From Foreign Legion
Looking over the enormous canon of both released and un-released Fluid Ounces songs, there are so many that leap out and say, “Hello there!” With only five full-length records, one B-side record, and one EP, they all seem to say hello over and over again with so many songs on each that could easily be the intro track to its own record. I decided that the journey I’m embarking on of writing about each and every Fluid Ounces song is best represented by “Show on the Road,” though.
Probably written in ’98 or ’99, but most certainly before the release of In the New Old Fashioned Way, this song is about the band at its most optimistic point in its career, building a local following and at the same time turning toward the possibility of national success with a tour including Chicago and South by Southwest during the spring of 1999. The band was getting its first real radio play with “Vegetable Kingdom,” and everything seemed to be looking up.
Starting with a strong guitar riff, “Show on the Road” quickly warms up to a good temperature of rock. I’ll admit that it’s not my favorite Fluid Ounces song: I usually don’t like songs in which singer/song-writer Seth Timbs sings falsetto, and I never really liked the melody of the chorus. It’s an extremely rare moment in the Fluid Ounces canon when the rhythm of the lyrics, the melody, and the musical structure don’t exemplify a perfect cohesiveness, as if any other note anywhere in the chord would bring it all down like a deck of cards. “Show on the Road” has a few of those moments when it doesn’t seem to work so perfectly.
But what this song does better than any other Fluid Ounces song is to capture the spirit of so many young men setting out to make a name for themselves by playing music in local scenes across America. (Witness Seth’s more typical view on the subject in “Poet Tree,” the song immediately after “Show on the Road” on Foreign Legion.) “Are we covering ground, or is the world moving under us?...Are we the kings of the Earth/ Or will the world make fools of us?” are lines that hint at the truth for all the musical acts I’ve seen venture beyond the Tennessee state lines: that the feeling of having conquered Nashville or being really good performers or songwriters determines little in the long and rocky road to fame or even recognition, that it seems to be little more than a crap shoot as to whether a capable act can actually “make it.”
I’ll also add that the classical-esque piano lick just after Seth sings, “getting smaller in the distance,” was the first thing I found to celebrate when I first listened to the record (and it was only three minutes into it).
I felt this song was the best to inaugurate what I hope will be a regular feature (I already have the next 19 or so entries well under way) to incite discussion about my favorite band of all time. The video below was recorded at the Boro on October 27, 2000, and is followed by the band giving a brief commercial for Miller High Life beer. Sorry that the video quality is so low: I PROMISE I have much better goodies to come (this was the only video of this song I had).
And so, fans and other interested parties, “Let’s get this show on the road!”
And with much better quality, here's a better live version from '99!