Monday, February 11, 2008

The Reivers: I Keep Some Words Here In My Pocket for Such a Rainy Day

For a few moments at The Reivers reunion show at The Parish in Austin last night, it was 1985 again.

The kids who used to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee at Quacks or Les Amis, who used to hunt for records at Sound Exchange on the Drag, who used to queue up outside the Liberty Lunch were there. Most are a little thicker around the middle and maybe showing a little -- or a lot of -- gray. Or a receding hairline. Some of them brought their kids.

But they were there, pulling on a Shiner or a Lone Star, shelving middle age anxieties for a couple of hours to remember what life was like before mortgage payments and Blackberries. One woman -- in true Michael Stipe fashion -- was rocking her FFA jacket. A couple even wore their old-school Reivers' t-shirts.

And it was a good night and a good show.

The Reivers -- John Croslin, Kim Longacre, Cindy Toth and Garrett Williams -- were one of the biggest deals in the Austin scene in the mid-1980s. They never made the splash that Stevie Ray Vaughan did. Hell, they never made the splash Timbuk 3 made. But the two sold out shows over the weekend tell you that even though this band broke up in 1991 without reaching the same heights as other Austin acts, it still has a special place in the hearts of many a current and former Austin resident.

If you are looking for a good overview of who The Reivers were, or maybe you just need a little refresher course, go no further than Michael Corcoran's excellent remembrance on the Austin 360 Web site. He pretty much nailed it, and he was there to know. Below is a video of how they did it back in the day:

Last night, in the second of their two shows, The Reivers sounded like a band that hadn't played together in over 15 years -- not especially tight and they missed a few notes early on. And I'm sad to say that Longacre -- who could make the hair on the back of my neck stand up back in the 80's -- doesn't quite have the pipes she used to.

But these are mere quibbles. The Reivers still rocked and their got better as the night wore on. Longacre jumps around on stage pretty good for a middle-aged mom. Her harmonies with Croslin still evoke the same magic. Toth is still enigmatic. Williams plays the fuck out of his drum kit.

To provide a little more context for those of you in the 817, the Reivers emerged from the Austin scene in mid-1980s as a band called Zeitgeist. You can see them above on MTV's Cutting Edge, circa 1985, along with Daniel Johnston. Cut from the mold of the jangly R.E.M.-influenced bands of the time, they released an excellent album called Translate Slowly, a moody album perfectly calibrated for my brooding teen-age soul. As much as I loved all the songs on that album, what really struck me was two covers: Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "The 4Country Reporter Theme." These guys could rock, but they knew Texas. They were people like me. They loved Willie and Bob Phillips. They even ripped off the Texas Rangers logo of the baseball wearing the cowboy hat for their very own.

I listened to Translate Slowly approximately 150,000 times. I used to look at the back of the album sleeve at the black and white photograph of the band members sitting around a table, playing cards and drinking bottles of Shiner Bock and cans of Bud. I remember thinking, 'Man, Austin's a place I need to get to.'

Back then, that was the music of the future, the siren song of impending adulthood. And Austin called out as a good place get life started.

And I got to Austin. By the time I arrived, a lawsuit from another band with the same name prompted a name change to The Reivers, but I saw them and Joe Ely and the True Believers and a bunch of other great bands play during my time there. And I smoked cigarettes and drank Shiner, played spades and hung out with my friends just like those kids on the album sleeve. I even met my first Austin girlfriend at a Reivers' album release party on a cold, blustry winter day in the parking lot of the old Waterloo Records location.

And though the girlfriend wasn't around much longer than an album side, one cut off of that record, The End of the Day, I still carry around with me to this day. It was the next-to-last song they played last night, "Star-Telegram." It's still my favorite song ever about Fort Worth -- a beautiful piece of 1980s nostalgia for growing up in the early 1970s.

And that's where everything turns around. As I listened to that song last night, I was very aware that it was not a part of the soundtrack of my future, but rather my past. Now, when I put those old albums on and thoughts of Austin spin above my record player, I'm in Fort Worth. I've got a kid of my own who wears t-shirts and listens to rock music. Funny how that happened so quickly.

But, I'm lucky. Sure, time goes by all too fast, and many of the kids I enjoyed those Austin days with are now scattered all over the globe -- from Brazil to Ireland to Australia. But I still have some good old friends around who remember those days. And from time to time, just like yesterday afternoon, we can sit under a towering oak tree on South Congress in the long shadows of afternoon and share a drink and a laugh and listen to a little music.

That's really what I took away from last night at The Parish. -- for me, Austin is like Hemingway's Paris -- it's really a moveable feast. There's never any end to it. No matter how much you change or it changes, you can still return to it. And it's always worth it.

To Kim, John, Cindy and Garrett, thanks for the reminder. Thanks to Russ and Shannon for a good trip.

Thanks to jbeckham for the photo.

UPDATE: Read the Austin 360 review here.


Mike said...

You lucky, magnificent bastards. That's all I got.

a.k.a. sunlit doorway said...

great post, Steve. i used to see Zeitgeist and the Dharma Bums and the other "new sincerity" bands of that era and place. "New sincerity" music was the perfect backdrop for the phase I was in, experimenting in Austex as a 22-year old. i saw The Reivers at a bar in Fells Point in Baltimore in the summer of '86, and was happy to meet my fellow austinites outside of our original context. austinites are everywhere, like dander or sexy memes or mellow memories. thanks for reminding me. btw, Abra Moore was on some news show today, she's still kickin it. that's good.

Steve said...

Man, thanks for the walk down college lane. Zeitgeist/Reivers used to come down to College Station every couple of months and we'd always drive to Austing to see thim. It was all about Kim's voice on songs like Secretariat, Ragamuffin Man, In Your Eyes. I couldn't have said it better than you. Saturday was always my favorite album but I could never find the CD.

Saw the Trubes one time in College Station. They were a couple of hours late due to a storm and played in front of about 10 people. One of the greatest shows I've ever seen and my first experience with Alejandro. I remember alot of other bands from that age: Bad Mutha Goose, Twang Twang Shocka Boom, Ten Hands (Dallas). What great memories, thanks for the post.

Steve said...

I just found out a remastered Saturday is available thru amazon:

Chriz said...

A-men brother. A-men. If I'd known about that show I sure as hell would've made the trip from Cowtown to Austin to see that. Shame on me.

I used to go to so many shows that I convinced myself that Kim Longacre thought I was a stalker. That's some strange dumb logic, but there you go.

As a Houstonian, I got the double treat of seeing them all the time in Austin. Then, over summer break, they'd typically come to Houston at least once for a show at Fitzgerald's. Special bonus - watching "Zeitgeist" open up for Billy Bragg at Continental Club. How about that, eh?

I remember they had a song about the Star-Telegram, too. I didn't have any idea what the heck that was back in 1985. Took me moving here to figure that one out.
Wow, Good Times, man. Good Times indeed.

Steve said...

Croslin's a FW guy. Plain and simple.

textile_fetish said...

Hey, I just saw Kim at the local place where I buy my coffee. I saw her Easter weekend performing with the Reivers at an art show (house party-like setting) and I'd taken some good pictures of her and the band. It was just too perfect. This was THE band of my husband's college days and there we were (with kids) drinking keg beer in an East Side back yard.

Steve said...

Post them man!

Steve-O said...

My man SteveB, who left so many comments on this post, slipped the bonds of this mortal coil this week. You'll be missed, my brutha.

May the wind take your troubles away.