Five years ago I wrote the following article about why Greenfest or Galleywinter or the Texas Music community in general was unique and special. While time and age has jaded me a tad, the unparalleled passion you find in this community is staggering. I figured I’d dust this old piece off with the Greenfest 2013 knocking on our door and remind us about that special spark that’s lit inside all of us.
As humans, we have a tendency to focus too much on the negative and this warts and all approach has been hampering enjoyment of this music scene for a while now.
I must thank Scott Matthews for the reminder…and I hope after you read this you’ll thank him too.
The day of Greenfest last year, Scott was attending a funeral in Midland. A somber occasion to say the least. Many isolated and desolate miles away from Greenfest and Austin. Late that afternoon, deciding he had grieved as much as he could in the oil fields of west Texas, he told his girlfriend….”There’s a little something going on down in Austin that I’d love to check out.” Her reply, “I’m going to pack.” When I asked him why he’d make such an insane concert run at the last minute, his poignant reply was “In Texas and with Galleywinter in particular, it’s never just a concert…it is a spiritual experience.”
You see, Scott had fond memories of Greenfest. It was the 2005 version when he was going through a rough spot in his life. He showed up that crisp February night at River Road Icehouse just expecting a good time to keep his mind off things for a while and maybe do a bit of networking for the small band he was in at the time. What he found held much deeper meaning.
He found a dysfunctional sect (Galleywinter) of a larger dysfunctional family (Texas Music scene) throwing one hell of a family reunion.
He, along with the hundreds in attendance, witnessed as Stoney LaRue, along with Jeremy Watkins delivered one of the best acoustic sermons I’ve ever seen. If there ever was a truly magical musical evening…it was happening on this night. A night that had a late-night jam session last till nearly sunrise and was capped off by Stoney playing Scott’s very own bass while we all took turns playing Stoney’s guitar.
Throughout the course of the evening, he saw the interactions of people meeting for the first time and old friends sharing a beer after many months apart. People making plans to make it to several shows or roadtrip out of state together to see a show. Artists giving away schwag to people just because they felt like sharing their tunes or tees. Song ideas being hatched on napkins. Phone numbers and business cards being exchanged.
Everything that was happening transcended a mere musical concert.
Over time, Scott ingratiated himself to Galleywinter and became a very active member of the community. He also began playing solo gigs himself and working on a record. The ’06 Greenfest is best known for ice and Mike McClure. It was a fun night, but the magic from ’05 was missing despite everyone’s best efforts. ’07 brought a Greenfest venue change to Austin, as well as, a life venue change for Scott Matthews.
Sitting in his hometown of Midland, those many miles away from the folks he considered his newfound, extended family, he made the fateful decision to make that run.
Scott understood something that many of us often forget in this scene.
We are blessed and lucky to have all of this available to us. Things that happen here don’t happen in other places. Just ask someone from Minnesota.
And, it is as important in the good times as the bad. One of my favorite song lyrics is by Jerry Jeff, and I use it often. It goes, “just lettin’ it roll, lettin’ the high times carry the low…just livin’ my life, easy come, easy go.”
Music is music…but Texas Music as a community is a family….and it is a support system for all climates.
While, it is everything that happened that night in 2005 at River Road between old friends and new friends, musicians, fans and everyone else in between.
It is also so much more.
It is the great American dream drawing a guy like Drew Kennedy down from Virginia. Or, Jason Eady from Mississippi. Completely transplanting and transforming their lives because the only place that matches the passion and enthusiasm they have for music is here.
It is two songwriters unselfishly sharing a stage and swapping song ideas backstage and saying “Hey man, we should write together sometime.”…and meaning it. Just like Bleu Edmondson and Owen Temple did at Greenfest one year.
It is Randy Rogers giving a struggling up and comer his headliner money for the evening because he knows the newcomer needs it more.
It is Pat Green taking JP “Hogleg” Long to the Grammy’s in New York with him in 2002.
It is Kent Finlay climbing onstage while weak from chemo and belting out “Hill Country”.
It is the crowd passing the hat at Larry Joe Taylor’s festival in the early 90’s when word spread that he would nearly go bankrupt due to gate crashers at the festival.
It is Mike McClure’s daughter or Rusty Wier undergoing a terrible medical ordeal and everyone rallying around them with prayer chains and benefits.
It is Cory Morrow and Josh Grider playing gospel songs at the Celebration of Life Benefit in Luling and some really good folks then buying an autographed guitar in an auction, and putting it back up for bid so more money could be raised.
What Scott understood in that backyard in Midland after a traumatic day was…
It is people heeding the call of the music and the lifestyle, taking a leap of faith and moving to Texas because they met some friends who share musical tastes, loyalty and a zest for life.
It is people that will be flying in from out of state to just to catch the Greenfest show and soak up some slices of Texas for a weekend.
It is meeting your future wife at the big bar in the middle of Billy Bob’s with a group of your friends, while one of your friends is about to play the biggest show of his life.
It is an article on on Galleywinter or Rita Ballou that turns someone on to a new band.
And to bring our story full circle…
It is Scott Matthews playing on the Greenfest stage just three years after GF got him through the darkest days of his life.
It is coming to Greenfest and staying at Greenfest because you realize it’s bigger than yourself. It is not just another concert to get drunk at. It is a family reunion.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve all gotten lost a time or two. To those that are still lost, be it: a once proud musician artistically confused or a former member of this community who got caught up with life or present members of this community who get caught up in trivial things…I hope you find your way home to your family soon. There’s no better place to start than Greenfest 2013. See you there.
-Tank wrote an addendum to this piece some years back too. You can find it HERE.
-Seems like we’ve been inundated with more great releases than usual these past few months. The quality has been exceptional. I hope this remains the case.
-Another All-Star break…another Rangers team in contention. If they rip my heart out again, it’s okay…I’m used to it.
-July is possibly my favorite month of the year. Birthday, Greenfest and the 4th…hard to beat.
-At the risk of sounding extremely old…we need some rain.
-I’ve been re-watching The Wire and it rightfully holds down its spot as the #1 TV show of all time. Working on a Bill Simmons/Jason Whitlock-esque article that mirrors analogies between the game and the music scene.
–This month’s recommended album: Ben Danaher-Starting Over EP. Danaher has been plying his trade in the Nashville songwriting factory, but hasn’t lost any of his edge or orginality. It’s only a matter of time before the Kacey Musgraves shaped corners of Nashville song pluggers tap into what Danaher is producing. Quality, quality stuff.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain