Like many other industries over the past 16 months or so , things have been on ice for the music industry. This has impacted no other facet of it greater than the independent music scene in Texas and Oklahoma. A house concert here, a tiny bar there, sequestered Mondays on the regular. All of it helped fill the void, but was unable to complete the caverns of despair caused by the loss of live music as we knew it prior to February 2020.
Things are changing though.
Mile 0 Fest kicked off a swing of big shows that are ramping up as we head into summer (including our very own Galleywinter River Jam–lineup to be announced very soon!). Billy Bob’s stepped up big as did Waco’s Backyard Bar. Socially distant shows, reduced capacity shows etc. We’ve limped along, but now we are tossing the crutches away and getting ready to sprint again.
I was able to see this up close and in person this past weekend as I took in a twin bill of Parker McCollum and Flatland Cavalry at Waco’s Extraco Events Center. The night I was there was a sellout of 6,000 people. The night before had been the same with a bill of Koe Wetzel, Pecos and the Rooftops and Austin Meade. 10,521 folks bought tickets to take in live music over the course of two days in central Texas. Live music is back! The fans were eager, rowdy and engaged. They sang along. They bought merch. They packed in tight. Honestly, much like Mile 0 one would look around and tend to forget that 2020 had even happened. You were taken aback at how normal it all felt. It looked just like a show from fall 2019.
Cleto Cordero remarked several times during the Flatland set about how fantastic it felt to be playing for people again. The band ran through a set of hits with a couple new songs tossed in. The McCollum-fan heavy crowd wasn’t always familiar with many of Flatland’s biggest songs, but even they couldn’t resist singing the Kaitlin Butts portions of “Life Where We Work Out”.
McCollum has risen to the level of main event, A-list ticket seller in this region and beyond. Major label deal. Mainstream country radio hits. All without compromising. The Limestone Kid has been the same since I first saw him. Affable, entertaining, authentic. He’s perhaps the biggest draw in the scene at the moment and he has the goods to back it up. On this night, the twin guitar attack of Brady Beal and recent band addition Alex Weeden (longtime Miranda Lambert guitarist) was especially potent playing the familiar riffs of McCollum’s smooth radio jams.
The biggest takeaway of all was the crowd. Energetic, young, passionate, invested. It reminded one of the early Pat Green/Ragweed crowds. They were there for a party and to raise some hell, but they also cared about the songs. That’s something you don’t find anywhere else. It was great to see it alive and back in Texas in the traditional way we have become accustomed to.
Get out and experience it for yourself. It’s as invigorating as it ever was.