“There’s always somebody playing somewhere.” That’s the quote the grizzled songwriter gave me post-set as he gazed out at the domestic longneck swilling crowd that had been nonplussed by his original offerings, yet exploded onto the dance floor during his loadout to the successive medley of The Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, Copperhead Road. You know the drill. The venue we were in was one of my favorites and as I surveyed the scene and began apologizing to the artist on behalf of the lack of true music fans in the house that particular evening, he clinked my glass, squinted as if he was Woodrow Call staring into the morning sun and said the above quote with a sly grin on his face. One of the biggest bands in the scene was playing a sold out show of 1200 folks 15 minutes down the road. The crowd in front of us barley etched into three digits.
At that moment, I realized that this was an issue he and others faced all too often. So often, in fact, that it was commonplace. It’s what makes the special gigs truly unique. Those nights where everything clicks. The crowd is into it. The sound is fantastic. The vibe unparalleled. Those nights are rare. More often, the crowd is light, the sound is inconsistent and the vibe is lacking.
You’re either at the place to be or the place to listen. It is extremely uncommon for those two places to share the same address. There are benefits to both. Sometimes you just want to load up with your boys and go drink 28 beers while screaming along to your favorite songs from the band of the moment. You’re one of thousands (or hundreds) in the same boat that night depending on the venue. Bad sound, who cares…you’re going to be screaming and Snapping over it anyway. You’re creating your own vibe…you don’t need the band and venue for that. On the flip side, when you truly need to hear what the songwriter is saying, you want it to be set up right. You want the personal connection. You want to sip a few. You want to soak in the songs and stories.
This dichotomy of musical needs and wants is what led us to create River Jam. It’s why we have a multitude of show styles over the River Jam weekend. Rocked out full band insanity. Intimate songwriter passion. And everything in between. It’s why we promote full band shows across the state, but are creating a spot for songwriters in Waco called The Landing. With apologies to Hannah Montana, it’s the best of both worlds.
There will always be somebody playing somewhere. And it’s always been our goal to be in touch with what’s happening in both locales. Those addresses change places quickly in this life and scene. Today’s zeitgeist is tomorrow’s history. Last week, I saw photos and posts on social media of Cory Morrow and Drew Womack playing sparsely attended acoustic shows for tourists on South Padre Island. There was a time when both of those guys could fill up any venue in this state. Any venue. Times change. It is rare for acts to retain their drawing power. After all, there is always somebody playing somewhere. The competition doesn’t stop. It’s fierce, relentless and never-ending. All of this came to the forefront of my consciousness due to The Co-Write boys and I setting about recording an episode looking back at bands/acts that had a surge at one time and have kind of fallen into the cracks of scene history to be nearly forgotten. I’ve also taken a deep dive into my audio collection in preparation for another trip to turn some tables with Mattson Rainer next month. Predicting long term success in music is even less certain that scouts predicting long term athletic success in pro sports. You boom and you bust.
We’ve always prided ourselves on catching the next big thing on its way up. Our batting average is pretty good. Sustainability is not the same metric as possibility. Even those that reach the mountaintop eventually fall victim to the ills of the Wobble and a crowd half paying attention as the true music fans are down the road seeing the next big thing. Those of us involved in this scene, website and community see far more than the average amount of concerts. With that in mind, I implore you to seek out all avenues for your valuable entertainment dollar. Go see someone you’ve never seen and someone you haven’t seen in a long time as often as you see your favorites. After all, there’s always somebody playing somewhere.
-Fathers Day has always been pretty epic. Golf, grilling out, laziness, gluttony. Now that I get the dad’s share of attention, it’s pretty boss. Yet, it also causes me great reflection and melancholy as I miss my pops and grandpa. With all the bad surrounding us in this world, I hope you reached out to your old man yesterday in one form or another.
-Venturing back to NOLA next month for my birthday. Last time I was there was last year for a bachelor party that got a little out of hand. One member of our group broke his foot in the midst of drunken shenanigans on Bourbon Street. The only upside was it did get us bumped to the preboarding group for SWA. So, fun note…take a walking boot with you and cut the line.
-RIVER JAM is next month! That’s a big weekend in NBTX. But, if any town can handle that much music and madness it’s the 830. I’ll be on air with Troubadour Country Radio and KNBT plugging the show a bit over the coming weeks.
-Someone rented the cabin we’ve stayed in on the Guad for the past decade before we could. Right out from under us. When I get there and find out who it was, my Elm Mott is coming out.
-With my team in the dumpster, this MLB season has been interminable. We’re in the sports hinterlands until two-adays starts.
-We aren’t sure Hank done it this way, but what would he be doing today?
-A fun bit is to download the AMI jukebox app and play inappopriate or annoying songs at bars you’re not at, but that you know you’re buddies are.
-I haven’t taken 35 on purpose in weeks and it’s been life-changing. I recommend it if you can.
-This months’ recommended album: Paul Cauthen – Have Mercy EP. Cauthen’s last record was one of the best to pop out of Texas in many years. Bombastic, diverse, soulful. Country brained, gospel hearted. Echoes of Cash, Waylon and Elvis strained through the songwriting of Keen. He picks up where he left off and at times the entire trying too hard persona of being an Americana rock star could probably rub some the wrong way…just take in the tunes and leave the image stuff out of your head. Get lost in the melodies and that monster voice.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain