Louisville loves its Gas Pops

The Gasoline Lollipops perform the last of their regular Tuesday night shows at Waterloo in Louisville as loyal fans cheer them on.

Joshua Hardin

Many people in Louisville are still trying to figure out what to do on Tuesday nights. For nearly 10 years, they had known exactly where they would be and what they would be doing, week in and week out: at Waterloo listening to the Gasoline Lollipops.

The Gas Pops are based in Boulder, but the people of Louisville adopted them as their own as soon as they began playing free, weekly gigs at Waterloo in 2008. Regulars at this big-hearted, small-town restaurant and bar took to the band’s gritty music, which sounds like a reincarnation of Johnny Cash with a psychedelic twist. 

In July, the Gas Pops bade a bittersweet farewell to Waterloo as their growing success has led them to bigger venues. A few hours before the  last weekly show here, lead singer Clay Rose enjoyed dinner with fans at a table tucked away in the back of the restaurant. Joining them was Kathy Metzger, a fan who attended the band’s first gig at Waterloo and was there for each performance since. Her favorite show was the one that happened to fall on her 60th birthday. Metzger noticed that Rose was acting less energetic than usual that night. She later discovered he had injured his back earlier that day at his day job as a construction worker and had only gone on with the show to celebrate her birthday. 

Waterloo, the Gas Pops and their fans formed a symbiotic relationship during the Great Recession, when the venue was one of the few downtown Louisville businesses that remained open. The bar attracted customers because of the Gas Pops, the band found a stable refuge in the weekly gig, and people in Louisville had a cheap way to escape the economic blues.

Once when Rose was struggling financially, his landlord gave him two days’ notice to repaint his trailer, threatening to evict him and his pregnant wife if they didn’t do it in time. Rose spoke about his plight on the microphone at Waterloo. After the show, Metzger and Karen Janson, a 70-year-old fan, volunteered to paint the trailer with him, saving the day.

“We just painted, and painted, and painted,” Janson said. “Clay is a wonderful guy, and the band is very special and dear to us Louisville people.”

Even though the band no longer performs weekly at Waterloo, they plan to stop by every few months. Meanwhile, their Louisville fans have promised to keep following the Gas Pops.

“When we play at big theaters, I’ll be nervous,” Rose said. “But when I walk onto that stage and see the Waterloo fans, I’ll feel better. They’re like family.”

The band will be having an album-release show Saturday, December 16 at the Fox Theatre in Boulder at 8:30 p.m. For more information about Gasoline Lollipops music, visit: https://gasolinelollipops.bandcamp.com/

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