Yep. One more post about Bowen Music Fest for 2019. Wade Bowen started all of this as an excuse to get together and play some golf with his buddies about twenty years ago. It has since cornered the market on charity events in this scene and beyond. It’s truly remarkable what has happened. He (and his team) have managed to create a one-day mass appeal music festival event and have it take place as the best one-day music event in this state. There’s something for everyone and all of those ones go back to the ones that need it the most in the Waco community. It’s one thing to throw one hell of a party, it’s quite another to use it solely for charitable good.
In an effort to maximize the music at an event like this, you must get creative. Wade does this by having acoustic sets right alongside full bands. His desire to showcase songwriters he believes in before an audience of thousands is admirable. He ensures to have young talent such as Juliet McConkey and Chris Colston in that role just as well as vets like Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy. He knew that Courtney Patton and Ben Danaher could withstand the pressure of following Cheap Trick with nothing but their guitars and survive.
Whiskey Myers brought the rock as a tune-up for their Rolling Stones opening gig. Each time I see them, I’m immediately transported back to watching a live Skynyrd VHS of a 1975 concert as a kid. Some years back at the Bowen Classic, I was paired in my golf round with Bruce Kalmick (manager emeritus of Whiskey Myers and many others). Bruce was excited about this new band he was working with and encouraged me to book them for Greenfest that year. Problem was, we were already full. But, I listened to their first record and amidst the raw, Skynyrd-esque vibes I saw the brilliance hidden within and hoped we’d be able to land them the following year. By the following year, they were too big for us and on the course to Soldier Field. Tony Kent steals the show just about every time out…but give him a long catwalk into a throng of thousands of sun-drenched, beer-soaked Texans and he takes on Messianic qualities. He had the crowd going crazy.
The full-band portion of the day started with the incomporable Josh Weathers. He is the consumate showman. Vocals. He’s got them. Guitar skills. He can shred. Dance moves. He’s got rhythm. Witty banter. You bet. Each Weathers gig is a tour de force in entertainment. His new record comes out next month and the people who got there early enough to see him start the show will be saying “I remember when we saw him at Bowen Fest.”
Shane Smith and the Saints are having themselves a moment. Their time is now. A steady build and climb has led them to this point where they are poised to dominate the scene and seal any vacuums left open by other bands. They’ve gotten a firm grasp on Texas and will soon breakout far beyond our borders.
As a devout metalhead in my youth, I have always appreciated the strength and ferocity of a good hard rock band in the pocket. Cheap Trick delivered in spades. Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen looked as if they were having more fun than any other band and it was probably their 10,000th gig. They’re in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame for a reason. From my vantage point, I was able to snag a guitar pic tossed by Nielsen early on. Cody Canada joined them for “Surrender” and it was all beautiful. For “Dream Police” the band had first-responders join them onstage and they set about tossing all sorts of guitar pics in the crowd. Dozens and dozens of them. It didn’t make mine any less special and it was super cool that so many got the same feeling from one of the most famous guitarists of all time.
Getting back to Bowen attempting to cram as much music as he can into his allotted time, that’s where the jamband portion comes in. Bowen’s band cranks out a few of his tunes and then sets about having guest after guest jump up with them for a few.
Bowen’s son Bruce joined him for “Sunshines on a Dreamer” before giving way to Brent Cobb kicking things off and then it only got better and wilder from there. Joining the band was Kylie Rae Harris, Courtney Patton and Jamie Lin Wilson in Shinyribs Shiny Soul Sisters positions. At various moments throughout the show they were joined by Joshua Ray Walker, Josh Weathers and William Clark Green.
The jam was on.
William Clark Green doing “Ringling Road” with a saxophone solo. Stoney LaRue doing a 9 minute Allman Bros-esque version of “Bluebird Wine”, Randy Rogers doing his take on Guy Clark, Cody Canada being joined by his sons for a spin through Red Hot Chili Peppers “Soul To Squeeze”, Jamie Lin Wilson belting out “Maybe It Was Memphis” with Patton; then dueting with Bowen on “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”, Paul Thorn delivering “Mood Ring” with the band that made it popular in this scene before diving into “Heard It Through The Grapevine” only to be joined by Weathers doing his best Otis Redding impersonation. It was all mind-blowingly cool. In the middle of all that, Jamey Johnson sauntered onstage and immediately quited the thousands as he plucked the intro to “In Color”. As soon as he sang “I said Grandpa what’s this picture here?” the entire place erupted and the sing-along was on. Several moments during the song he was able to fade away from the mic and allow the crowd to sing along loudly. He capped his portion off by turning “Working Man Blues” into an extended, slow blues jam. By the time the entire cast of characters capped off the night with “Midnight Rider” another epic bar had been set by Wade Bowen.