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It’s almost a cliche nowadays for rockers to testify that they’re only in it for the beer, but the Waco Brothers are one band you can believe. As the national press gains on them and record sales continue to increase, they remain adamant about not touring: they’ll play out of town if the circumstances are painless, but they prefer to play locally, and sweat out the booze in their own beds. Started in 1993 by Jon Langford of the Mekons and Dean Schlabowske of Wreck as an excuse to play favorite country numbers with friends, the loose sextet began penning originals when the local Bloodshot label asked for a full-length record. Although their spirit hasn’t been altered a bit, the nature of the music has changed over the years since. Cowboy in Flames, the Wacos’ recently released second album on Bloodshot, records a marked growth even from their impressive debut: it truly sounds like the product of a tight, working band. Political as the originals can get–from Langford’s critique of the American dream, “See Willy Fly By,” to Schlabowske’s commentary on conspicuous consumption, “Out in the Light”–there’s nothing didactic about the Wacos. The album’s closing track, “Death of Country Music,” tolls the bell for Nashville, but the band clearly honors the entertainment ethos of country’s golden era–even if it means mixing in a bit of grind and shuffle with the honky-tonk twang. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Karen A. Peters.