We live in an era and age where arguing online has become a hobby. Our leaders do it, our kids do it, and over on Facebook your grandmother is doing it. I’m not sure exactly when we reached this tipping point, but it’s truly depressing. As someone who has been on the internet since its earliest days, at an age when I probably shouldn’t have, this portion of the ‘net has always existed. It used to be the chat rooms of AOL and Prodigy, then AIM, then message boards and finally social media/comments sections. In the earliest days of this website community, everything was bounded forward by the message board. Going to a show, remembering a show, looking for an album, need to vent, want to sell something, seeking prayers…it was the place. It was our living room. Well, now our living room is much larger and we have a whole lot more folks joining us. This lack of personal connection is what leads to the current climate. Keyboard muscles and the need to be right fuel a never-ending parade of insults, bon mots, comments and remarks. The trick is harnessing that passion and channeling it in a positive manner. We long ago gave up on trashing stuff we didn’t dig, in favor of promoting what we do dig.
This past week, Twitter was aflame when Mile 0 Fest announced their fantastic lineup for 2019 and met with a resounding hell yeah from everyone that saw it. Well, all but one. One account took Mile 0 to task for not having a 50/50 split of female performers. A noble, but unrealistic charge for a festival of that size. One that was pointed out and solidified by tweets from Bonnie Bishop among others that there aren’t a 50/50 split of artists to choose from. It doesn’t make economic or common sense as much as we’d all love a completely level playing field. Taking Mile 0 to task was a misguided missive all too common in our current environment. Instead of applauding their outright championing of a greater number of female acts than any other festival of that scale in our scene, this account took aim to blow holes in how it could be better. I saw other accounts blasting fans desires to go see the same lineup they can see down the street in a tropical locale. That’s the thing…you can see these bands all the time…it’s the locale that’s the draw in this instance. And as someone who has been lucky enough to take several musical bucket list trips the past few years, there is truly something magical about seeing the familiar in unfamiliar and exotic surroundings. I can’t recommend it enough. Alas, it’s an indictment of our times.
We’re all too busy focusing on what isn’t, that we miss what is.
Long ago, that’s where the River Jam/Greenfest event was born. A chance to meet the person you’d been talking to on the web. Buy them a beer, sing along to the same song, strike a friendship. It’s in these meetings, whether organized by Galleywinter and music or just happenstance that you find how much we all have in common. Your political enemy is still your friend. Your annoying NextDoor commenter is still your neighbor. The Twitter troll is still a person. Reach through the technology to find the human being. Music is a great place to start that, and I hope you’ll be with us in New Braunfels at the end of the month to enjoy that experience.
It’s been funny to watch this scene evolve the past 20 years. It’s almost gone full circle. In the waning ages of Garth, Pat Green et al set about a course making raw, rowdy, prideful, crude music that appealed to a very specific subset of demographics. It wasn’t slick, starched or mass appeal. We all know what happened next. It blew up like a rocketship and an entire industry climbed on its back. Now, 20 years in, the bar has been moved back to the slick middle. The biggest draws and names in this scene currently have more in common with 90’s country than Robert Earl Keen. There’s nothing uniquely Texan about it. There’s nothing super raw about it. Yet, it’s still great. And, perhaps that’s why it’s selling out venues across the land. It’s easily accessible in a climate where very few things still are that way. We have to think so much about everything every second of the day, sometimes it’s nice to just crank some CoJo and travel back to 1995. A friend I greatly respect told me some months back he couldn’t get into Jason Isbell because “I have enough sad shit going on in my life.” I valiantly fought the good fight and proclaimed he just needed to listen to this song or that track. But, he was dug in. I was confused in the moment and now some months on from that interaction, it all makes sense. It’s the modern numbness of information and emotional overload. Every second of the day we are tagged, manipulated, poked, trolled, loved, hated, yelled at, comforted. Music is a safe place. Some of us feel safer when dug in deep, some of us just need the comfort of nostalgic hat act country.
No matter where you fall at on that scale, I hope that we see you in New Braufels for River Jam. It’s a weekend to turn off your devices, dig into however much music you want and actually interact with folks. Float the river, sing along to songs, eat a cheeseburger, chug a Lone Star and forget about what awaits you on the other side of that screen. Focus on the positive. Our lineup has something for everyone. There are moments to make you feel things and moments for you to drop out and just be. I hope you choose to come feel and be with us and then carry that on to your everyday online interactions.
Just last night the great Walt Wilkins told me he loved one of my recent Facebook posts about my kids. He said “In the end, that’s what all this is about.” He meant social media. But, it’s also a larger context. Let’s use these tools for good. Kids, family, friends…music. Life.
-I saw the aforementioned Walt Wilkins at our new listening room setup in Waco called The Landing. We’ve hosted Walt, Drew Kennedy, Courtney Patton and Clayton Landua so far. We will continue doing this. Listening rooms aren’t the right vibe for every show. But, when you’re in the mood for it, there’s nothing better.
-Super stoked to get back down to Key West in January. If you’re on the fence about attending Mile 0, please just do it. It’s as unique an experience as I’ve had in this music scene. Perhaps the coolest town in the lower 48 hosting a bunch of crazy Texas and Okie music fans in nontraditional settings. It’s special and Mile 0 has only gotten better after working out first year kinks.
–RIVER JAM IS UPON US! Friday at Billy’s is free; Saturday you get in for just $12; Sunday you just pay to park and then you enjoy the Guad, $1 Lone Stars and the best cheeseburger in Texas.
-Heading back to NOLA this week. Hopeful to actually see a show at Preservation Hall. Last time I didn’t get off Bourbon Street long enough to see much of anything else.
-I’ll be joining Mattson Rainer next week for another turn at Turntables on KNBT 92.1. Hand crafting the playlist now.
-Last month I was back on The Co-Write. Check that out. We delved into bands that used to be well-known within this scene and have now drifted into other avenues of life.
-Did you even celebrate the 4th if you didn’t unironically blast Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” while shooting roman candles from horseback? I mean, me neither…
-This month’s recommended album: Dawes – Passwords. While still not quite reaching the high of their All Your Favorite Bands peak, this Taylor Goldsmith outfit remains one of the best American bands going of any ilk. Lyrics, melodies and vibe for days. When not doing their own thing, these guys are the backing band for Jackson Browne. That should be enough of an endorsement for anyone to check this record out; then work your way backwards.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain