There’s just something about the Texas Music scene that defies logic. It may be the staid and repetitive nature of the music the last few years or the extremely overcrowded market. Right or wrong, there is a pecking order based on who started first and not necessarily talent in many cases. Guys that have been doing it since the late 90’s, even if unoriginally and without reaching their full potential, are handed virtual lockdowns on venues and top notch musicians. In essence, the scene is like a big high school; with several acts who should’ve graduated long ago still hanging out like Wooderson in the movie Dazed and Confused. Texas music is like a big bubble that forces you to breathe improperly until you emancipate yourself from it.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. Our scene is a lot like the hair metal movement of the 80’s. It sprung out of a hardcore LA club and rock scene. It was vibrant and competitive. It was a spirited and friendly competitive environment in which the bands attempted to snag a record deal, the hottest girl in the club that night, or the best blow and/or smack from some top rate dealer. Sometimes all three in one night.
The market was flooded with wannabes, burnouts, has-beens, never-weres, talents, no talents etc. All trying to jump to the next rung.
Therefore, the shows got louder, the clothes got flashier, the flyers got more vibrant, the stakes got higher, then all of a sudden they all reached a point where they couldn’t go anywhere else but down. Hangers on and neerdowells gravitated to the scene and took hold. Like dirty carnies they attempted to make a buck off what had started as a true revolution in music. The hair metal bands were a direct response to disco and prog rock. People wanted to be entertained, they wanted something flashy and loud. After a few years, the bands were all over MTV and magazines. Sold out tours and hit songs. Everybody in LA that had long hair and could carry a tune was given a deal. After a while, the decadence and nonsense coupled with years of partying had left most of these guys in ruins.
I recall Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue referring to it as “dinosaur mentality”. Meaning, every band and song sounded the same, looked the same, talked about the same stuff, had the same pyro effects at shows, and even had the same hot chicks in each others videos.
And all headed to extinction. They had become the very thing they originated to stop.
Mindless, cookie cutter music and live shows cranked out at cutthroat rates to turn a buck. Sure there were some true originals in the bunch cutting their own path but they were drowned out by amps on 11 and the adulation of fickle fans just looking to have a good time. Texas Music is not alone. This same phenomenon happens in every scene. It’s currently in mainstream country with Bro-Country ripping early 00’s rap themes and slapping a faux rural element.
With regard to hair metal’s overexposure, along came Kurt Cobain et al fronting another movement, which came to be known as Grunge. This new uprising slaughtered the whole mess that hair metal had become with some minor chord riff stomp about disillusioned high school kids. Grunge was fresh, new and the complete opposite of hair metal. Slowly, people cut their hair, quit buying Aqua Net, took up flannel and Doc Martens and mumbled along with Eddie Vedder.
Some of the hair metal bands attempted to put on flannel themselves and keep up with the Jones’ but the landscape had passed them by. The same hangers on, managers and agents that had ridden the coattails of the hair metal guys now had new toys to play with in the grunge scene. Dropping acts like Warrant in favor of Soundgarden and a continued hefty paycheck, these lowlifes proved that they were selfish sharks of no substance, spine or soul.
While bands like Tesla went from headlining arenas to playing dive bars in a matter of months, these creeps were pushing bands like Veruca Salt to be the next Nirvana success story. By the mid 90’s due to so many people’s hands being in the cookie jar, poor musical direction, drug addiction, listener fatigue, unoriginality and other ailments the hair metal movement was history. Relegated to the bargain bin at CD Wharehouse and left to play county fairs as part of package deals of “oldies music”. Some bands came out unscathed but a vast majority did not. Despite Cobain’s suicide, Grunge music charged on for several years until it too became a caricature of itself and faded away.
I went down that long path of music history to say that I firmly believe the Texas Music scene is definitely in the days of the dinosaur. Resources, venues, clubs, support crews, agencies and artists are all doing a dangerous dance with Father Time. The audience is only going to pay to see you in (insert bar here) so many times and hear the same songs over and over when there’s a new cat down the street doing something they haven’t heard before.
How long can the top dogs hang on?
The music that they built their fanbases on is now dated (if not sonically, but literally). It doesn’t matter whether you’re The Beatles, The Stones, Stevie Wonder, George Jones, Tom Petty or George Strait; if you maintain a career that crosses the decade on the odometer you’re going to lose your creative fastball. This has been proven time and again on a national stage across genres. Therefore, this certainly applies to Texas/Red Dirt acts repeatedly pulling from the same wells.
This makes it especially refreshing when cats that have been around a long time like Cody Canada and Wade Bowen push themselves into new creative arenas. Adapting their art for new horizons. They’re each on the cusp of releasing some of the finest material of their respective careers.
Will others follow their lead? Will you as fans keep supporting the same, albeit new, stuff from the same artists? Or will you grow tired and look elsewhere? It’s an interesting time we’re in. We’ve been pointing to this direction for a while. The funny thing is every time I think we reach the tipping point, a new crop of listeners grows up and realizes how cool our state is. Square one.
-If you’d have told me back in August that the Cowboys would be having the type of season they are, I’d have had to ask you to be drug tested.
-I desperately wish that the Ragweed allergy was as cool as the Ragweed band.
-We’re in Texas’ best season. October is crisp in the mornings, comfortable in the evenings and beautiful nearly everywhere. County fairs, football and hunting. It’s glorious.
-We are doing our annual MS Walk to honor/raise funds for my mother’s fight with MS this weekend. I can’t encourage you enough to find a cause you’re passionate about and support it with all your might.
– I’m a Royals fan for the next few weeks. Reminds me of the 2010-11 Rangers.
-Is there a cutoff for dressing up for Halloween?
-Each time I’m stuck in I35 traffic I wish we had lightrail.
–This month’s recommended album: One band that is most definitely not part of the dinosaur cycle is Dirty River Boys. Their latest, self-titled effort is a whirling dervish of influences, sounds, vibes, landscapes and emotions. Sometimes all within the same song. For something with grit, groove and feeling, pick this one up immediately. Then go see a live show to be fully blown away.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain