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Bowen MusicFest 2019

One of the coolest things to emerge from the entire Texas/Red Dirt independent scene has been the notion of giving back in a grand way.  Early on, this scene of music adopted an ethos of giving back and playing benefit charity shows at a rate you just don’t find in other music scenes.  There have been massive days like our Texas Music Flood events, the Luling Celebration of Life festivals, Big Fest in San Marcos, George Dunham’s Jub Jam and countless others.  But, perhaps the greatest charitable fundraising concert venture has been the one undertaken by Wade Bowen and his family. What started out as a small gathering of friends to play a little golf and jam some acoustic tunes 20 years ago has morphed into a massive full-scale musical production at a football stadium.

The reason for this is Wade Bowen.  His drive, determination and desire to give back to his hometown community and its needs is unparalleled.  Bowen has truly used his platform for he best. Be it personal charities like the Post Partum Foundation, generating thousands of dollars for the people of West, TX after the fertilizer plant explosion or dispersing numerous funds to multiple deserving charities in the greater Waco area, Wade Bowen truly has put his money where his mouth is.  To the tune of over $3 million dollars. That’s one heck of a benefit concert, folks.


Over the years, the concert has grown and bounced from various locations before finding its current home at Baylor’s majestic McLane Stadium on the picturesque banks of the Brazos River.  Each year has brought new challenges on the logistical side, all while keeping the main goal of helping people in need at the forefront. The scope expanded to such a degree, that the Bowen Family Foundation was started to oversee what is now a 12-month operation.  Bowen’s sister Jill is at the helm of the Foundation and ensures that all of the funds raised stay within McLennan County and directed to the places and people with the most dire needs at that time.

The golf tournament has always been a hallmark of hilarity.  George’s crazy wings on hole 12. Caddyshack elements all around.  Doug Moreland carved trophies. The two years I was paired with Drew Kennedy, Josh Grider and Wesley Campbell remain some of my most treasured golf memories and I recommend everyone take part in the tournament if possible.

The concert portion is where the event really stands out.  Acoustic sets, full band sets and Wade Bowen’s band backing a dozen artists during the “jam” portion playing hits, covers and impromptu ideas.  Caleb Jones, Todd Lanningham et al are some of the best musicians anywhere on the planet and the way they run through these tunes is a sight to behold.  When you throw in some of the most A-list scene talent and a couple classic rock titans it’s a potent mix of good tunes for a good cause.

This year’s lineup may just be the best yet.  It finds Cheap Trick at the top of the bill and has an array of familiar names under them.  Two of the best live acts from Texas (or anywhere for that matter) Shane Smith and the Saints and Josh Weathers are also on the bill.  Sunday June 2 is giong to be a musical revival the sorts the Brazos River hasn’t seen in quite some time. The Dream Police are coming, but so are them Saints and Mr. Weathers and everyone else.  All under the guise of raising money for a worthy cause. It’s a blessing to witness such acts in any setting, and becomes especially righteous in this scenario. We will have the entire Galleywinter crew there, we haven’t missed a Bowen Fest/Classic since 2004 and don’t intend to stop now.  I hope you’ll join us.

Bowen MusicFest tickets:  https://www.bowenfamilyfoundation.org/bowen-musicfest/

There’s Still Magic at LJT

Ten years ago I was in the middle of my two decade stint as an annual LJT devotee. The one set not to be trifled with or missed during the entirety of my first half of LJT domination was that of Rusty Wier.  I have written about Rusty many times over the years.  He was a true Texas legend that beat these highways down with warped whitewalls in dingy vans for years and years without the widespread acclaim and renown that many of his peers garnered.  He was an Austin institution and an early believer in a guy named Larry Joe Taylor. 2009 marked the end of Rusty’s run and I had been honored to be asked by the Taylor family to write all the artist previews for their program; including a feature on Rusty.  Weakened by cancer and facing the light, Rusty faced his final LJT appearance with the same spirit he’d always carried. He made ‘em dance and he made ‘em smile by God. One thing to note about Rusty Wier is that he never met a crowd he couldn’t entertain and his free-wheeling good spirits permeate the grounds of Melody Mountain Ranch some 10 years after his last appearance there.  There’s a reason the Taylor family commissioned and erected a large statue of Rusty to stand at the entrance of their stage ramp. It’s to remind each act that’s come in his wake that he’s the bar they must try to live up to. It’s kind of like telling a pitcher that they’re expected to pitch like Nolan Ryan. It’s not exactly possible, but it’s good to have goals.

For no artist does this statue, man, spirit and legacy hold more weight than it does for Coby Wier.  Growing up around a Texas Music legend ain’t easy. It’s a small club. A cool club featuring cats like Lukas Nelson, Lucas Hubbard, and Django Walker. An exclusive club full of exclusively excessive expectations.  Coby chased the ghosts as a sideman for his dad before finding his own lane and carving his own niche as one of the baddest guitar slingers in the scene and region for the vintage Bleu Edmondson Band line-up. Bleu had the hottest live band of the era for a time and most of that was a testament to Coby’s sick six-string wizardry.  After a few years of that, Coby gave up the chase and bounced around from projects while managing fatherhood and the “real world”. Then came the passing of his father and a further debate over the place of music in his life.

This past year, Coby made the decision to start performing once more.  He picked up the acoustic guitar and started putting songs together. The writing was freedom.  A catharsis of memories, highways and honky-tonks. He was able to exorcise demons and celebrate the reasons the music coursed through his veins in the first place.  He released a solid recorded project, played our 2018 River Jam in his first ever solo acoustic performance, and then set about putting together one of the most road-tested and pro bands around featuring Jimmy McFeeley (Reckless Kelly) on bass, Kelly Test (Cooder Graw) on drums, and Steve Littleton (Departed) on keys.

Much was made and much online hell was raised over the past week about all the “trashy” things that may have occurred out at LJT this year.  LJT isn’t immune to today’s societal ills. Mob mentality can overrun even the best laid plans. You put that many folks in one place and bad things are going to happen.  The problem with social media is that, as Cody Canada once sang, bad news travels faster than any good news that you hear. Shocking antics go viral at a more rapid rate than the more genuine stuff.  I know for a fact that the ratio was way more heavily stacked in favor of genuine musical good times over bawdy, frathouse antics. This is typified in the time Coby Wier spent out at LJT in 2019.

Ten years after his dad’s final performance, Coby Wier showed up with his crackerjack band and delivered a ferocious feel-good performance for the ages.  Then he picked up his acoustic guitar and bounced from campsite to campsite jamming songs….his own, his dad’s, everyone else’s. Playing lead for young cats finding their way, playing rhythm for salty veterans and singing harmony with all of it.  That’s a good lesson for all of us. Return to the scenes of the crimes. Face the history that’s lying on your shoulders, look it in the eye and toss it off as you return to living in the moment. LJT is full of history and living in the moment. This is embodied by Coby WIer. The magic is still real out on the rolling hills of Melody Mountain Ranch.  It just has a different face. If you need directions, I can help you. Step 1 is to listen to something by someone named Wier.

Ed. note– Coby Wier and his band will be performing as part of this year’s River Jam 2019 in San Marcos/New Braunfels. July 12-14. Coby’s part will be taking place at Cheatham Street Warehouse along with Kevin Galloway of Uncle Lucius. It will be a soul-stirring night kicking off a soul-cleansing weekend in the Hill Country. I hope to see you all there.
Tickets ——–>https://www.cheathamstreet.com/event/1847764-galleywinter-river-jam-san-marcos/

images: Tim Murphy (CrackersandCucumbersPhotography)

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