About the Band

From Wikipedia

The Waco Brothers was formed by Jon Langford of the Mekons. The group grew out of Langford’s wish to play more country-influenced music as the Mekons concentrated more on a punk sound. They were originally put together simply for local Chicago shows, but the success of their Bloodshot Records albums allowed them to tour the US occasionally. Some of the members also participated in Langford’s Pine Valley Cosmonauts project.

The band recorded the first of its studio albums in 1995. Their album, Waco Express: Live & Kickin‘ at Schuba’s Tavern is a concert recording which Ken Tucker, the pop music critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, described as „country as it should be written and played, with a long memory for roadhouse honky-tonks rather than TV-ready music videos.“ Author and music critic Sarah Vowell told the Chicagoist, „I’ve never been able to find a live band in New York as consistently thrilling and funny and fun as the Waco Brothers.“ Until the COVID-19 epidemic, the Waco Brothers made a point of performing every year in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. In 2020, their annual December performance at Schubas Tavern in Chicago had to be livestreamed without the usual live audience.[citation needed]

In 2012, the Waco Brothers collaborated with Nashville mainstay Paul Burch to produce Great Chicago Fire. The Chicago Tribune said of the album, „If the Rolling Stones were still making great records, this would be it.“


For their first albums, the Waco Brothers included Dean Schlabowske (guitar/vocal), Tracey Dear (mandolin/vocal), Alan Doughty (bass/vocal), Mark Durante (pedal steel guitar), and Mekons drummer Steve Goulding). Joe Camarillo (drums) often filled in for Goulding, who had moved to New York City. By 2015, Camarillo had fully replaced Goulding, and Durante had left. Camarillo died of complications of congenital cardiac disease in January, 2021, after surviving COVID-19. Dan Massey, who had previously substituted on drums whenever Camarillo had been unavailable, became the Waco Brothers permanent new drummer, starting with the band’s 2021 concerts. Jean Cook, who had played violin intermittently with the band for years, officially joined the band in 2020.

Current members

Dean Schlabowske, Tracey Dear, Jon Langford, Alan Doughty and Joe Camarillo performing on March 15, 2018

Former members


“I’ve never been able to find a live band in New York as consistently thrilling and funny and fun as the Waco Brothers.” —Author and former Chicagoan Sarah Vowell interview on the Chicagoist.

Ladies and gentlemen, quite possibly the best live rock band on the planet. We’ve seen them a hundred and sixty seven times, and the Waco Brothers never fail to entertain with their train wreck approach to country. Subtlety is for the weak, so they’ve chosen the path of optimum mayhem and tomfoolery. In their rollicking career, they have been called everything from the flagship act of the alternative country “movement” to pure butchery. Both are likely to be correct.

The line-up, in case you haven’t been paying attention: Jon Langford (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Joe Camarillo, Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones), Deano (Dollar Store, Wreck) and Tracy Dear (World’s Greatest Living Englishman).

In a world of corporate-sponsored tours by lame-o alt-rockers complaining about their hotel suites and “country” stars who owe more to Boston than Bakersfield, the Wacos go out every night and play as if their lives depended on it. Their shows at SXSW and CMJ are legendary, and every year threaten to actually collapse under the weight of their runaway brilliance. If you’re not drunk, sweaty and out of money at the end of one of their shows, then brother, we pity you.

“…and dancers of all stripes jumped into the uproar on the tiny platform of a stage, seemingly destroying the barrier between band and audience. As the last bits of the tumultuous sound faded away, the crowd picked up the slack, cheering with all their might. A feeling of exhilaration permeated the air, leaving all assembled smiling the knowing smile. They’d been to rock & roll nirvana, and life just couldn’t be any better.” —Austin Chronicle SXSW

Their mix of hellfire country and mournful punk truly inspire. They are working to save music so you don’t have to.

“The band’s songbook is filled with political parables fused to a lost highway aesthetic and loads of black humor… pass the bottle and turn up the jukebox.” —Time Out Chicago

“What makes the band a force to behold live is their refusal of subtlety. With three lead singers, a three-guitar lineup and a punk rock rhythm section, the band commits at a high level and rarely relents.” —The Daily Herald

“The Wacos infuse lefty outrage into rollicking roots songs that lambaste Bush, Christian conservatives, commercial radio, and society in general enough to please any political hardcore band.” —Onion A.V. Club