Live: A Night of Old 97's in New York

"I always dreamed about living in New York City!" shouts Old 97's singer-guitarist Rhett Miller as the band takes the Webster Hall stage on the evening of June 3.

Formed in Dallas in 1993, the foursome has released eight studio albums, but has remained a live band at heart. And New York, and this storied East Village venue, long have been favorite, if occasionally intimidating, stops for the group. "After one tough gig at Webster Hall a few years ago, I kicked a hole in the dressing room wall," says Miller.

But on this night, there will be no need for post-show outbursts: The band is on fire. "It was one of my favorite shows ever, anywhere," says Miller, 43, afterward.

Although Old 97's is often lazily labeled as alt-country, punked-up numbers like "Give It Time" spark the wildest reactions from the fervent crowd. Another fan pleaser is "Longer Than You've Been Alive," a smart-alecky document of the act's years on the road and the opening track from its current album, "Most Messed Up." Its lyrics about reckless stage behavior are borne out when Miller slips during a backbend, resulting in his head and guitar neck "slamming into the stage."

Another line in the song - "They throw underwear 'stead of money at you" - prompts a fan to chuck a pair of men's briefs at the band, a regular occurrence, to Miller's chagrin. "I would take panties any day!" he says. "But maybe not the tighty-whities."


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