June 29, 2012

Lone Star Jam 2012

Lone Star Jam 2012
On-Campus @ The University of Texas
Opening Festival of the Season

Springtime has come and gone, and now we’re in the midst of another brutal Texas summer.  Summer means many things to many people; no school, travel plans, staying cool (somehow), and most importantly to us here at LoneStar Outlaw Review…Festival SeasonTexas is home to a plethora of Music Festivals throughout the year; from  ACL, to SXSW, to Cajun and Crawfish festivals, and even Far Out West (to name a few).  Lone Star Jam has wisely cemented itself at the end of spring, just as people are getting excited to gear up for summer and the weather hasn’t turned ugly just yet.  They have always put forth a good product and really outdid themselves this year.  Here’s how we saw things…

To be the opening band of a festival is a daunting task as concert goers aren’t always known for punctuality.  Upon arrival, they just want to get acclimated with their surroundings, find that perfect spot and grab a drink, and before they know it…the opening band is wrapping up their set.  No Justice was handed the reins to open the festival this year, and they did great.  They played the familiar hits that casual fans might recognize, used some good banter to intermingle with the arriving fans, dropped the info on a new album coming out in August, and passed the baton to the next band.  Not being as familiar with their music (and being one of the before mentioned non-punctual types), we didn’t get to see and hear as much as we would have liked to but at the same time…we really look forward to grabbing some of their music and becoming more attuned.  They have a great sound that is uniquely theirs.

Micky and the Motorcars were up next in what we figured could be a rough spot for them.  The festival occurred very shortly after the passing of former member Mark “Gus” McCoy, and you never know how a band (or anyone for that matter) will react.  But Micky and the boys showed why they are professionals and certainly did not phone it in.  In fact they looked and sounded awesome and it would seem that being on the stage is their solace place…and where they feel the most comfortable.  They tore through crowd favorites “Amber”, “Carolina Morning”, and “Nobody’s Baby” while introducing a new track they recorded with Kevin Welch, “How Far I’ll Go”.  Having met and interviewed these guys before we know what they are capable of and can’t wait to see them headline this same festival someday. 

Following MMC, Brandon Ryder took his place on stage.  Now, Ryder is an interesting artist to be a fan of.  Most of us are fans of these guys for different reasons.  For some it’s the looks, the spoken word, or the way certain songs make you feel.  To us, seeing Brandon Ryder perform is like seeing a truly gifted artist at work.  Absolutely no offense to any other performer out there, but Brandon seems to be one of  the most vocally talented guys of the bunch—and it is wonderful to hear him unleash his vocal pipes on an unsuspecting crowd.  He belted his way through “Lord, I Hope this Day is Good”, “Rock Angel”, “In the Country”, and the last single off his latest effort, Live at Billy Bob’s, “Shine”.  It’s is always great to hear artists speak about where their inspiration comes from—and seeing Brandon perform “Freeze Frame Time” while holding his sleepy child shows where most of Mr. Ryder’s thoughts are based.  If you aren’t familiar with him yet, do it soon.

We’re still really not sure what to make of Whiskey Myers.  One part Southern rockers, one part hippy, one part jam band.  But put it all together and you have one hell of a fusion going on that is that going to continue picking up speed, which is all they have done since their 2007 inception.  These East Texas boys bring it all to the table and any listener out there who is only listening in for one particular type of music, just keep listening because eventually they will get to it.  Our only request would be for them to cut back slightly on the jamming out when there is such a time constraint that festivals inevitably leave you with.  And we only say that because we want for the rest of the audience to hear what we already know and for them to hear more selections from you.  That being said, they debuted a new single, “Anna Marie” off their latest album Firewater.  Other selections included “Broken Window Serenade”, “Ballad of a Southern man”, and an absolutely scorching version of CCR’s (not that one) “Green River”.  Keep showing the world why you took home the “Emerging Artist of the Year” award fellas, we will certainly be seeing you next time you come around.

There’s something strange that happens at nearly every festival and it’s hard to explain.  It’s like when you were a kid playing with your friends and your big brother came out (who was much bigger than you) and you knew the energy was about to shift in his favor.  Enter Charlie Robison; who may not be any of these guys’ big brother, but you kinda get the feeling he could find a way to turn the amps up to 11 if he wanted.  Mr. Robison has the looks of a seasoned veteran, the sounds of a polished and well-traveled band, and the song catalogue to accommodate every fan.  Whether it be the slower “My Hometown”, or “El Cerrito Place” to the more up tempo “John O’Reilly’ and “Barlight”…the way Charlie commands the stage so effortlessly is a lesson to other ‘would-be’ musicians out there.  The music and storytelling is what matters and the way Charlie draws you in with other crowd favorites like “Down Again”, “New Year’s Day”, and “Angry All the Time” is great to see.  One minute you are sitting down in the shade and the next you find yourself front and center at the stage swaying along and wondering how you got there.  It’s the music folks, he’ll be in your town soon.

That brings us to Cody Canada and The Departed and after reading our interview with him a few months back, you know that we were psyched to see this occur.  Cody and his band mates are of course no strangers to how these festivals work.  Plug in, let ‘em rip, and leave them wanting more.  Unfortunately there were some technical difficulties that shaved around 10-15 off their set time but it still gave them enough time to crank it out.  Their lone album, This is Indian Land, was represented by “Skyline Radio” and “Face on Mars” while their next release will feature “Calling All Demons” and “Flagpole”, both featured at the show.  It is a shame about the technical difficulties because we know how feverishly they have been working on the next album and you got the impression they were eager to test out some of it live.  They even included a few Ragweed songs such as “Alabama”, “Anywhere but Here”, and “Dimebag” which they play pretty regularly at their shows.  The chants for CCR have seemed to subside which is great.  There is a time and a place for everything party people, and while that era has moved along…take notice of what’s rocking your face off right in front of you.  The Departed are here to stay and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jason Boland and the Stragglers have a quiet way of sneaking up on you.  Jason’s aw-shucks demeanor is only a coy detractor to letting you know he’s there with the big boys.  From the rocking out covers of “Thunderbird Wine” and “Outlaw Band” to the slower, more thought provoking “Electric Bill” and “False Accuser’s Lament”, Jason sets the stage for where he wants to take you musically.  He will play the crowd pleasers, “Pearl Snaps” and “Somewhere Down in Texas” but also the sentimental “Mary Ellen’s Greenhouse” all mixed together with ease.  Mr. Boland sits high on the mantle of artists with substance over style and carries forth a proud legacy of storytelling and craftsmanship.  He and the Stragglers have already begun work on the follow up to last year’s highly acclaimed Rancho Alto.

It takes a very delicate balance to keep hipsters, bikers, frat boys, and the casual fan all interested at the same time.  Stoney Larue and the Arsenals do this somehow.   And though we can’t quite put our finger on exactly how, we’re happy to be a part of it.  And so are a whole hell of a lot of others.   Both studio albums were well represented with his latest effort, Velvet, getting slightly more attention, which is to be expected.  The highly anticipated new record transfers greatly into live form and he masterfully transitions from slower songs like “Velvet” and “Te Amo Mas Que La Vida” to faster tunes such as “Sharecropper” and “Wiregrass”.  His previous effort, The Red Dirt Album, produced more sing-a-long up-tempo songs like “Oklahoma Breakdown” and “One Chord Song” but, as with the mixing of his audience, he mixes all these different sounds together greatly.  I hope you guys are getting your fill of Mr. Larue because the secret is already getting out on his talents and he’s gonna have to spend more time outside the friendly confines of Texas to appease all his fans.

If you had told Josh Abbott and his band five years ago that they would be the second to last band to play at a major festival, I’m pretty sure there would be a “get outta here”, probably with an expletive mixed in.   Then again Josh has always seemed to have the self-confidence to obtain any dream laid in front of him.  His meteoric rise to the top of the Texas Country scene has been nothing but astonishing and has garnered him some prime time attention on the national stage as well.  The She’s Like Texas album shed a light onto a bright and up and coming star both gifted in verbiage and showmanship.   “She’s Like Texas” is an obvious choice for songs to put atop the highlight reel but mix in “Ain’t Met my Texas Yet”, “All of a Sudden”, and “I Just Wanna Love You” and you start to round out a great mix of songs.  Mixing in the band Fun’s version of “We Are Young” into your own smash hit “Oh, Tonight” is a genius stroke of always staying current.  Rounding it out with “Good Night for Dancing” and a dedication for the road trippers that keep these bands employed, “Road Tripping” is a great way to cap off a great show for the band and its fans.

Closing out the day of music was Mr. Randy Rogers.  To see a Randy Rogers show is to know why he’s headlining this shindig.  Every single song is a sing-a-long, every fan has a smile, and every song conveys what RRB is trying to get across.   Randy and the guys could play for hours and hours and not hit every great song of theirs.  Each album is its own greatest hits compilation and condensing those down to a 1 ½ to 2 hour set list is almost unfair to the fans.  There is just such a plethora of great material and he constantly is working on new stuff.  As for the show, I now will get off my soapbox.  Randy just knows what he’s doing.  He holds the crowd in the palm of his hands and takes them on a ride.  Whether it’s “Wicked ways”, “Buy Myself a Chance”, or the brand new “Speak of the Devil”, the band knows how to appease all comers.  All of the music feels genuine and still has a down home feel to it.  The light show of outdoor events is also another reason for going.  They seem to almost be going haywire during “Too Late for Goodbye” among others but turns out to be perfectly timed with the beat.  Guess it’s just hard to keep up with a bad ass fiddle player.  Randy Rogers has could headline every festival across this State and I don’t think you would find too many displeased spectators.  He stays true to the simple formula of making good music people can dance to, sing to, and feel good about.  We as Texans should be proud to call him our own. 

All in all, the day was a huge success (at least from a fan’s perspective).  Prices were fair, plenty of port-a-pots to go around, and nothing seemed to run out till the end of the night.  A little more variety would have been nice seeing how there was only one food choice but what do we know?  Lone Star Jam really outdid themselves this time with a phenomenal lineup that would be tough to match or exceed;  and the setting could not have been nicer.  We as fans don’t need much reason to head to Austin but thanks for giving us yet another reason.  This is one website that will happily be back for years to come!

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