Five years ago, the Bradenton-based band Have Gun, Will Travel ambitiously re-created the Band’s concert film The Last Waltz, with a collection of bay area musician friends, at the Palladium Theater.
Have Gun, Will Travel is back on the Palladium stage this Friday (Nov. 6). It would not be a stretch to call this upcoming concert The First Waltz.
By way of explanation: HGWT hasn’t been on a concert-sized stage in eight months (you know why). The band did perform to a small crowd at the Tampa club Crowbar in mid-October (it was also livestreamed).
“The energy was definitely different, but it felt really, really good to actually be playing for live people,” recalled singer, songwriter and guitarist Matt Burke. “We were so excited that we were able to produce the energy that we would in a normal show setting
With the mandated spaced-out seating, the Palladium will cap out at 181 people.
That give-and-take with the live audience is essential for rock ‘n’ roll bands. “There really is no substitute for playing for a room full of people,” Burke explains. “The energy of the audience kind of feeds your energy as a performer. There’s kind of a transaction happening in the room when you’re performing in front of people.”
Transactions have been, more or less, in the deficit column for Burke and the boys since Covid robbed them of that precious live-gig momentum. In March, the bandleader began a more-or-less weekly series of livestreamed solo shows from his living room.
“It’s kind of therapeutic for me,” says Burke. “I’ve been performing and playing music for people for the majority of my life, and I feel like I need that outlet. I need to connect in some way, whatever that means.”
With his wife handling the tech stuff and relaying questions from viewers, and his young daughter adding occasional vocals, Burke says his real-time livestreams (which are ongoing) have a “communal feel.
“It’s not just me looking at a phone.”
Have Gun, Will Travel (yes, it’s named after the old TV Western) began as a Burke solo acoustic project in 2008. Both Geri X and Will Quinlan, who are on Friday’s Palladium bill, were his gig-mates in those early days.
Not unlike The Band of Last Waltz fame, the Bradenton bunch live and breathe inside a potpourri of genres, from folkish Americana to bluesy rock to country to Memphis-style horn gumbo (check out this brand-new HGWT single, Burke’s “Melancholy Moon”):
With six albums, and a new EP on the way (as well as a collection of home demo recordings), Have Gun, Will Travel is one of the bay area’s most creative – and consistently entertaining – bands.
Several of the band’s songs have been licensed for TV and advertising, Burke says, but other than that, their story isn’t much different from that of every other indie band in the United States.
“It’s definitely not easy,” he relates, “and several of us in the band have multiple sources of income, some have day jobs … we do whatever we can to make ends meet.
“But as a band, we’ve been fortunate in the fact that we’re all still as passionate about doing it as we ever were. So we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
Tickets and info here.