For the first time since 2007, The Weary Boys play the Blue Moon

by Nick Pittman

The Weary Boys
Friday, Nov. 4 with opener Courtney Granger
Saturday, Nov. 5 with opener Feufollet

Any night the Weary Boys played the Blue Moon, it was just like a night in Austin: as fiddler Brian Salvi scratched at his strings like a dog with a terrible case of fleas, singers Mario Matteoli and Darren Hoff shared vocal duties that made girls in well-worn cowboy boots go wild. In a time before skinny jeans and flat brim hats, a crowd clad in faded boot cuts, vintage mother of pearl shirts, trucker hats and thrift store finds nearly stomped the back porch to pieces as they went crazy for the Wearys’ brand of classic country and bluegrass with a punch.

This Friday and Saturday night, The Weary Boys bring that spirit back to the Moon for the first time in nearly a decade. After seven successful years of touring — both internationally and domestically by van, opening for Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, The Drive-By Truckers and Southern Culture on the Skids — The Weary Boys just seemed to vanish in 2007. Matteoli says the years of nonstop touring battered them physically and mentally and led the group that he now calls close as brothers to not get along. After the split, they all found their ways into other projects, which means they only have time for one reunion a year.

The Weary Boys were indicative of the sound that had a great run in Austin and Lafayette during the early 2000s: anchored in traditional and old school country music but played with a youthful, near manic vibrancy. Although the Wearys pulled from a repertoire of sorrow-filled country and bluegrass, those shows were at a nearly unhinged, fever-pitched pace that left the crowd spent. Think “Shady Grove” frantically fiddled and cranked out in beat-the-clock fashion by guys with scruffy beards before beards were cool. Yet, in one quick set list jump, they could slow it down to an old school song filled with hurting and ache — their rendition of “Dixie” will raise the hairs on the back of any neck.

Unforgettable live shows that were the wildest in town meant they were crossing the Sabine River almost every month to play a gig at either the Moon, Grant Street or the Rinky-Dink Dancehall. Rock shows in the same venues often could not hold a candle to their pace — or the crowds they drew. You could tap your foot to it, but you would never be able to keep up.

“I remember when the Moon was still pretty new and we’d play on that back porch and people would start dancing and stomping and it got legit scary,” says Matteoli. “It really felt like the thing was gonna collapse.”

One night, Matteoli would hand off his guitar to Chas Justus — then of the Red Stick Ramblers and now The Revelers — at the end of the set and walk off stage, just to be scooped up by the audience, who thought he was trying to crowd surf.

“The Blue Moon was there for us in the early days,” says Matteoli. “We had more fun there than most people fit into a lifetime.”

Even though they weren’t from here — they were actually Northern California boys transplanted to Austin in 2000 — there was likely no other band that had a bigger thumb print on Lafayette’s young roots movement of that time frame. Their influence could be seen across the roots spectrum in any band they gigged with or any musician who caught their show. Even though bands like The Lost Bayou Ramblers didn’t play the same sounds, the two bands were fraternal twins: roots music with a raw edge and unbridled spirit, alike but from a different seed. Others like Rex Moroux, Drew Landry and Mike Dean adopted a more singer/songwriter and solo approach but the spirit style (in terms of sounds and looks) could be heard (and seen). Likewise, the Moon embraced their old school country and traditional-meets-trucker hat hipness in its bookings and atmosphere.

Louis Michot remembers his band, The Lost Bayou Ramblers, and the Wearys sharing the second show to ever be booked at the Moon. From there, the two bands were almost always linked when the Wearys came to town, gigging together nearly every month. When the Ramblers ventured west, it was the Wearys who opened the doors for them at places like the city’s revered Continental Club. During their tour of California, the Ramblers even bunked with family members of The Weary Boys.

“They were hot, always packing clubs,” says Michot. “The Weary Boys did a lot to shape the Lafayette scene at the time, bringing in the Austin pre-hipster cowboy vibe, and we had a pretty cool country and Cajun line-up full of dancers and drinkers. It was some great nights with them, always a blowout no matter how many people were there. I remember the first show at the Blue Moon, it was just a tiny little porch stage and very small crowd, but everyone remembered that night, and there were never small crowds for their shows again.”

As the Wearys influenced locals, the exchange went both ways with Louisiana leaving an mark on the band. Not only did they cover a Lost Bayou track “Blues de la Frontier” as “The Lost Bayou Ramble” on their Jumpin’ Jolie album, Matteoli jokes, “we stole a lot of musical ideas from the Red Sticks (Red Stick Ramblers) and Lost Bayou (Ramblers) and a lot of other Cajun and zydeco stuff after awhile.”

Another Louisiana experience also had a lasting impact. The band recorded “The Face of Jesus” — about serving the death penalty — after a performance at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Recordings from a 2003 visit to Angola were released on 2014’s retrospective Early Years. Pushing sales for Early Years is one of the reasons the Wearys are headed back to town. But really, it is a chance at having a well-deserved homecoming.

“Lafayette was a second home to us in a lot of ways,” says Matteoli. “We started playing there and it seemed like all of a sudden we had a hundred new friends. I still have some of my best friends from those days. So many people welcomed us in, fed us, jammed with us, let us sleep on their couches. It’s unreal. The amount of fun and hospitality this town has shown us can not be compared with any other place.”