Concert Date: August 20th, 2022
Sometimes, you aren’t truly livin' in the moment until you’re face-to-face with the moment itself.
Buck Meek’s Two Saviors is one of my favorite releases of the past couple of years, as its many anthemic country jams have been in my rotation since its 2021 release. That being said, when I found out that he would be playing a show down here in Tucson, my excitement far exceeded many concerts I had attended in the past.
In May of this year, I had the opportunity to see Big Thief with some friends in San Diego. I encourage those who are interested in that experience to read Eli Gomez’s small write-up in KAMP's 2022 Summer Update, where the concert is explained in more detail. I share the same sentiment as Eli does in his writing: the concert was just as fantastic as I had hoped. This prior concert experience created heightened expectations for a show solely dedicated to Buck Meek’s (debatably) more personal tunes. Additionally, I was extremely happy to be attending this concert with the same group of friends with which I traveled to San Diego.
August’s monsoon season was nearing its close. Up until the day of the show, it had rained every single day in Tucson. The sky was perpetually gray, and the smell of fresh dew in the air was crisp and nostalgic. The beautiful Arizona sunsets grew more vibrant, yet less common with the pertinent cloud cover. In my mind, these were the perfect conditions for a night of comfort music.
Walking into the main hub of Hotel Congress, we encountered the bustling nature of the bar and the various sounds coming from the hangout rooms that split off from the main lobby: the jumbling of conversations and platitudes, the clinking of beer bottles and cocktail glasses, the ever-present awareness of those in direct vicinity. It was clear to us that most of the people in the room were here for the show as well, which allowed us to become swallowed up in the shared commotion.
Once we entered the venue itself, we were greeted with a warm and bright red light illuminating the stage and surrounding spaces. Waiting succinctly, the opening artist of the show took the stage.
Dolly Creamer played an energetic and modest set of tunes, presenting one of the most personal combinations in live music: voice and guitar. In the end, this is all you need to convey messages in your art. The way an artist can channel their thoughts and feelings through music is already pretty inspiring, however, when said artist strips the medium down to its most minimal form is when it becomes truly spectacular. Dolly sang very personal songs of loss, strength, insecurity, and the duality of life. The verses were direct and philosophical, channeling the lyricism of early punk rock alongside the reserved nature of the singer-songwriter genre. Their unique vocal style paired well with the simple strums of their electric guitar, bringing the duality of their lyrics full circle. Dolly Creamer’s short but meaningful set established the perfect amount of witty humor and philosophical conundrums, a match made in heaven for music that speaks to the nihilism of today’s society. After such a great opening act, the energy would stay consistent up until the end of the night.
After a 15 minute break, Buck and his band walked onstage and started to set up their instruments. A wave of cheers erupted from the crowd in anticipation, and funnily enough, the group still had to set up their equipment a bit, a sort-of timidness lingering in the air. These little glimpses of humanity would linger on throughout the set.
The band opened with "Pareidolia", the first track on Two Saviors. Coincidentally, this song was stuck in my head for most of the day (before the show, I recall singing it out loud with my friends to an almost annoying degree). It was quite the surprise to hear this first, but it was nonetheless cheerfully welcomed. For many, including myself, this song was the first experience with Buck Meek’s solo music, so it was almost symbolic to start the show with the opener of his latest record.
Now, I will not begin going through and analyzing my enjoyment of each song they played, as there is much more to say about the experience as a whole, but there were some definite highlights in the setlist. Throughout the show, Buck would mention how they were planning on recording a new album soon. Therefore, the band played new songs for us, and have been playing them on this little tour!
One of my favorites of the night was “Didn’t Know You Then”, which featured a country rock crescendo after every chorus. I recall looking over at my friends with wide eyes every time this happened.
Another one of my favorites out of the new tracks was “Stories”, a folky ballad with lyrics about the nostalgia of life, and how life itself goes by faster than we can control.
In between the new songs, the band played various staples including (but not limited to) “Candle”, “Second Sight”, and “Sam Bridges”. Closing the show with “Halo Light” was also a really great decision, as it eased the audience out of excitement and into contemplation. The touching lyrics rang out and shook the foundations of the venue:
All our love remains
So why do you feel sorrow?
They came in seasons departed, our bodies left alone
Only love will stay to live again tomorrow
Additionally, this song is also the closer on Two Saviors, which in playing this song last, established a rather subtle through-line that subconsciously carried the setlist to its next destination after every song. This was probably the most tangibly-emotional moment throughout the entire show.
As any other group would do, there would be times when Buck would slyly converse with his bandmates, making jokes about the undetermined tempo of the music (“Alright boys, not too fast… but not too slow”) and the metaphysical concept of key (“Yep, this one’s in E-flat… or D-sharp”).
Whether or not these little patches of conversation are routine is beside the point. The fact is, the little ounces of humanity that come across through Buck’s art are far-beyond the forced “relatability” of modern popular music. There is something so real and earnest here to where a guilty feeling sets in, tailored to thoughts of “Should I be listening to this right now?”
Even though I cannot single out a specific time in Meek’s set where these feelings manifested, I can still recall the thoughts and attitudes running through my mind. Here I was, hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world, listening to some of my favorite music in the world. It's moments like these that are truly worth living for, and I think I realized this in the moment.
I’d like to think Buck Meek is heralding a new era in Americana, one that takes the simplicities of life and questions the reasons we’ve grown to take them for granted. Seeing Buck Meek and Dolly Creamer live was one of my favorite experiences of 2022 so far, and I hope to catch another live show from both of them very soon.
Written by Trey Cardi