Josh Caterer of Smoking Popes at Zipline Brewing Co., Omaha, July 22nd
I am not sure how far out this was scheduled or how word came down, but I got a message earlier this week that Josh Caterer of Smoking Popes was performing at Zipline Brewing on Saturday. Now, I will be honest and say I had no idea Smoking Popes were still a thing. I saw them at The Ranch Bowl in the mid-90s at least once, maybe twice. I also own the CDs Born To Quit and Destination Failure and have listened to both of them a lot. After that, I stopped paying attention, and it looks as if they continued to make music and even played a show here at Lookout Lounge in 2018. Hearing Caterer perform at an intimate acoustic show sounded interesting, so I purchased a ticket.
This is the second off-the-beaten-path show in a couple weeks that I have been to at Zipline Brewery. A couple weeks ago, they hosted Tommy Stinson and his trio at their Lincoln Brewery. I would certainly not be opposed to them doing more shows with artists of this nature. The Lincoln show was a full on amplified affair and ran like a normal rock show, though in a non-traditional venue. The Caterer show was set up in more of a house show format, with limited tickets sold, a small section of seats, and Caterer playing unplugged with no mic. He stated that he had done acoustic tours but never anything like this before, and that this was his first performance like this. He stated that he felt invigorated performing without a microphone. He didn’t have any problems with it. After the first couple of songs, our host turned the air off (it was perfectly comfortable in the room for the rest of the performance) to allow us to hear everything perfectly clear. He was in fine voice and carried the songs in this format wonderfully.
Caterer stated that he was going to play some songs he wanted and then take requests. He ended up getting into a thing where he started playing songs off of albums chronologically. The songs that I knew off of Born To Quit such as “Midnight Moon”, “Rubella”, “Mrs. You And Me”, “Need You Around,” and “Megan” and more off of Destination Failure, were my personal highlights as we played those albums to death at the record store when they came out. I also need to start digging into the later catalog, as the other songs he performed were excellent as well. He told stories about the songs, including a great story about when they toured with Morrisey, and interacted with the audience. It was surprising that he had never done this format before, as he is a natural. He took a healthy amount of requests from fans who knew some of his songs as well, if not better than he does at this point.
Smoking Popes had just played a show in Denver, and they had released a new song on Friday entitled “Madison”. Denver got the live debut, and we got the acoustic live debut of the song. I am listening to the recorded version of it right now, and it’s not like the band has missed a beat (and they really didn’t because they kept making music). He closed out the show with a cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”. It was a charming 90 plus minutes of music, stories, and interaction, and I am glad I got to experience it. It very much motivated me to dig further into what he and his band have done.