There’s an infamous viral video from a few years back where a middle aged man at a wrestling convention Q&A in a high school gym is moved to tears and bellows “it’s still real to me, damnit!”. I’ve watched and laughed at that at least a dozen times over the years. I’ll explain how this is relevant as we move along.
Recently, as I was cleaning out some boxes in the attic I found some old photographs ranging from 14-20 years ago. In it, I found a set of pictures from of a concert roadtrip. It brought back a flood of memories that haven’t left me yet. Having been immersed in the scene for just a few months by spring 1998, we found ourselves hearing about a Pat Green concert in Meridian. Hell, that’s right down the road our young high school and community college brains processed. We have to go! None of us were of age, so finding out that it was BYOB was a boon. We paid a tired, non English speaking day-laborer at the nearest convenience station $40 to get us a 30 pack of ‘Stones and told him he could keep the change. The communication was broken, but money talked. We were off. Flying down Hwy 6 to what we thought was just a run of the mill Texas Music show of the day.
We were wrong.
We pulled in to find a NASCAR infield assembled down the treeline by the Bosque River and a throng of all ages parked in lawn chairs in front of the stage. It was immediately apparent that we had just arrived home. We sauntered around with our quickly losing cold cardboard cooler of Keystone and rapidly realized how ill-prepared we’d been. The other folks here had prepared like they were heading into a nuclear fallout shelter at any moment. Clothes, food, supplies and good times for days. We could most definitely jive with this.
I distinctly remember that I was wearing a Jack Ingram shirt and hadn’t made it 20 yards before someone told me “Man, that’s a badass shirt!”. I was indeed home. The next thing I noticed is that several artists were just hanging out in the crowd talking to people. As a relative newb, this blew my mind. It was one thing to have a quick conversation at the bar or merch table…but to be sitting in a folding chair drinking several beers together to the sounds of the Red Dirt Rangers was something completely and mind-blowingly different. In a lifetime of music fandom, this was a new and pleasant phenomenon. Seeing them up close and talking to them made their already relatable songs even more real.
The sun was down by the time Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines strode onstage. I noticed a tall, lanky dude lingering by the sidestage steps. No security or ropes. I thought to myself…”Self, that’s Pat Green.” I wandered closer. It was definitely PG. Nobody around him. I must add here that our 30 pack was long gone and we’d taken to the kindness of strangers who were breaking the law and supplying we underagers without any regard for the lax Bosque County Sherrif’s department. Despite a big sign that said “NO GLASS” near the stage, someone handed me a 40 oz of Mickey’s Malt Liquor. It was disgusting and liberating all at once. With malt liquid courage in hand, I sauntered over to Pat Green and slurred…”Hey Pat!” He whirled around and smiled. “What’s up man?” (Internal monologue was “Holy sh*t!”) “Badass show man”, I continued. He, still smiling said…”Sure is.” He put his arm around me like we were long lost brothers. Police were eyeing the late teen with the 40 oz but just shook their heads and moved along. Being around Pat Green wasn’t just cool…he kept the cops at bay by his mere presence. I asked him to sign my cap, he obliged. He said he had to go get ready for his set and I said “Okay man…bye…thanks for signing my hat.” As he turned to leave I awkwardly blurted out, “You’re my hero man!” He grinned even bigger, winked at me and walked back to his bus.
My hero was real. The man that had inspired me to pick up the guitar, write songs, immerse myself in a new music scene, travel long distances to see shows by himself and his friends and on and on…was there in front of me. He was real. Everything about that day was real.
Turns out that place we had landed at was called Larry Joe Taylor’s Texas Music Festival and Chili Cookoff. LJT for short. Although, as I’ve noted in the past I’ve heard it called Redneck Woodstock and Texas Bonaroo. I haven’t missed one since. A few years after that, the festival moved to Stephenville’s Melody Mountain Ranch and grew from a couple thousand to several tens of thousands. I feel like we had a small hand in that. After coming back from that first one we told EVERYONE we met about how we’d found the coolest concert ever. We recruited dozens of people to start attending and camping out. Soon our Galleywinter platform allowed us to promote the event like never before. A few more years later and the chili cookoff portion faded to the background and out of the name. I still go. It’s still real to me.
There’s a ton of anxiety and planning that goes into it now. It’s such a big undertaking both financially and time wise. I wish I could be the carefree kid that lucked into getting a transient worker to illegally buy he and his friends some cheap beer at the local Chevron. Stroll in with nothing but cowboy cool beer and a smile. Now we have Galleywinter giveaways, different level wristbands etc. It’s a different world. But, I’m also a different person. The festival has changed, I’ve changed, the scene has changed…but it’s all still real to me, damnit.
Looking forward to year 18 for myself and crew.
-I’ve stayed at LJT in just about every arrangement: truck, converted box truck, converted school bus, tent, luxury RV, barely street legal RV, rented motorhome, top of the line 5th wheel and tour bus. This year we’ll be back in a rented motorhome and in a nice spot in our same electric section but moved over a few rows. Looking forward to meeting our new neighbors. You’ll be glad to have us now as opposed to 10 years ago, I promise.
-It’s spring storm season in Texas already. Let’s hope the tornadoes avoid us at LJT and avoid all of us this entire season.
-Jackie Darlene is the real deal. Proud of her and happy to see so many folks jumping on the Jackie bandwagon. It’s a beast.
-It’s baseball time in Texas. So nice.
-I find ways to avoid 35. “Never took the same road twice on the way back home,” is an old Jerry Jeff lyric that fits my mode of roadtripping. Look into it. 281 and 77 and much more scenic and stress free drives to head north and south.
-Chocolate eggs >> confetti eggs.
-I’m playing in the Ray’s of Hope Golf Tourney on Masters Sunday with Ike Ballou. Let’s hope we conjure up some Speith magic. It’s a Bowen Classic tune up.
-Greenfest lineup and ticket info will be unveiled VERY soon.
–This month’s recommended album is: Flatland Cavalry – Humble Folks. This Cleto Cordero-led Lubbock outfit is poised to be the band of 2016. I hate to make lofty comparisons like this, but I will (lol), but this band at this moment reminds me of Turnpike Troubadours circa 2009. The songs are there, the live show is there and the charisma is there. They have all the tools and more people are joining them all the time. This record coalesces all of their best elements into one and evokes that strong, distinctive Panhandle style while still being accessible to everyone.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain