ORVILLE PECK IS A DIAMOND IN A RHINESTONE WORLD
The goddess Dolly Parton once proclaimed, “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” Difficult as that may be, it’s exactly what rising country artist Orville Peck is.
Donning a fringed leather mask as a reimagined, more glamorous Lone Ranger, Peck has been captivating listeners since his full-length debut Pony was released via Sub Pop in March 2019. A combination of Marty Robbins, Roy Orbison, and Morrissey fused into one enigmatic entity, Peck lays the soundtrack for the lost highways of life and love. Each song on Pony paints pictures of wayward drifters, hustlers, scorned lovers, and small-town beauty queens. “Don’t be down girl; this world is a bummer” echoes as Peck lends a voice to those who are often overlooked and outcasted, but truly have the most interesting stories to tell.
Atlanta was fortunate enough to host this talented outlaw and his backing band Sept. 24 at the Masquerade; a fitting venue for an artist never without his own disguise. For those familiar with its new location in the otherwise desolate Underground Atlanta, the show was held in the intimate portion of the venue referred to as Purgatory. Tickets for the show quickly sold out months in advance, making it apparent that although new on the music scene, Peck has certainly caused quite a stir and garnered much deserved attention.
Long-haired Nashville artist Beau Turrentine opened the show while a solicitous audience waited with bated breath to glimpse the mysterious cowboy character in the flesh. Upon taking the stage with a bedazzled and befringed band at his side, Peck politely introduced himself and launched into “Roses Are Falling.” And fall they did at his feet after the song’s closure, for at least one fan had the forethought to bring flowers.
The crowd appeared entranced, swaying slowly back and forth, silently, as the voice that emanated from their speakers for months finally appeared like a mirage in the desert coming to fruition. After the initial shock of his onstage presence subsided and “Turn To Hate” (arguably the most well-known song) began to play, the audience immersed themselves in song, singing along word for word. There is much to be appreciated about true showmanship and Peck does not disappoint.
Pony translated into a beautiful onstage display and was played almost in its entirety. The band also paid homage to those country and Western stars who burned brightly before them. With Peck’s “right-hand woman” guitarist alongside, they offered up riveting renditions of George Jones & Tammy Wynette’s “Something to Brag About” and Gram Parsons & Emmy Lou Harris’ “Leaving Las Vegas;” a very respectable nod to those who’ve laid the paths while also allowing Peck to blaze his own trail in country music.
Proudly identifying as a queer artist, Peck’s grasp reaches far beyond the LGBTQ community. The sold-out crowd in Atlanta was a range of ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, some adorned by their own homemade fringed masks and studded Western wear. It is a refreshing sight to see so many support someone’s undeniable musicianship, regardless of one’s sexual preferences. Stealing a line (and song) from Willie Nelson in reference to a cowboy’s homoerotic aesthetic, Peck stated to the audience during the encore, “Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other. What did you think all them saddles and boots was about?”
One can only assume Peck’s star will continue to ascend, so long as he can outrun the villains he sings of and doesn’t fall victim to the vices many of his outlaw country predecessors have. It must be understood that tales of addiction, mental illness, and heartbreak make for some of the best music ever written and created. But those same subjects have led to the demise of many and are perhaps why they tug so deeply at our heartstrings.
Drawing from many sources of inspiration, it’s exciting to wonder what Peck will bestow upon us next. Let’s just hope he saddles up in Atlanta again, although it will surely be on a much larger stage. In the meantime, check out the album Pony on Sub Pop, especially if you plan to be cruisin’ through the desert anytime soon.