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{Brad's Corner} September 2014: Brick and Mortar Soul

{Brad�s Corner}

I live in central Texas and one of the most exciting recent developments has been the construction of the new Baylor facility McLane Stadium.  Baylor fan or not, the modestly sized but aesthetically outstanding football stadium is a splendid point of pride for all locals who drive by it on 35.  Up the road in Arlington, Jerry Jones constructed the world’s preeminent multi-event facility with AT&T Stadium.  It is a true wonder of the world. Two new palatial venues at different levels in different towns to ostensibly host the same types of events.  Yet, they couldn’t be more different.

Music venues can be like that too.  I’ve been in new ones that click right away and new ones that falter.  I’ve been in some that are over 100 years old and I wouldn’t change a thing.  While other older venues need a complete renovation.  I’m far from an expert, but I’ve been attached to venues in all sorts of capacities: performer, road manager, booking agent, talent buyer, concert promoter and even bartender/bouncer.  What makes a nice venue isn’t the brick, wood or concrete.  It’s the people.  The staff.  The musicians.  The fans. The soul.

Our own Jon Paul “Hogleg” Long is now venturing into the venue business with a very cool space down in New Braunfels.  I have all the confidence that JP’s space will be one of the coolest venues in the state.  Don’t think he can’t, as he would say.  He’s been around the block too and he knows what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.  It’s a tough business.  Equally as tough as the musician side of things, if not more so.  It’s hyper competitive and everyone is fighting for the same dwindling disposable income from the most fickle of demographics.  You’re always going to have folks that chase the cheapest drink specials and the shiniest new thing.  The venues that are able to financially fight through this usually end up thriving.  But it’s extremely difficult.  That’s why we’ve seen some of the best music venues around have to close the doors.  Our region has always been one that has been supportive of musicians performing original music and not being beholden to cover songs.  I’ve noticed that passion fade slowly over the past few years.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a great cover band when the time is right.  They’re not the problem.  At least it’s still live music.  It’s the wave of karaoke and DJ’s ruining things.

 As the Rev. Horton Heat mentioned this week in a startingly real op-ed piece about the current plight of professional musicians:

Back in the ’70s, a club DJ was the cheesiest guy in the place who used his wannabe radio voice, and his love of disco, to pretend he was actually talented and a star. Everyone knew that the guitar, bass, drum and singer people were the truly talented ones who had a shot at a career in music. Nowadays, a club DJ is a person who pretends that he/she is as talented as a real musician, and the stupid club owners and promoters foster this pose since they pay the person thirty thousand dollars (or a lot more) to stand up on a stage with their iPod blaring disco junk. That’s tough to swallow when you realize that the best musician in your town will play piano at the Hyatt Regency brunch on Sunday for that ‘magic’ one hundred dollars.

 

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Like It Used To Be

Ten years ago in one of our first 20 Questions features, Randy Rogers talked about the stories behind some of his songs.  The tale of “Like It Used To Be” sums up how many of us were feeling in the days after 9/11.

-“Like It Used to Be” – I wrote it on my buddies couch in Ft. Worth. I used to stay there for days after we played a gig in Ft. Worth. He never complained. I really didn’t have anywhere else to go. The girl I was dating lived in Dallas and so it was closer to her than San Marcos. I wrote it during those crazy few months after 9/11 when you didn’t know what was going to happen next. I just wanted to go out and forget about the world around us.

American Aquarium – Hard To Quit

By: Justin Dean | @TXDean23

AAquarium

It was hot. Inside and outside. The smell of Lone Star Beer and Jameson was the only thing that could mask the body odor that permeated through every single inch of surrounding air space. Yet no one cared. Not the hipster kid with the rimmed glasses and too tight pants or the guy in the cowboy hat on my opposite side that definitely wasn’t going to be getting on a horse anytime soon in his bedazzled designer jeans. Normally these guys stay miles apart and don’t even frequent the same sides of town- let alone the same bar- but this was American Aquarium on a Saturday night and no one cared.

Not many bands these days can take a demographic “label” and throw it out the window of a moving Econoline, but American Aquarium has done that. They have split the seams of the independent music world and transformed themselves from a band that played small shows in dive bars in Raleigh, NC to travelling across the country playing music for anyone who will listen.

American Aquarium put out their first two records- Antique Hearts and The Bible and the Bottle- in 2006 and 2008, respectively. They signed with Last Chance Records and put out Dances With the Lonely in 2009 and Small Town Hymns in 2010. In 2012 the band released their Live in Raleigh CD before putting out the Jason Isbell produced Burn. Flicker. Die, their most popular and praised album to date, … Keep Reading

Introducing Zac Wilkerson

by: Brandon Meyers

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As an artist making music in the state of Texas, there are names that are synonymous with talent, longevity and doing things right. One of those names is Walt Wilkins.  Not only has Wilkins established himself as one of kind type of talent on the stage, but he has also proven to be a masterful producer and creator of albums for other artists. With names like Brandon Rhyder and Jason Eady amongst many other great talents, anyone setting out to make their debut album would be one lucky SOB to get Wilkins attached to that project… Enter Amarillo’s own Zac Wilkerson.

The road that lead Zac to Walt was unlike most of the typical “start a band and make an album” stories.  After nearly a decade of writing songs he never intended on you hearing, a friends somewhat dishonest request for Zac to join him at an open mic night at Lubbock TX’s iconic Blue Light Live turned into Zac winning their fall singer/songwriter contest and a spot on the acoustic stage at Larry Joe Taylor’s Musicfest. Little did Zac know then, that not long after standing backstage and watching Walt Wilkins play his set at LJT that year, that he would be working with Walt on his first album.

Fast forward 2 years and add countless shows and road hours and that rookie that stood on that LJT stage is much wiser, road tested and certain that the path he is on is the right one.  … Keep Reading

{Off The Cuff} The Real Girls in the Songs and With the Songs

As the father of a young daughter, husband to a strong wife, brother of an awesome sister and son of a loving mother I’ve been taking in all this “Girl in a Country Song” vs Bro-Country brouhaha with a keen interest from afar.  The Bro-Country phenomenon is a fad.  A passing fancy no different than the Urban Cowboy, Countrypolitan, Neo-traditionalist, or Hat Act eras. It’s interminable in the moment, but will be gone relatively soon.

The difference in those previous fads and the current Bro-Country one is that those paid deference to women (for the most part–there were sexist elements that were a product of their time).  They respected them.  They weren’t just booty shorts on a tailgate. They weren’t just compared to a melody or relegated to disrespectful arm candy via the most baseless, brain-dead lyrics imaginable. I can’t fathom Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Randy Travis, George Strait, Keith Whitley et al singing about throwing beer cans at a girl’s window, skinny dipping in a river, or stripteasing in the bed of a pickup. Would they possibly allude to those things?  Sometimes.  But, they’d do it in a very clever manner.

The degradation of women is nothing new in the hip-hop world.  The late 90’s/early 00’s was fraught with the same types of disrespect women are currently being shown in country music.   Rap music, at large, moved beyond those elements years ago.  Nashville is still embracing them (just as they rip off the most corny elements of that terrific, … Keep Reading