Great American Taxi keyboardist-singer Chad Staehly brings a tale from GAT’s recent Austin get-together with Impound super pal Todd Snider, a sublime combination of talents that recalls The Band at their wooly best. Each bunch is awful great on their own, but when their Wonder Twin powers activate, boy howdy!
I’m sitting backstage at the stock in trade venue La Zona Rosa in Austin, TX waiting to sound check and reflecting on what will be the last of a four show run. The idea of it showed up as an offer in my inbox a few months ago with subject line “Fwd: TTT” – the three “T”s representing “Texas, Todd, Taxi.” This couch I’m sitting on here in the green room is damp and smells musty, but the mood is good back here as we all prepare to take one more trip with the “Tipsy Gypsy,” Todd Snider.
Great American Taxi has always been an in the moment type of outfit with the neo-vaudevillian Vince Herman at the helm, but Snider keeps everyone on their toes, too. We’ll get a setlist 10 minutes before the show complete with several songs we’ve never played and possibly have never heard, as well as instructions from Todd that we will play the first two numbers of the night in a completely different arrangement and feel. I’ve heard the comparisons before, but this particular habit of Snider’s seems to be snatched directly from Bob Dylan’s playbook. Just last night at the legendary Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, we played the revered Snider ballad “Play A Train Song” about 10 clicks slower with a different feel, but that’s how he chose to deliver that song last night and we had to be there ready to back him up.
After thirty or forty shows with the same musician you may feel you’ve seen it all, yet Snider brings a new twist to it every night. For example, just the other night his sing-along anthem “Alright Guy” contained a 10 minute story about how he came to choose music as his profession. We’ve played that song maybe twenty or thirty times and I’ve never heard that story before. Maybe he made it up on the spot or had been crafting it for the last year or two. You just don’t know where he’s pulling this all from or if it’s your leg he’s pulling.
One thing I’ve noticed during these Todd Snider/Great American Taxi collaboration shows as I’ve gotten to know Todd is that his trademark “Jed Clampett” style hat that he adorns most shows is a disguise. He is as far away from being a stoned-out folk singer as one could be. His mind moves at light speed. He is constantly crafting the story or angle in his head, onstage, in his sleep, after he wakes up (he’s told me that he is up at the crack of dawn every day drinking coffee and writing incessantly for hours before he can start the rest of his day), or while he’s having a beer with you after the show. Be careful what you say around him or what you do, because you just may end up in his next bit of talking blues.
All of us in Great American Taxi are looking forward to hanging out in Mr. Snider’s neighborhood over in East Nashville at the end of April, where he will be producing GAT’s next record. Keep your ears on. (Chad Staehly)
Great American Taxi is out and about this great country right now, up in Alaska for a few days and then back to the Continental U.S. on April 15th at Cervante’s Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, CO. Check out their full tour schedule and see if you can’t take a ride with them sooner than later. We promise, you won’t be sorry.