Dwight Yoakam Rocks Star of Texas Rodeo


At the Star of Texas Rodeo finals on Sunday evening the real trophy belonged to the bulls who were throwing off champion riders like raindrops off speeding trains. And so it seemed like Dwight Yoakam took the stage just like a bull off the gates, throwing his rockin brand of country music so hot and loud that you could tell he didn’t care very much whether you could, or could not, hang on for the ride.

Within seconds of hitting the stage, and without so much as a howdy, Dwight and his four-piece band threw down the challenge of “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music,” letting everyone know right away what mood to get in. With electric volumes maxxed out, and Dwight’s twangin voice sounding like the sixth string of an electric banjo, the boys played refrain after refrain after refrain. Then song after song.

If you found yourself wondering when is this show going to slow down? you’d just waste time thinking about things you cannot control. Because the boys played hit after favorite after hit until you came to see that the whole purpose of the thing was to pack the show so full of sound that it would burst the arena at the seams. And the bursting time came, too, right at the word “Sookie!”

Last time Dwight played the rodeo he was good but not this good. Last time he was letting us know that he was coming back. This time he was back all the way. Of course he has a terrific concert voice in the style of folk roots singing like the kind Lomax recorded when he was skipping out on his philosophy lessons during the dust bowl. And when D-wight picks up an old Buck Owens tune like “Streets of Bakersfield,” well you can feel his throat clutching into fifth gear.

Not sure what hit or favorite he left out. Maybe “Long White Cadillac.” Maybe because it was just a touch too melancholy. But he did open throttle with hits like “Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music” or “Thousand Miles from Nowhere” switching them between favorite covers like like “Streets of Bakersfield” and “Little Sister.” In one instance he put the Buck Owens song right in the middle of (hey mister) “Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose.” That’s when I thought, “this show is going to Vegas!” So we’ll see.

And it was finally in the middle of “Streets of Bakersfield” that Dwight called out to the audience, stopping at the mention of “San Francisco” to declare that it would be “sacreligious” to not change the lyrics a bit. So “I went down to the Star of Texas Rodeo” is a line he played with a couple of times, amusing himself and the audience with the staccato sound of it, before settling on “down to Austin” where he could finally spend that “night there in the can.”

All the while, Dwight was changing guitars faster than NASCAR tires between peeled-out laps. And the climax of it all came of course in the middle of “Fast as You” — a song that got so revved up musically that I just had to close my eyes and let it all whirl. At the word “Sookie!” there was one more guitar change in mid song and one more guitar jam that left you feeling like you hardly ever feel in these shortened rodeo shows, which is to say, satisfied.

Then there was a sweet goodbye in the form of “Suspicious Minds” with Dwight crossing the stage to  gesture goodbye, thank you, or namaste to a spellbound fan standing in the dirt on the rodeo ground. And lord knows there were some beauties loosed ‘neath the stars of Texas that day.

Willie’s Rodeo House


Not too many hands went up when Hadley Barrett asked who was here for their first rodeo, but I think folks were just being shy, jammed together hip to hip, toe to butt, up and down the aluminum bleachers of Rodeo Austin, all the way over to corner section UU, today’s winners of the Sonic sundae giveaway.

For the animals in the house it was a day of strange intensity, one horse diving head first into the dirt, another tumbling over the exit gate; bulls shaking off riders, barrel racers knocking over barrels. A calf who lay dazed for several awkward seconds after the rope came off its neck. Only a couple of sheep took it easy as if to insist that Sunday is a day of rest.

But it was Willie’s day to work, nevertheless, and the crowd was gathered for a homecoming.

Drummer Paul English was early to the set, taking his seat in the center of the round portable stage, waiting a while for things to get started, then climbing down from his seat to check his iphone, maybe texting something like “hey, y’all comin?”

But the arrangements were more complicated than usual. There were two sections of seating at dirt level, which had to be set up with camping chairs, and a steel barricade to set the distance for a couple dozen stander uppers. And since it’s a Willie homecoming, who knows how many friends and family were gypsying along to hang out around the insider section of dirt between the stage and the bucking gates.

So time flowed, but not too quickly, and soon enough everyone was on their feet to cheer Willie up the portable stairs to the portable stage where he took the frontman position next to son Lukas and the coolest looking guitar player you ever saw, a mystery man in black suit and oversize hat who turned out to be flocking Johnny Depp.

Whiskey River warmed it up the way you handle a glass that’s just been served. You look into it, swirl it around, sniff it a little, and then you raise it to your lips. When Willie leads the band with Trigger, it’s like a double presence, the guitar having its quite independent interpretation of how things should sound.

Willie’s moment I thought was “Always on My Mind.” He and Trigger dug a blues groove together that made you feel deeply.

Used to be times when Willie would pick up an electric guitar for a song or two, but with Lukas standing there, he deferred to his son’s cover of “Raining Down in Texas.” And in the middle of that song there was a really cool guitar trio going on between Lukas, Johnny, and Willie. It would be nice to see that on youtube or hear an mp3. I hope they find a way.

Also a sweet duet with Lily Meola, reprising a duet she recorded with Willie, “Will You Remember Mine.” Let’s remember that one, too.

So many sing-alongs for the fans. Beer for my horses. Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. In love with a good timing man. May the circle be unbroken. I’ll fly away.

And finally a new sing-along. Roll me up and smoke me when I die. Willie’s got this corkscrew thing he does with his pointing finger.

Well, we usually like to hang out after the show and let the traffic beat us home, but today we’d had enough butt kicking from the big folks sitting behind us. We had to get out the door quick, just to keep the right memories in all the right places and let the wrong memories go.

2014 Spring Cleaning

With a few days off from work, I’ve been cleaning up some satellite web projects and consolidating wordpress posts here.  The archives have gone from zero to plenty. I wrote most of it, but you will also find posts by friends. Result: an export file of 10 MB.

Importing Texas Civil Rights Review

The site has slowed down considerably since 2012, not for lack of interest or material, but for the fact that the editors have accumulated other work responsibilities which keep them plenty busy. Seems like a good time to backup the site archive here.