The Dock Ellis Band’s #1 Fan

Justin, Jesse and Adam from the Dock Ellis Band
Justin, Jesse and Adam from the Dock Ellis Band

Monday Morning Miracle by the Dock Ellis Band

About 4 years ago on a Friday night I saw two bands, The Dock Ellis Band and Deadstring Brothers, play at a local bar called the Rumba Club.  I’d probably have to rate it the best concert I’ve ever seen in a bar, well worth the $15 cover.  To understand what made it such a great night a little more background is needed on these two bands.  The Dock Ellis Band is something of a cross between the Drive by Truckers, early period Tony and the Shemps, and an old time country honky tonk band.  They are named after a former major league baseball player best known for throwing a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 under the influence of LSD (google him, it’s worth a read).  That’s really all you need to know to get a feel for this band.  Needless to say when you see these guys on a Friday night in a bar you get a strong urge to start throwing back a few.  The Deadstring Brothers are a band out of Detroit reminiscent of early 70s Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street era).  When you hear them it’s hard to understand why you haven’t already heard them on the radio.  After getting loosened up with the Dock Ellis Band it is not hard to imagine you are in a bar and the Stones (when they were good) showed up to do a surprise show. I left the bar with a Deadstring Brothers CD, a Dock Ellis Band t-shirt, and a hangover booked for Saturday morning.

This past Thursday when I was getting ready to go to work, my wife was looking at Facebook and saw that these same two bands were coming back to Columbus to play a show that night at a place called the Tree Bar.  It was a stop on the tour between Louisville and Toledo.  It was pretty short notice but I managed to talk my friend Ted into going to the show with me.  There was minimal information on the web but the show was listed as starting at 8:00 pm and there was something about a couple of local bands playing.  We arrived at the bar around 8:15 and nothing much was happening, no bands playing, two guys sitting at the bar, and about a dozen people scattered around the place.  I had elected to wear my old Dock Ellis Band t-shirt to the show, which turned out to be a fateful decision.

As soon as we walked in, one of the guys at the bar nudged his neighbor and said “Hey, one of your fans just showed up”.  That guy was Jesse Irwin, lead singer of the Dock Ellis Band (the middle musician in the picture above).  Jesse came over to welcome us to the show, we talked for a few minutes and he seemed genuinely excited that we had come to the show.  He said he didn’t realize that they had fans in Columbus and they were going to “play the shit out of this place”.  It was like the inverse of the typical conversation between a fan and a recording artist, because my knowledge of the Dock Ellis Band was based completely on some imperfect memories of a fun night and the slightly worn t-shirt I was wearing.   Ted and I got a beer and sat down at a table.  A minute or so later Tim Sullivan, the piano/organ player for Dock Ellis came over to our table and we talked for a little bit.  Because I couldn’t recall the name of any of their songs (they didn’t have any CDs back in 2009 when I saw them, nor are they a radio staple here in Columbus), it was hard to get the conversation going too far.  I vaguely remembered that we did a shot together back at the Rumba café (my wife doubts the accuracy of that memory), but there is only so much you can say about that.  I considered asking Tim if he thought superconductivity was likely to ever go above 10 K in osmates with the pyrochlore structure, but the moment never seemed right for that line of conversation.

While it was cool to get that kind of reception I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pressure to hold up my end of the deal as #1 fan of the Dock Ellis Band.  This feeling was intensified by the fact that the crowd did not seem to be growing much.  I had memories of when I was the only student in my undergraduate Solid State Physics class back at Idaho State University.  In that situation there is no hiding when you nod off during a derivation of the Bloch theorem.  One thing I remembered clearly from my earlier encounter with the Dock Ellis Band is that this is a band best enjoyed toward the tail end of a six pack (much like George Thorogood and the Destroyers).  So while I had only intended on having 2 maybe 3 beers that night I had to recalculate on the fly and pick up the pace of my research on beers of the Midwest.

Around 9 pm the music started with the two local bands.  At this point it is worth taking a moment to describe the Tree Bar.  There is a bar area, a room with a pool table, an outdoor patio, all cool but pretty standard stuff.  The namesake is a room a little larger than my living room with a huge tree growing up right in the middle of the room.  Actually it’s not growing anymore, it died a few years back and now is a stump about 4’ in diameter and about 3.5’ high (  This is where the bands play.  It would have been interesting to see a show there when the tree was still living and going up through the roof.  It seems to me that it would have totally obscured the view of the stage for about 25% of the audience.  You have to think the new configuration is probably an improvement for the patrons.

When the Dock Ellis Band took the stage I couldn’t help but notice that the room was not at full capacity.  A quick look around revealed that the crowd consisted of Ted and myself, two other people I didn’t know, the opening acts, and 2/3 of the Deadstring Brothers.  That’s right, a show with 4 bands for a total of 4 paying customers!  Ted summed it up nicely when he said that more people walked out on his chemistry lecture that morning.  I’m embarrassed that Columbus couldn’t do better than that, but to be fair there was minimal publicity of the show.  To their credit the band put on a great show that I enjoyed even more than the last time I saw them.  There was quite a bit of banter with the audience and the way it was delivered you couldn’t help but think they were talking directly to you.  The highlight for me was “Monday Morning Miracle: The Ballad of Adam Dick (The Dumpster Baby Song)”.  I don’t want to give the plot away away but this is a song about a baby that gets left in a dumpster and ends up as the bass player for the Dock Ellis Band.

You can find both the Dock Ellis Band and The Deadstring Brothers on the internet:

Check them out and buy a CD or two.  Don’t go to bed tonight without having listened to The Dumpster Baby song.  Some love from the readers of this blog can help make amends for the poor turnout for the last Columbus show.  You can also find them on Spotify and probably other similar services.  While I’m proud to be Columbus’ #1 Dock Ellis Band fan, and Ted is a new convert, they are currently taking applications for slots #3 through #10.

PS – Since this is a blog about beer and the Dock Ellis Band mention beer or some other form of alcohol in about ¾ of their songs I should add a few random beer notes.  In the liner notes to their album they say “THE DOCK ELLIS BAND WOULD LIKE TO THANK STAG BEER FOR EVERYTHING”.  I did a little research and Stag beer is made by Pabst.  To my knowledge you can’t buy Stag beer in Columbus, but I can attest that the members of DEB are nothing if not loyal, drinking PBR tallboys throughout the night.  I did try one new beer that night, Antihero IPA, by Revolution Brewing out of Chicago.  It’s a fantastic American IPA that comes in a can.  Try it if you get a chance.

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