by Julian Spivey
Mike and the Moonpies weren’t screwing around on the stage on Thursday, August 29 at Stickyz Chicken Shack in Little Rock, Ark. proving they’re one of the best acts in the current red dirt country music scene.
The show was non-stop fun and musical excellence from start-to-finish for the 90 minutes or so the band performed their brand of Texas country music.
The group, out of Austin, Texas, began their set with “Cheap Silver” off their recent album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, which was just released on August 2.
The band somewhat shockingly dropped the album just a year after its previous release Steak Night at the Praise Rose, which is the album that first introduced me to this awesome group, and did so with a more orchestral sound after traveling to London to record with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios – truly a surprise for a honky tonk band out of Texas.
The sound of the new album is fantastic and Mike and the Moonpies showed off the majority of its tracks on Thursday night with highlights including the album’s first single “You Look Good in Neon,” “Danger,” “Young in Love,” “Miss Fortune” and “If You Want a Fool Around.”
One of the highlights of the night was actually the moment that came before the performance of “If You Want a Fool Around” when the band was upstaged, but in on the whole thing, when a couple got engaged at the very first show of the bride-to-be’s favorite band. It was a moment that had teary eyes and smiley faces all around.
Most of my favorite performances of the evening came from Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, especially the title track that had the enthusiastic, though small crowd singing along. Other spectacular songs from the album performed on Thursday night were “Beaches of Biloxi,” which might be my favorite song of the band overall, “Road Crew,” “Might Be Wrong,” “Getting High at Home” and “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be.”
Another of my favorite performances was last year’s “Country Music’s Dead,” a collaboration with fellow Texas artist John Baumann that didn’t appear on Steak Night. It was one of my favorite songs of 2018 and tells about the real and true country bands playing in small venues every night while if you were listening to the mainstream you might actually believe country music was dead.
Mike and the Moonpies is an incredibly tight group of musicians – all spectacular in their own right. Frontman Mike Harmeier has an excellent stage presence and isn’t afraid to move around a bit on stage with the occasional Dwight Yoakam-esque dance moves. Harmeier also has the perfect honky tonk voice for a band of this stature. Lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford plays some nice licks throughout the show, while bassist Omar Oyoque and drummer Kyle Ponder lay down the groove and beat terrifically. Last, but certainly not least is steel guitarist Zachary Moulton, who’s fantastic steel playing is the sound potentially most important to this Texas country honky tonk band.
Being a new fan of Mike and the Moonpies and a music follower ever forced to look forward to new releases without much time to get to a band’s back discography I was way more familiar with the stuff on the group’s two most recent albums than some of their older fan-favorites that had many throughout the crowd jamming along to, but songs like “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” and “Mockingbird” are just as great as the newer stuff. I’ll certainly have to go back in the group’s timeline and see what else I’m missing.
The group ended their main set on Thursday at Stickyz with a raucous performance of “We’re Gone” from Steak Night before returning for a two-song encore that begin with certainly the most surprising performance of the evening in a cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1972 R&B classic “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” which allowed Harmeier to show he could get as soulful as the best of them. The concert ended with another cover, this one of late ‘90s two-hit wonder Fastball’s “The Way,” which the group recorded as a tribute to the 45th anniversary of Austin’s Hole in the Wall venue, which was a launchpad for both Fastball and Mike and the Moonpies.
Mike and the Moonpies put on one helluva country music show and if you have had the opportunity to check them out yet I highly recommend doing so.