Slobberbone played their final show at Dan’s Sliverleaf in 2005. These are my recollections of that show. The band is back together now and is playing sporadically.
Denton, TX saw the end of an era as the city’s finest band, Slobberbone, hung up their instruments at Dan’s Silver Leaf Sunday night. It was more than just the end of what one could easily defend as the best rock band to come out Denton rock city; it was the harbinger that the end of one of them most fertile musical scenes was almost nigh. The evening overall was a celebration of a decade of rock, but occasionally there was laughter through the tears.
Upon arriving to the rock show, I heard the familiar sounds of a band tuning up. I had seen Slobberbone play long shows before, but this was setting up to be a marathon. Imagine my surprise to see Centro-Matic ready to play a show with their friends. Johnson said the band had driven from St. Louis that day to play and apologized for showing up late. Centro-Matic’s power and confidence they displayed during their set can be described thusly: when driving on I-35 you will see exits labeled, “Runaway Trucks,” & Centro-matic were barreling down such an exit and only the emotional hill of seeing their friend’s last show slowed them down.
Kicking off with, “Post-It Notes from the Mental Hospital,” the band appeared to be the heir to the Denton rock torch. Highlights included, “Fidgeting Wildly,” that Brent Best and the rest of the crowd sang along with at the top of their lungs. Johnson sent out a blistering, “The Mighty Midshipmen,” to Brian Lane. The emotional zenith of the set, however, was the final two songs: “Without You,” which Johnson and Scott Danbom nailed the closing falsetto, “Ooohs.” Johnson ended the set with a new tune, “Sure Enjoyed You Being Around,” that he had finished while stuck in Oklahoma traffic on the 14-hour drive. Johnson said a few kind words about the Bone and quipped, “I don’t even know the lyrics yet, so I’ll have to sing this with my eyes open, which is foreign.” Summoning Lane to act as a human music holder, Johnson stood alone singing his heart out to gently strummed guitar. When the song was over, Johnson saluted Best who responded by taking off his glasses & wiping away the first of many tears that would be shed this night.
A brief documentary soon followed that was shot by Baptist Generals’ Chris Flemmons back in 1997 for the release of Barrel Chested. Dismissed by Doolittle Records as portraying Slobberbone as being, “too much of a drinking band,” (what the fuck is wrong with that?!) the video had never seen the light of day. Aptly described by Best as taking place during the bands, “fat, Waffle House years,” the short film featured interviews with the Bone in varying degrees of sobriety interspersed with live footage. Dismissing critics’ fondness of describing them as a ‘drunken, country rock band,’ each member offered a resounding, “Whatever, it’s still rock,” as “Engine Joe,” and other cuts off the record played in the background. The film’s funniest and endearing moment came when Best on his front porch, beer in hand at a party, performed lines from “Blade Runner,” in a full on Harrison Ford imitation.
“I just want to start by saying thank you very, very much for being here and supporting us,” said Best before the band roared into the one-two punch of, “Front Porch,” and “Placemat Blues.” Danbom added some delicate keys to the more somber than usual, “Lumberlung,” which Best stumbled a bit as he fought off tears on the closing words, “Goddamn this lumberlung/ She knows I’m no longer fun/ For her.”
“Ok guys, drinky, drinky time,” Best said, as he and the rest of the band toasted the crowd with shots of whiskey. Only Lane abstained from the numerous calls for drink, choosing instead to swig from a Coke can. Best soon launched into a rambling story involving San Francisco and some California hydro that incapacitated the band precipitating a frantic exit as house cleaning exclaimed, “Drugas! Dios Mio!” After relating this story, Best pulled out his acoustic guitar for, “Meltdown,” and other quieter numbers in the Slobberbone catalogue. The band picked up steam for, “Barrel Chested,” as wood flew from drummer Tony Harper’s sticks & Best whipped his head back and forth flinging sweat in every direction. Barr kept his composure, chain smoking at his usual frightening pace and playing each solo with annoying ease after which he pointed his finger at the sky with tongue firmly in his cheek.
During the usual closing song, “I Can’t Stay Sober,” by the Showoffs, Best introduced each band member who took a brief solo. Lane jumped on Dan’s bar and nearly knocked off a hanging lamp as he played the intro to CCR’s, “Down on the Corner.” Barr and Harper tried to match David Lee Roth high kicks, which Harper came away the winner when he pointed out, “With one leg!” to the cheers of the crowd. Best said some kind words about Danbom, saying his firing was, “The dumbest, best decision we ever made if that makes sense. It allowed him to join Centro-Matic: the best fucking band playing right now.” It was during the song that Best could no longer hold back and he went around kissing every member of the band before jumping into the crowd as the song climaxed.
At the two o’clock last call, all the drinks were thrown away so the band could continue playing. “This song is how I feel at this moment,” Best said as he finished his beer, leading the band in Neil Young’s, “Big Time,” whose chorus cemented the sentiments of the evening, “I’m still living the dream we had/ For me it’s not over” Throwing his electric guitar at the ceiling behind him and just missing a surprised Harper, Best grabbed his trusty acoustic to play, “Dunk You in the River.” The audience had to finish the song as Best was overcome with emotion and tears rolled down his face as he strummed.
“This has been the best 10 years playing with these guys for you. Thank you all so very much. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Best choked out as he began shaking everybody’s hands and personally thanking them for coming.
No Slobberbone, thank you for delivering the rock. From now on Shiner won’t taste as good and the desire to chase it with Jack grows, knowing that these guys won’t be around to play shows. Remember: its rock.
Slobberbone’s Final Setlist: Front Porch, Placemat Blues, That is All, Get Gone Again, Gimme Back My Dog, Lumberlung, Engine Joe, Billy Prichard, Some New Town, Find the Out, Sister Beams, Meltdown, Trust Jesus, Lazy Guy, Pinball Song, I’ll Be Damned, To Love Somebody, Barrel Chested, Springfield IL, I Can Tell Your Love is Waning, Haze of Drink, I Can’t Stay Sober, Big Time, Dunk You In the River