This morning news broke that Tony Romo was “stepping away” from football to enter the broadcast booth. After much speculation for many months, this was the inevitable end for this situation. It’s also a good analogy for what is happening with me and LJT. Our GW team is moving forward at LJT without me. After 19 years, I’m “stepping away” from LJT to pursue other interests. I’m not heading to a broadcast booth. Just other festivals, including LJT’s own Rhymes and Vines. I’ve had no back surgeries or broken clavicles…but I’ve come close. Barbed wire scratches and hangovers were close enough. In my stead, I’m sending Tim Murphy to shoot the festival and provide the best photo blog that has even been created of LJT. Have other plans for LJT coverage as well. I can’t thank the Taylor family enough for all these years of working together. Covering and attending the fest has been among the most cherished memories of my lifetime. Some of my best stories, times and moments occurred under their banner. I’m just transitioning from April to September though…and our website isn’t going anywhere with regard to LJT!
Dwight Yoakam once sang “cause baby things change.” That’s all that has happened here. I feel like LJT has passed me by. 20 years ago I was the under 21 year old emboldened by a field of friendly music fans providing me libations and a sense of purpose. Soon enough we were the college kids proudly flying our SWT flag and pulling up in the Happy Trails RV. Next thing I knew my friends were actually on the bill and it wasn’t only untouchable heroes like Rusty Wier and Jack Ingram. Then came marriage, grown up responsibilities and all manner of “adulting”. Yet, somehow I chugged along each April. Kids came and I never missed. The last couple years, I looked around at LJT and didn’t recognize it anymore. It was bigger and those buddies that had come with me the majority of those 19 years weren’t beside me anymore. I had new friends with new agendas. People who were there with me because it was an industry obligation, not just to have fun. I was also noticing that very few of the thousands of attendees cared about the music. I was sitting at Ray Wylie Hubbard’s set two years ago completely engrossed in the groove when I scanned the crowd to find I was one of the few aside from the first four rows of folding chairs paying attention. I knew I was in the wrong place…for me.
We camped in the same area for the majority of my LJT tenure. Our camping section became a community that you lived in one week each year. You knew your neighbors. They were friends. They watched out for your stuff, offered you food and gave a bumpy, muddy cow pasture the feel of a neighborhood. Over the past few fests, we encountered new neighbors. Fewer and fewer familiar friendly faces. These realizations, coupled with the dwindling attendance of my buddies combined to make me question why I was still there. The last few years, the only fun I had was during sets of bands I dug. Whereas before, the music was equal to the hang. Now the hang was an interminable march of industry gossip, access and avoiding rowdiness that was too far lit for my middle age.
On the last Saturday of the 2016 fest, I had been tossing the idea around inside my head that this would be my last year to attend in full. I’m never ruling out the idea of going up to Melody Mountain for a day or two…but the full blown 5-day extravaganza is going to be a thing of the past. As we wandered around after the mainstage shut down, in search of one last campfire jam or party, a gaggle of drunk college girls approached our crew. “Oh. My…Gaaaahhhhhd! Y’all are so cute!” one of them slurred. She continued “Guysszzz, let’s shotgun a beer with the dads.” The dads. At that moment, I knew I was done. LJT doesn’t belong to me anymore. I don’t still go to Padre for Spring Break. And I’ll no longer go to Melody Mountain for LJT. I now go to the coast for relaxation in the off season or late summer. I’ll now go to Melody Mountain for Rhymes and Vines.
When I look back on two decades of LJT attendance, I have so many memories that flood my mind…a few that are fit to print. Doug Moreland playing at our campsite in Meridian for nearly 5 hours; Jack Ingram shotgunning a beer on the back patio of our converted box truck RV; Larry Joe himself delivering my lost, inebriated ex-wife on a Gator “Hey Brad…she belong to you?”; all of the GW giveaway winners (always so grateful to have won something and loving the music); the Mandatory FM era and Shayne Hollinger saving me from tornadoes; the infamous free beer cooler; debuting the wallet on a fishing line trick and catching about 50 people in one day including some Erath County Sheriff deputies on horseback; Yeti grub; seeing Jason Boland, Cody Canada and Pat Green play next to a teepeee at about 5AM; “borrowing” an ATV and cruising the 2AM campgrounds with Grider and Drew Kennedy as we got chased by Randy Rogers on a bicycle; consecutive NFL draft viewing parties with Josh Abbott; playing washers with Geoff and Brady; “borrowing” a golf cart and pulling up to unsuspecting parties with an Abbott look alike in tow; riding around with Larry Joe as we had Randy, Abbott, Felker, Courtney Patton, Dave Perez and others on board…bum rushing a campfire jam and confusing people who didn’t realize the guy playing “Diamonds and Gasoline” on their Takamine beater was actually Evan Felker; the party bus from China Spring; the bullhorn, the airhorn and the fireworks; entering the chili cook-off; judging the chili cook-off; Tadlock’s hay rides; and the (many) chicken on a stick(s).
I also think of the people. The old hippies. The young artists with stars in their eyes. The grizzled vendors. The rowdy college kids. The musicians. The breakfast taco chefs. And, just like Billy the Kid down the road in Hico…I recall most fondly my pals. LJT was always a fun event due to the music…but what truly made it was the relationships…my bros. It would have never been the same without them. Most of us have transitioned to Rhymes and Vines and other events now.
I’m passing the torch, but I’m staying close to the flame. I’ve written my LJT story. It’s time for the next generation. I hope you all find the same Melody Mountain magic that I did. It forever changed my life, and if you respect it…it will do the same to you. Have fun, tear it up, sing along, play those campfires and stay out of trouble (as best you can). I plan to be the landlord for some sweet electric/water sites…and keep them in my backpocket in case I get a wild hair. They’re sublet for this year, if that changes, I’ll let you know. Viva La LJT For Life!
-River Jam (formerly known as GreenFest) is set for July 29-30 in New Braunfels. We will be releasing ticket info and the line-up soon.
-Guesting on The Co-Write Podcast Friday. Bad truths and good humor will be spit.
-It’s finally baseball season. Spring in Texas is gorgeous, short and amazing (minus the allergies)
-I’m still working on the addendum list to my best Texas Music songs of all time A-Z. Hope to publish soon.
-Instead of watching the ACMs, I went and saw Wade Bowen play live. Best decision I’ve made in some time.
-The Frisco Rough Riders have a lazy river in the outfield. All baseball fields should have this.
-This month’s recommended album is: Dalton Domino – Corners. DD is going to have this for sale at LJT. Many artists make an artistic leap on their second record, but Dalton’s is large enough to cover the Grand Canyon. This record is different. It’s ambitious and grand. Sometimes more so than Domino’s voice can handle. The sound is huge, the hooks are unforgettable and the vibe is raw. At its core it’s supremely real. Well done. Check it out.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain