“Is anyone else sweating like a whore in church?” That’s the question Lydia Loveless asked the crowd a few songs in to her set at Milkboy this past Thursday night. Loveless, the 24-year old country singer from Columbus Ohio with attitude to spare, proved throughout the evening that she doesn’t pull her punches. Armed with her lilting, twangy voice and her beat up guitar, Loveless enamored the audience with her songs about screwed up love, drinking too much and one about how Steve Earl just won’t leave her alone. Her lyrics are at times raw, funny, and honest. I think that’s what makes Lydia Loveless irresistible. Her tell-it-like-it-is approach is charming without being sweet. This sure isn’t your sugar coated pop country; Loveless is completely real and isn’t interested in pretending to be something she’s not. Instead of the usual banter between songs, she preferred to tell dirty jokes. During an uncomfortable silence in between songs, she tuned her guitar and said “I don’t like looking people in the eye” as she fixed her gaze upon the wall.
Loveless’ most recent album, Somewhere Else, was featured heavily in her set. Fans enjoyed the familiar “To Love Somebody” and the incredibly gut wrenching “Hurts So Bad.” Two days after the show, I’ve still got the catchy “Wine Lips” stuck in my head. Onstage, Loveless looked bored at times, at other times annoyed with her clearly intoxicated guitarist who propped himself against the wall for parts of songs. About halfway through the set, after clearing up some technical difficulties with a mic and a cold round of beers offered up from a generous fan, the band settled into a groove for a few more songs. Lydia went solo for her encore as her exhausted band sat on the side of the stage and watched her perform, as intrigued as the rest of us. The encore was more tender material, and Loveless’ voice was still strong. She ended the night with a cover of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces.”
The Milkboy crowd was treated to not one, but two Philly local openers. The first being TJ Kong and (most of his band) The Atomic Bomb doing a (mostly) acoustic set. Their bluesy folk conjured images of beat up trucks and bleeding out in a bathtub. And I must say, Kong’s smooth baritone has a way of making a bathtub suicide almost sound inviting. They also threw in a Tom Waits cover song which fit appropriately into their set. Before coming to the stage with his own band, guitarist Josh Olmstead joined TJ Kong for a few songs as a member of The Atomic Bomb. When The Josh Olmstead Band took over, it was a heavier guitar sound that prevailed. Opening with David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” the band tore into song after song of intricate guitar licks and fuzzed out distortion.