Steel Train

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Creepy Crawl, St. Louis, November 17

There is always a moment before a show that can make or break your attitude going in, a defining instance that helps form a memory. The evening of November 17, Jack Antonoff of Drive-Thru Record’s resident jam band Steel Train made his rounds with a tray of shots for the rest of his crew. Like a scene from Animal House, the shots were slammed, and the guys were “pumped.” I knew I was in for a show.

As openers House of Fools wrapped up their acoustic-ridden, alt-country set, Steel Train lackadaisically took the stage at the tiny Creepy Crawl, and the STL stop of the Steel Train chugged on. Opening with an avant-garde jam session, akin to the tracks on their recent full-length Twilight Tails of the Prairie Sun, Steel Train alternated between swooning sounds of slide guitar, “face meltin’” electric rifts, and moments of pure funk jams. Vocalists Anotoff, acting as front man, and Scott Irby Ranniar, acting in a marijuana-induced coma, split the set. Anotoff’s vocals were best displayed in “Better Love,” an upbeat, alt-country plea to ex-gal and actress Scarlett Johansen, while Ranniar opened his glazed eyes long enough to wail through the ironically titled track “Blown Away.”

Toward the end of the show, Steel Train slowed down for the two permanent components of their sets: their signature “Road Song,” a seeming mission statement boasting such lyrics as “I know there’s room on this steel train, and we’re gonna ride it ’til the end,” and a cover (usually a surprise to the audience), Ryan Adam’s “Sweet Carolina.” Anotoff invited House of Fools back onstage for a (however clichéd) truly moving a cappella rendition. But this serenity just couldn’t last long. After begging for two more songs, Steel Train peaked with jams “Cellophane and Glass” and “Gypsy Waves,” complete with funk/salsa rhythms, mind-blowing extended guitar solos, and almost (too) sporadic vocals.

The band wavered off stage as I hoped for an encore. In fact, I sit at my computer still hoping for an encore. Strange.

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