by: Thomas D. Mooney
Despite the snow and icy road conditions, the wind hasn’t been too bad the last few days. Still, a few inches of snow and the prospect of anarchy and chaos on the roads can drive a person to boarding up the doors and staying in the confines of their home. Who can really blame them. Really, that’s a perfectly normal thing to do.
But that whole fair weather fan sentiment does come into play. You begin to see which of your friends are fans and which of your fans are diehards.
Winter Storm Advisory shows are a strange bunch. They can all be a little different, but they’re undeniably characterized by a strange vibe that’s difficult to impossible to quantify. To hell with summarizing it in a sentence. There’s many factors that help create this vibe, but the one I’m most interested in is the following:
The singer-songwriter/artist/musician to normal people ratio is off.
Typically, crowds are “normal people” heavy with sprinkles and pockets of musicians and bands. But these bad weather shows, it’s the polar opposite. It’s pretty telling that the only people willing to bundle up, drive slow on ice, and attend these shows are other musicians and artists.
And I don’t think in a tainted, phony, or calculated way either. It’s more genuine than ever.
Friday night at Jake’s, Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth–an apt band name for the subject at hand–released their second album, What If We Are Ghosts, with two other Lubbock greats, Sugarwitch and The Goners. It’s been in the works as the release date for at least a month and a half–a real circle the date in red marker kind of thing.
No one dropped from the bill. No cancellations or postponement. No excuses. Eaton was asked if he’d like to move the date to Sunday (which was still pretty much the same) and his response was no way. Not a chance.
Eaton had plenty of friends and family attend, but there were also songwriters and musicians–and not just from the two openers. Eaton would’ve shook everyone’s hand and thanked them for coming regardless of the weather, but you undoubtedly knew he meant it with snow falling outside. He’d have probably even helped you scrape ice off your windows.
You saw it in exchanges–probably the most telling in a conversation between Eaton and fellow Lubbock songwriter Stephen St. Clair. You read it the next day with Tweets like “The name of the next album will be ‘Heath Tolleson Got Me Drunk.'”
Saturday was much the same at Blue Light. It was supposed to be a celebration of sorts. A Texas Independence Day with Lonestar Beer being there with the aforementioned St. Clair, Aaron Einhouse, and Red Shahan playing. Einhouse couldn’t make it and was sufficiently substituted by an acoustic Dalton Domino successfully making it an all-Lubbock affair.
Again, the crowd was overwhelmingly songwriters and the like.
What does all that mean? What makes it different? I think it’s a couple of things.
A) People tend to give a shit.
I know, it’s surprising that musicians, songwriters, artists, and bands typically like to listen to great songwriting and music. It seems a little no-brainer. But really, if you’re trekking through the weather and making an effort to see someone perform, you’re more than likely going to shut up and listen–musician or not.
B) There’s an understanding and appreciation amongst these people.
Again, maybe a no-brainer. But there’s respect between those who made it out and the band performing. Bands should be giving a crowd their money’s worth every time they perform–and a lot do–but during these shows, the band typically goes even harder than usual. There’s maybe a few things done that they’d have not done in front of a barnstormer.
Or it could be something else that was said by a musician who I won’t identify for the sake of anonymity. Maybe it’s that musicians and songwriters are just cooler than other people.
Essentially, the conversation went like this:
Me: I sometimes think about how strange and interesting some of these songwriters are. And I wonder if it’s just because I’m hanging out with musicians all the time that I think they’re interesting people and would think the same if I was friends with all realtors or car salesmen.
Songwriter #1: No. It’s because they’re really interesting people. They’re a little crazy. Anytime I’m with other people, I just think about how uninteresting they can be. I mean, they’re good people, but they can be boring.
Me: I tend to think that’s the case too. But hell, I could be wrong. I’m wrong about a lot of stuff.
Songwriter #1: No. The songwriters around here are a pretty crazy bunch.
Me: There’s no doubting the crazy part.
The weather, yeah, it’s not the best, but it sort of makes the entire thing more memorable and an experience. It sets it apart from the rest. The images are more vivid and don’t mix with the rest of the times you saw them perform.
Shahan covering “All of Me” by John Legend sticks out a little more. Guitarist Ryan Tharp (who plays with Shahan) playing two of his own songs, they’re a little rich. Jerry Serrano’s trumpet pops out even more on St. Clair and Goners songs. Eaton preluding songs such as “Clean” with why this album is more personal than The Moth Complex, it becomes more important. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Faces in the crowd are defined. Songs you hear are clearer. Conversations you’re a part of, they’re more candid and coherent.
There’s less selfies and Snapchats and more music absorption and sincerity.