by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor’s Note: The Night Shift: The Come Up is a three-part installment about Flatland Calvary, Dalton Domino, and Wade Bowen playing in Midland on Saturday, August 29. This is the first of three pieces. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.
“Hey…has anyone seen my pants?”–Dalton Domino
There’s cheers from a few baseball fields a few vacant lots and streets over. The first eruption takes us by surprise. The six in the Front Porch Family Band crew are wandering around in a half awake, half asleep, and half hungover state this morning. They’re in the middle of hooking their trailer to their newly acquired van. For the majority, they’re wearing sunglasses on this overcast morning.
A faint rain covers them as they take off tire boots and throw a few bags worth of clothes into the trailer. A few cigarettes hang from their lips as they try and take the edge off of last night. Coffee, water, and little bacon grease will come a little later. It’s like removing a splinter from the back of your skull. The pressure is alleviated. You’ve become more functional.
They pile into the van. A few hours later, they’re pulling into the La Hacienda Event Center in Midland. Wade Bowen‘s band is in the middle of a sound check in the cavern of a place. It’s massive. Grand. Dance Hall material for the days of old. A sea of tables start up nearly from the from of the room and extend until about half way. There’s multiple bars being prepped on each wall for the sold out show.
We’re waiting in an auxiliary room in the back with a couple of sofas and chairs. A giant painting of a freed songbird and cage are the focal point on one wall. The entire backstage area—a few various rooms with balcony seating—looks like a hunting lodge with a chic interior decorator—and a thing for massive bull statues. A couple of trays of cut up sandwiches (without any crust too), a dozen small bags of chips, a mound of plump red grapes, and a couple of buckets of water are brought in.
Flatland Cavalry are waiting in the side room as booms, crashes, and a barrage of noise echoes down the small corridor. At times, it sounds like Front Porch is trying to mic a trashcan being thrown across the room. Drumfire. Thunder claps. Guitar rumbles. Static roar. They slowly, but surely get it all in line.
Flatland drummer Jason Albers is walking around Snapchatting various things. He’s taken over the Rattle Media Flatland Cavalry Snapchat Takeover from lead vocalist Cleto Cordero. He’s throwing out skit ideas that can be fit within the parameters of 10 seconds.
Soundcheck. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Merch setup. Check Shower. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Setlist. Check. Restring acoustic. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Eat. Check. Favorite Danny Cadra story retelling. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Nap. Check. Change into stage clothes. Check. Charge phone. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Change setlist. Check. Decide on other pearl snap. Check. Lose phone. Check. Find phone. Check. Fan meet and greet. Check. Drink beer. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Vodka water. Check. Vodka water. Check. Walk around with guitar backstage. Check. Photo Op. Check. Cigarette break. Check. Band meeting. Check. Walk out on stage. Checkmate.
By 9pm, the sprawling place is beginning to fill up with West Texans. They’re holding buckets for $30 for a mixed six-pack of Dos Equis and Corona. A wealth of kids are gathered around the stage as Flatland Cavalry walks out and greets the crowd. An assorted shout of woos, whoops, and hollers ring out from them with scattered handclaps.
For Flatland’s Cordero and Albers, it’s their most proper and largest homecoming show they’ve had in their short career. Sure, they’ve played the Midland area before, but nothing this grand or receptive. They begin the set with a handful of songs not on their debut EP, Come May. Those not familiar with Flatland’s crisp country twang begin falling in love within a few guitar strums and fiddle strokes.
A few songs in, Bowen drummer and Lubbock native Jay Saldana finds me. He’s their newest big fan. He’s gushing with praise before setting off to buy his own Flatland t-shirt. He’s wearing it 15 minutes when he returns.
Everything’s precise with Flatland with a few missteps along the way—something due to soundboard issues that quickly gets resolved by the time Cordero is hitting those soaring high notes on “Missing You.”
“That’s a damn radio hit if I’ve ever heard one,” says Domino. “Holy shit is that fucking good.” He’s talking about the ear candy of a chorus on the newish tune “One I Want.” You can’t disagree with the remark. It’s a pretty simple declaration from Cordero: He’s gonna write you a love song that’s yada yada yada is gonna wanna make you sing alooooooooong.
It’s one of those songs that if you were just reading, you’d probably not think much of it—hell, maybe even cheesy or redundant. But once you actually hear it, you’ll be humming along for days (seriously, I’ve had it the chorus stuck in my head for days).
It’s difficult to do. Flatland is five songs into their recorded career and have already surpassed those five tracks with better songs. Sure, “No Shade of Green,” “Missing You,” “Summertime Love,” “Love Me in the Water,” and “Ain’t Missing You Yet” could all be marked as single worthy. By all means, they’re really good songs and I’d definitely argue they were the proper way to introduce the band to the rest of Texas and beyond. But, when compared to the rest of Cordero’s songwriting, you’ll hear the difference.
With songs like “Tall City Blues,” “Stompin’ Grounds,” “Devil on My Back,” and a host of other songs that they didn’t play on Saturday, you see there’s more than just summer love and flings on the young songwriter’s mind. He’s not going to be typecast that easily.
Return tomorrow for Part 2 of The Night Shift: The Come Up.