I’m not a Lubbock expert by any means. I don’t know all the ins and outs on why this place is the way it is; I’m just trying to absorb as much information about the place as possible. Like probably the majority of people, I’ve really got a love-hate relationship with Lubbock. I really do. There’s plenty to love, but I’d be lying if I haven’t thought about jumping ship more than a handful of times. (Maybe Nashville, Austin, or even Marfa would appreciate New Slang more.)
Lubbock’s just too damn interesting to leave at this point–that’s not the point of this article in the first place. There’s all these songwriters and musicians who are doing something that makes me ask one simple question: Why?
Why is there this talent here? Why did they start? Why don’t they have more commercial success? Why don’t they leave? Why does nobody care?Why this. Why that. Why Lubbock? Why not Lubbock? Why? Why? Why?
There’s a struggle in Lubbock unlike any other place. For every pro, there’s two cons. I can’t imagine just how frustrating it must be being a Lubbock musician. There’s the infamous Lubbock Stare. There’s the walls you just run into time and time again. There are struggles. There are clapless shows. There’s “Freebirds” and “Wagon Wheels.” There’s all this bullshit working against you already. Then there’s this extra baggage being Lubbock. Yet for all this, those who make it out end up being better songwriters and players.
I think the easiest examples to show exactly the full dynamics of Lubbock County Blues Experience is that of the Thrift Store Cowboys and Amanda Shires.
1)With TSC, each and every time I’ve seen them perform, I’m overwhelmed with “HOLY SHIT, WHY AREN’T THESE GUYS BIGGER?” It doesn’t matter if it’s them opening for Lucero and Hayes Carll or Justin Townes Earle with the venue oozing out people or if it’s Daniel Fluitt playing at Skooner’s on a Monday or him playing for a traveling band of buddies in a darkened basement in front of 12 people. Or TSC playing Wednesday full band with only a half packed house. Every time, I just don’t know how they aren’t beloved by the masses. And it’s not just me–I’ve been asked the same question by plenty of people.
I’ve ended up on a pretty grim conclusion. Had Fluitt and company grown up in Nashville, New York, Memphis, Austin, LA, Seattle, etc, they would have certainly had more exposure, but they wouldn’t be Thrift Store Cowboys. It’s that simple. Who knows if they’d have even picked up an instrument in the first place. They all could have ended up being accountants for all we know.
So there’s a Catch-22 situation. They wouldn’t be who they are without Lubbock. But it’s also the bane to their existence.
2)Then there’s the whole why doesn’t Lubbock appreciate their talent when they’re actually in Lubbock thing. That’s a pretty big why question as well. Why do we only love Amanda Shires once she’s moved to Nashville and recorded critically acclaimed records and married Jason Isbell and played with all these amazing bands and been praised by others? Or have we even reached the “love” part yet?
I know folks love her, but she’s not getting “Old Lubbock” love yet. (I don’t mean “Old Lubbock” as in an age, but rather a state of mind.) For some, they resent the fact that she moved–even though they don’t have a compelling and/or logical reason.
The last few days I’ve been jotting down a Lubbock to-do list. This isn’t a “Hey, here’s the top 10 things to do list Lubbock. Enjoy!” kind of list though. It’s more a “Hey Lubbock. Here’s some things you should do to get your act together” kind. Some will without doubt be pissed off for whatever reason. But I’ve heard or conversed with plenty of people about many of these things on this list. We’ll keep them anonymous right now though.
It’s of my opinion that Lubbock should stop dragging its heals, open its eyes, and acknowledge that it’s 2013 and will never be 1950 ever again. Wake up. A many of these are connected obviously. A lot of these take time.
I’m tired of going other places and getting “the look” from others when I say I live in Lubbock. I find myself defending Lubbock more times than not, but still am aware that many of their reasons on why Lubbock is less than amazing are valid. There is a problem.
*(in no order of importance.)
1. Lubbockites, actually pay the $5 to get into shows.
I mean really. This shouldn’t deter you from going to a show. It’s 5 bucks. It’s a couple of beers. Instead of going to next door, staying home, or going to a party, go see some music. Then, if you’re seeing/hearing music, put your phone down. Try not to Instagram the entire show. It’s OK to live through it in person rather than relive it later. Take a few, then put it up. And don’t try and video it (Hint: It’s going to most likely come out really, really shitty.)
2. If You’re in the Depot, have live music.
Yes, that means you Cactus Theater. And live music isn’t Eagles greatest hits. It’s a great venue that shouldn’t be content with only having shows that older crowds enjoy. No, this doesn’t mean you can’t have those shows, but still, it’s a place that should be shared by more than just Rockin’ in the 50s audiences.
Other venues/bars/restaurant, have live music. Try it out. This doesn’t mean every night and every day. It means here and there at least. If you have it at least a couple times a month or so, you’re doing it right. And if you’re in the depot and aren’t a bar/venue/restaurant/gallery, why are you there?
3. New Lubbock, learn your history.
The history of Lubbock is rich and plentiful. I’m so tired of running into people who don’t know who Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Richard Bowden, The Maines Brothers, Bob Livingston, Cary Swinney, or Terry Allen are. And many more. Go out and learn who the hell was here before. You may be surprised how damn great they were. And you may even convince some to come and play a show here.
4. Old Lubbock, quit being so snobbish and scared of change.
Snobbish in the sense that no one since Joe Ely has made anything worth a shit in this town. Embrace the new wave. You’re teaching your sons and daughters that it’s OK to only love what they grew up on. This next generation will be taught that only “their” singer-songwriters are worth a damn. It doesn’t mean you have to like each and every one of them. But you may surprise yourself. I think people are just scared to try something new. They fear change. They’re content with what they’re comfortable with. So you, go out and listen to something different. It’s OK to.
5. Quit thinking the only point of going to a show is to get shit-faced.
I’m looking at you, “New Lubbock.”
6. Musicians and venues, quit being so greedy.
These two go hand in hand. I mean this in the way that it’s OK to let a new face play “your gig” every once in a while. I get it. You’ve earned whichever spot you’ve gotten, but don’t be a dick about it. These younger folks are just trying to do what you did years ago. This also may be a kick in the pants to not be so content with what you’re playing. Embrace the youth.
7. Every media outlet should do a better job.
This one included (And yes, if you want to try and get involved, e-mail us). But that means each newspaper–city and college papers–every radio station, TV network, etc should be doing a better job of covering just what the hell’s going on in this town. One of the reasons people don’t know anything is because they just aren’t aware. And as a media and pop culture consumer, you should read. Seriously as much as there’s been a New Slang embrace, I still find people reserved about what exactly NS is. It’s a pretty simple concept. (Side note, I’ve only found this problem with people from the Lubbock/Panhandle area. People in other areas understand right off the bat.) In short, read.
8. City of Lubbock, quit being so menacing when it comes to music and the arts.
Let some people try and start some new venues, galleries, etc. Quit acting like the selling of alcohol and the playing of live music is going to corrupt the youth of the nation. It’s OK for some new blood to try and open a venue for music in Lubbock. Quit making it so damn difficult. Quit letting the same people run the same mundane music “festivals.”
9. Bands, do a better job of marketing yourself.
I get so down when I see a local band playing and they don’t have any merchandise or see a band with a less than admirable Facebook or Twitter page. It doesn’t have to be detailed with every life-changing event or anything. You should at the very least try and get in the groove of posting something at least once a day–no matter if it’s a YouTube performance, the next you’re playing, a link to your merchandise, etc.
10. The “Texas Country” definition problem.
This is a three-parter.
A) Don’t worry, this isn’t just a Lubbock problem, it’s a national one. Regardless, quit basing your opinions on what good “Texas Country” is on who’s playing Wild West and who’s on top of the Texas Radio charts.
B) Then stop lumping everyone else into the “Texas Country” genre. Not everyone who plays countryesque music is Texas Country.
C) New bands and songwriters, diversify. Quit trying to be Josh Abbott or Randy Rogers.
11. Get over what Natalie Maines said 10 years ago.
Really. I just don’t get it.