Okkervil River drove out of their way--in one day--to hit Tucson first on their tour to support their new album, Black Sheep Boy (which comes out in April on Jagjaguwar), because, they admitted, they love Tucson.
And Tucson loved them back; there was a good-sized crowd that sang along and bought the band beers as Will Sheff played his acoustic guitar with his eyes closed. Sheff even got the whole crowd to yell a hello into a cell phone to a band member who wasn't with them. The rest of the band sings along, jumps around, laughs and talks as they switch instruments (pedal steel, trumpet, melodica, organ, guitars, tambourine). They keep a tight grasp on Sheff's songs, which twist and shout in their country-pop beds. The drums and guitar were a bit too tinny, but Okkervil River is the kind of band that can play through and over minor technicalities like that; the songs are warm enough and just messy enough to compensate.
The band played several songs from their last record, Down the River of Golden Dreams, and a few from the new one. They tried to end their set with "Kansas City," from their first record, and Sheff, even after all that warm mid-range singing, strapped on a harmonica and sang even more, while blood ran down his face from some kind of crazy, live-show, self-inflicted accident. It wasn't quite enough for the crowd, who, in their happy-drunken state, egged two more songs out of the band even after that.
Come to think of it, Friday night's lineup at Plush was like three stages of drunkenness: Amy Rude, who can kick up her boots and dance while she wails and plays her acoustic guitar, was eyes-glazed-over, sad drunk. Campo Bravo, the brainchild of Mark Matos, who does a little-foot dance while he plays, played fleshed-out, swirling alt.country that was what's-the-meaning-of-it-all, introspective drunk. Strangely enough, during a night of country-themed music, there was quite a lot of wailing guitar going on. And then Austin's Okkervil River sent the crowd bouncing in their shoes to the moon, Alice.