The gritty back-drop of the Bethlehem Steel stacks set the stage for an evening of some down and dirty rock and roll by the Athens, GA based Drive-by Truckers (DBT). The band played an incredible hour and 45 minute set on Wednesday, October 22 at the Musikfest Café situated in front of the purple-lit steel stacks of the former mill.

The DBT in full force.

The DBT in full force.

The complementary voices of Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, founding members of DBT, play really well back and forth from song to song throughout the 14 song set and 4 song encore. Cooley has the perfect blend of drawl and baritone.  There is something about the timbre of his voice that’s perfect for the story-telling and vivid imagery his songs evoke.

Mike Cooley warming up early in the night.

Mike Cooley warming up early in the night.

While you lean in for Cooley, you rage with Hood. His songs, no less philosophical than Cooley’s, make you want to pump your fist in the air. They have the relatable quality of the guy down the street who’s been through a rough patch.  Though you are never sure which direction the band would go from song to song, both singers keep the set moving and their audience engaged.

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Hood lets loose.

The band has a dedicated following and you can understand why. The DBT sound is rounded out by three other great musicians: Jay Gonzalez (keyboards, guitar and vocals); drummer, “The EZB” (aka Brad Morgan); and bass player, Matt Patton. They take you on an emotional roller coaster from the beginning of each song to the end . They may start quietly until, what seems like suddenly, they strike a resonating chord that opens the whole song up and completely rock it out. By the same token, they can make you feel like the song is dwindling out until they are ready to bring it back up to get the crowd going again.

The Bethlehem crowd taking in the band.

The Bethlehem crowd taking in the band.

While the show was entertaining from start to finish, there is one small moment that needs to be recorded. After the end of “Play it All Night Long,” (a Warren Zevon cover) the last song of the night, Hood spit on the stage. Maybe he just needed to get rid of too much saliva after a night of belting out songs and drinking straight from a bottle of 1800 Reposado, but I’d rather think he was marking his territory and leaving a little, lasting bit of himself in Bethlehem.

Celebrating a victory against Martha Stewart's Punk rock party planning.

Celebrating a victory against Martha Stewart’s Punk rock party planning.

 Review by Sarah Thatcher.  Photography by Alex Kreutzer of LouderPhotography.com