Live Review & Photos by Jason Earle.
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