As he confidently, strode out into the crowd during “Big Night in the City”, Josh Weathers had a knowing smirk and a poised gleam in his eye. Strolling down the middle row of flimsy tables Billy Bob’s offers as glorified beer coasters, Weathers was in the midst of the show of his life. It was all a boy from Tarrant County could have ever dreamed of. A sold-out show at the “world’s largest honky-tonk.” People were jammed from one end to the other of the place and singing along to all his songs. No small feat for a musician and band without any radio play or hits.
It took Weathers a decade to get to this point. Thousands of gigs in dingy dive bars from Amarillo to Austin and everywhere in between. Ten years of grinding it out had enabled him to become one of the most dynamic live performers Texas Music has ever seen. His vocal chops are second to none and his stage repertoire that mixes country deftly with soul, r&b and rock is a unique slice of music that comes off quintessentially Texan.
A headlining spot on the LJT Festival mainstage, back to back appearances at Greenfest and a 2013 viral video ride off this clip, gave Weathers a taste of what he’d been working for all those years. And, when he finally got to taste it, he realized maybe that large scale success wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Business was getting in the way of the passion he had for music.
Artists are driven by their own intrinsic motivations. They see the world in ways the rest of us can only attempt to feebly imagine. Although on a much different scale, the easiest analogy is Dave Chappelle leaving Comedy Central at the height of his Rick James-fed fame. The sudden rush of notoriety, gave Weathers pause. He stepped back and re-evaulated what he wanted out of music and life.
A successful businessman outside of music, Weathers’ heart just isn’t into slugging it out in the musical trenches anymore. I respect that and so should all of his fans. Instead of cheapening his product, he’s leaving on his own terms at his peak popularity. As he said in this revealing interview with DFW.com, “I’m going to be doing some other things. … I’m still going to be performing every once in a while. Being able to play music is a blessing, and God only allows so many of us to be able to do that, so I would never neglect that blessing. I just want to do some different things, rather than grinding it out. That’s not where my heart is anymore.”
So, with a booming business outside of music and a young, growing family that will soon be adding an adoptive child from India, Weathers is putting the same passion and drive he had in music into other avenues. He’ll still pop up from time to time for one-off special performances. He’ll still be playing praise music and jamming for the children at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. You just may not find him at the local dive bar anymore.
With all that as a backdrop and hype buildup, Weathers announced his “see you later” gig at Billy Bob’s. The culmination of all the hard work was going to be put into action on this night. All the tricks pulled out of the bag. All the cards laid on the table. Every ounce of Spark-induced energy he could muster would be delivered to the audience.
Weathers started the biggest gig of his life at precisely 10:32PM. He wouldn’t stop until 1:59AM. Until they literally turned the lights on him and kicked the crowd out.
In typical Weathers style, the show began with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” that worked as an introduction of his longtime bandmates. Throughout the night, a handful of covers ranging from Garth Brooks and George Strait would find their way into the setlist next to all the originals and the Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston tune that has become a calling card.
The set was blistering. It was a fever pitch from downbeat. While Billy Bob’s is notorious for maintaining a civil, almost Baptist church like seated reverence for performers, Weathers’ was so undeniable that many in the audience were standing and dancing from the getgo. Old friends and guest musicians jumped in and out of the night’s proceedings and at one point, Weathers own 3 year old soon Cooper surprised him with a cake and balloon drop.
It was a transcendant performance. There are already tons of videos online from it, but none do a service to the energy and sound that was on display throughout the evening. Whether pulling out a gospel standard, or just straight up jamming you never knew what was going to come next.
Weathers’ brand of blue eyed soul country doesn’t reinvent the wheel and he’s never claimed that it has. But, the reason it has connected is it is undeniably catchy. He brings the best from all his influences and throws it into the proverbial blender. His talent allows him to be as country as he wants to be one moment before veering into straight up r&b terrritory the next.
Weathers was a breath of fresh air in a state of stagnant Texas pride songs. He became well-known for a cover song, but his originals and talent were where he converted so many fans. It remains to be seen if this was a permanent goodbye or temporary vacation, but at any rate, he and his music will be missed.
Thank you Josh Weathers. You reginited the passion in many others at the cost of losing your own.