Keeping Jive Alive (2001-03)

Following the new album's release, the band committed to a regional  tour, named it "Keeping Jive Alive" after a Neil Young lyric, and set out in support of their album.  What was intended to last a year or so tops wound up going over two. A calendar that included 35 or so local shows in the latter part of 2001 expanded regionally to nearly twice that number in 2002, and it more than doubled that number in 2003. Instrumental arrangements from the studio were transformed from 7 and 10 minute chapters into mammoth 40+ minute novels. Set lists were changed up for every show. Songs became seamless in transition, and new songs popped up regularly to this end. And while the primary focus was on the expression and exploration of their originals, any given night was sure to included one or two covers from an impressive lineup of artists ( Robert Johnson, Bill Withers, Traffic, The Band, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles to name a few). And so it went eventually reaching the point where hustling for headline slots on triple billed nights at the uptown club lost out to "an evening with" shows of two 90 minute sets at their favorite venues.

Live music became every bit as much the Peach Truck's intention as trying to make meaningful records had been. Much to their own delight, the five musicians who had seemingly discovered themselves in the studio soon realized that they had only begun to find out who they were—not only as musicians but as people. They took to the stage like fish to water. North and south from Fayetteville to Houston and east and west from Tyler to Lubbock, The Peach Truck built and rotated through a regional tour that encompassed a 6 hour radius of their Fort Worth home (traveling as far as their day jobs allowed). The press was kind, and news of the band began to get around.

During these quarterly rounds, they developed a close knit network of friends and families, one that included fellow musicians and live music fans alike. The process was simple; they'd  search out jam friendly venues in whatever town they were venturing to, and the band would put down roots. It was from this process, however informal, that friendships grew and hotel rooms went by the wayside. One night a club manager would feed them an after-hours breakfast from the kitchen just before tucking them in on the stage to sleep, and the next night, with equal enthusiasm, they'd be honored by a backyard barbeque at 4am and a place to crash out on the living room floor. Favorite venues became exclusive, and meeting once again with the folks who'd taken them into their homes became synonymously associated with a given town's performance to be. The mailing list archive says it all: birthdays were celebrated; baby's were born; bones and hearts broken; original posters were made for every show; set lists were anticipated; bail money and set lists were posted; music awards were received and reviews were read; new bands and new music were introduced; and special thanks were given out by the dozen—time and time again. Lives and music are the subject matter, and they are held dear.

Along the way the band made friends with a host of talented musicians. They supported, referred and vouched for, advised and influenced one another. Likewise, they circulated live recordings and spread news by word of mouth to their respective fans.  Among others, this circle included fellow North Texas bands the likes of Spoonfed Tribe, Mellowship, and BAGG; Norman's Bridge Road Caravan and Tulsa's Sun Cured Red; Houston's Plump and  Moses Guest; as well as Austin's LARRY and Groovin' Ground.

A working philosophy began to evolve within the context of these many relationships—friends, family, bands, and venues—and though it was by no means codified, it was often times verbalized: "We make little or no distinction between ourselves, our sister bands, and the venues that host us."  Born as much from necessity as virtue, they championed an all-inclusive manner of relating themselves. It came naturally, and, while thought no better or worse than any other, it was a way that worked for them. Regional and national acts that passed through were given bills to jump on and a clean place to sleep. Venue's were closely worked with in the arrangement of billing, publicity and promotion. And the band's approach to the media went from formal and uncomfortable hyperbole to a personal one-on-one approach that sought to bolster live music in general every bit as much as it did to provide exposure for the band. Every penny made was reinvested. And everywhere around them faceless objects were transformed into real people. Whether it was the chicken or the egg was never a question; they were fully aware that the greatest transformation had somehow come from within.

Exposure to new circles of music lovers affected the band tremendously. Their taste in music expanded from ABB and the Dead on to Dave Grisman and Old and In the Way, on to the Derek Trucks Band and Government Mule, on to Medeski, Martin and Wood, Moe, Widespread Panic, and on and on and on (and so it still goes).  And while the love and discovery of music would seem just part of the honeymoon for most bands, the truth is that it's been the Peach Truck's absolute savior on more than one occasion.

Indeed, what they were able to create on the stage and in the studio, often times, was the only thing that kept them bound together at all. Exposure to new music and the subsequent incorporation of new musical ideas just managed to outpace what might be best described as exposure to one another. Delusions and assumptions, false attributes and unrecognized virtues alike—they all came into the light during the long hours spent going to and from shows. The band mates and their soundman, hither to accountable only for the mere intimacy that one finds in the live music setting, were forced to get to know one another both on and off the stage.  Musical problems reflected personal problems and often found their way into the live show.

Forming a working partnership, one that attempts to capitalize on assets and to minimize liabilities, is a task that every organization faces. Differing personalities can make that difficult. Problems of finance and stability can reek havoc like the plague. The handling of seeming success and failure, failed expectations, surprise benefits and setbacks of every kind—all must be dealt with. Finding the ways and means to exist under these pressures, all for the love of music, that might just be the Peach Truck's real story.  It's a fast moving train, trial by fire, a most unexpected proving ground, and more than a few members have come and gone over the years. And the same will likely be true in the years to come.

Good intentions win support where emotional appeal seems to buckle. Notions of stardom and delusions of grandeur shamefully dissolve in the face of hard work. Distilled to its essence, overall, as evidenced both in their music and in their manner, one finds a rather simple story about a handful of friends. They're growing up, learning to better live and experience life. And they are doing so as a result of making of music together. No other plot can be imposed. Those that would try are inevitably written out of existence.

The thrust of the band comes from strong personalities that were self-made and self-taught. And it's hard to talk to characters like that about things that lie beyond the realm of labor. Talent only goes so far. Luck is scoffed at. Privileged birth is thought of as added responsibility, etc. But those views aren't without their equally legitimate counterparts. A case could be made in showing how the advent of MTV and the X-generation's ambition for fame likely helped to shape one side where Rifleman reruns and rural country radio likely helped to shape the other.  Forces of attraction and repulsion are strong at work around here. Talk is cheap, but name calling is not infrequent. The personal notion of one individual is seldom that of another, and opinions are expressed without reservation . What one will endorse another will oppose, and both somehow achieve identity through the interaction.  And so each individual moves forward in this band, without need to apologize, championing his cause as much as his instrument. At least that's the idea. To put it simply, when looking at the sum of these parts, one finds all the dynamics of a family—the good and the bad.

This is a group of  musicians (people) who either worked their way through community college and state school on scholarships or quit after a semester, or got kicked out, or lie about where they went, or never went at all. Half of the bunch was married with regular jobs and a family before they ever took up playing in the band. Ask them what they do during the day and they'd say their day jobs. Ask them if they consider themselves to be musicians and you get some avoidance of the question. They are an atypical lot, but that seems to give them a bit more room to say what goes when it comes to living their lives and playing their music. And they have no qualms about exercising that right; it comes with a conviction and a genuineness in self-expression that one doesn't often find in this business. Take it or leave it, but it's there (welcoming spirits in kind on the one hand while repealing like the devil with the other).  Lofty ideals (...spiritual development and the building of character?) come around in conversation as often as the subjects of pretty women and strong drink do, and though the former may seem, at times, out of place in a rock band, it's no less real to them than the latter. It's a strange marriage of experiences, indeed, this one that gives rise to an ethos that, upon inspection, seems at once both spiritual and carnal. But it makes this band tick.

Given its music, much less the personalities that create it, it seems plain that The Peach Truck does not want to become yet another consumer good (fair enough). If there are any set ideas at all, that one seems to permeate the band, and while there's no lack of readymade associations (from hippie to redneck), the band itself doesn't seem to make any particular sales calls. And so when it comes to branding them all together, much less as individual band members, the task is awkward at best. Often times it seems to shake hands with contradiction. An hour of exploratory music places listeners squarely in the psychedelic music experience, but that gets put in check when the band emerges with a well crafted four part vocal harmony (...stumped, if not pleased). Half the band wears cowboy boots, but that's often overshadowed by their shoulder length hair (or lack of). Most are tattooed. One looks like an American tourist back from the African continent and another looks like they just got off the second shift from a warehouse. They are skinny. They are fat. They are wrinkled. They are pressed. They are who and what they are. And they seem to be without a need to prove that they do or don't take themselves too seriously, that they are or are not down to earth, that they are or are not selling more than music. One song quotes the Bible and another boasts of debauchery.  It'll be your cup of tea, or it won't.  It's Christian Socialism mixed with horse sense and a pinch of that Yen Yang stuff—a feeling that you can't be blamed for doing what's in front of you, that we're all cut from the same cloth, that we're all responsible, all equal, all obliged to help one another rise to new occasions (whether we concede to  it or not). Some like it, some don't. The band says it's nothing new—all that music ever is or ever was. Go figure.

This much is certain, through their endeavors to discover music together, the musicians in this band also seem to find and shape one another. What would seem the means becomes an end with bonus tracks. And so it follows (in the end) that we may judge them accordingly—as they judge themselves. It is by their fruits that we shall know them. And they'd have it no other way.

The Peach Truck Republic is but a footnote in the pages of rock history; the numbers we're talking about, after all,  are in the hundreds, not the thousands. But for what seems this band's reason and rhyme, this fact is as it should be.  Among the many footnotes that one may find when referencing regional acts, theirs is a hyperlink into the very existence of those few that it refers to—people who are ever so close, regardless of role. They have been drawn together in an intensely meaningful and lasting way, and it is their shared love of music, the live music experience in particular, that has made this possible. Indeed, what else is there?

 

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