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two tons of steel

Music Review: Dwight Yoakam and Opening Acts

(Click for larger picture).

It’s the year of concerts for us! Two music events in one year! Last night we went to see Dwight Yoakam at the Nutty Brown Cafe. As with the last music review I posted, these places seem to cater to the young set, but attract an older crowd–you pay extra to sit in the one raised seating area or, for general admission, you stand from when the opening act starts at 6:30 until 11:00. The standing area is mostly a flat, broad concrete area that isn’t sloped enough so that people in the back areas see well around the heads in front of them. This place did sell food, so it would have been possible to eat before the show or during the opening acts. It’s too crowded for them to allow you to bring your own chairs–standing room only, especially once the bands get going.

Two Tons of Steel

The opening, opening act was Two Tons of Steel from San Antonio. This band was more heavy rock than I prefer, but their lead guitarist, Will Owen Gage, could play like nobody’s business. He’s the Blues Brothers looking dude with the guitar. He even had a few Blues Brothers type poses while he played. I do believe you could pit his playing against anyone–Including the devil in Georgia–and Will would come out the winner. The band did a good job of getting the crowd interested and focused. The songs were a bit rogue and hell raising. There wasn’t a lot of harmony and at times when the bass player was singing harmony (Jake Marchese), he was too far back from the mic for it to work well (the side mics didn’t seem to be set up that great for any of the acts, but we were in front so the mix of sounds was not going to be perfect!) All the guys did a good job–they knew the songs and played well. The drummer (Rich Alcorta) looked and played with the suave comfort of a mafia dude that belongs in One Good Eclair.


The next opening act was more of a mix of swing, country, rockabilly–a nice mixture to keep my attention because it kept changing. Like the South Austin Moonlighters, The Derailers has more than one singer (Brian Hofeldt and Bracken Hale.) This sort of talent always makes things more interesting because the sound and style varies! Even better, The Derailers had both a steel player and a keyboard player. The keyboard (Basil McJagger) player was hilarious. I’ve never seen anyone bounce in their chair so much while playing. The guy was skilled enough to dance in his seat while playing, he did backup harmonies, a couple of rebel yells and played nicely complex parts to really give the songs an extra edge.

I have to admit that the steel player (Marty Muse) added a lot to the songs. Additional instruments can take an ordinary song and give it another layer and both the steel player and the keyboards lifted a typical honky tonk song into a great performance. The steel player was great at adding those extra little riffs, melodies, and extra touches. It was nice that he was positioned near the front–what a gorgeous bird’s eye wood!

The Derailers didn’t get enough stage time in comparison to the earlier group. I’d have liked to hear a few more of their songs. They had a nice, easy-to-listen to style that mixed it up enough I was never bored. I especially enjoyed All the Rage in Paris sung by Bracken Hale. Wonderful voice!

Dwight Yoakam
(Click for larger picture).

Of course the shining star of the night was Dwight Yoakam and his band. Dwight performs with the most deadpan expression I’ve ever seen on a musician. He gets down to business without even a greeting, lofting out his fabulous signature tunes, one after the other. I thought he could have been more generous with his charming smile; but then, if I wore my pants that tight, I might not feel like smiling very often either!

His lead guitarist was Eugene Edwards–talent piled upon talent. He obviously didn’t do all of the original recordings, but he knew all the important riffs and worked like only a pro can to bring each song into its own. He had to sling his guitar around behind him on more than one occasion to play mandolin for the ever important sound in Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose (Great song!) and at least one other song. Kudos to him for a truly terrific performance.

Like Mark Knopfler, Dwight has recorded an inordinate amount of music, and he’s savvy and talented enough to have included a litany of instruments to bring out the perfect ambiance in those songs. That meant another musician had to play multi-talent–the guy in the back played more instruments than you’ll find in your average music store: he played keyboards, accordion, steel, fiddle, mandolin, tambourine and maracas. That man didn’t have time to breathe back there! Several times, like a magician with a bag of tricks, he played three instruments during one song! It was something to see. He’d be holding the violin with one hand, while pounding out melodies on the keyboard. Switching from steel to violin seemed a bit harder for him–he’d be sitting, have to stand, grab the violin and find his place in the music. I was dizzy just watching him! If Dwight had a guy for each of those instruments, they’d not fit on the stage (and the tickets would have cost 100 dollars or more instead of 35.)

Mitch Marine was on drums. We saw him on a Dwight Yoakum documentary. Well-spoken, nice guy and of course, he can play! You can’t have a performance without the drummer, and he never missed a beat! I don’t know the name of the bass player–if you know, please tell us in the comments! He worked hard all night, even when his equipment gave him problems! He just kept right on playing while someone came from the back to help him out. In fact, there was a lot of help from the crew–switching out instruments and keeping everything running as smoothly as possible.

You’ll be pleased to know that Dwight’s dancing has improved. I’ve only seen videos and older concert performances on tv before, but it always looked as though he was about to fall over while dancing. I think I’ve detected the problem. His pants are so long, they actually go down and under the heels of his boots. If I tried dancing with my pants wrapped around heels, I’d fall over too! I think the pants were worn and torn enough around the heels that he did a nice job with his signature dances. The crowd certainly cheered him on.

I’d have liked to have heard Dwight play longer too–start at 9 instead of 9:30 and play a few more of those great songs! He definitely played our favorites–thanks for that, Dwight!!!! (Thousand Miles from Nowhere, It Only Hurts When I Cry (BRILLIANT lyrics), and the aforementioned Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose. ) I own a lot of Dwight’s CDs, but I never realized that a lot of the guitar talent on the CDs is his own. He’s quite skilled on the guitar and it was very cool to watch him play.

It was a great performance by all three bands. I’m not so sure I liked the venue for it, but we had a great place to stand so no complaints there. The ground was not sloped though so those behind us were not going to have anywhere near as good a view. We were basically second row standing-room-only (yes, that was me waving at the steel player–Hi Marty! He doesn’t know me from Adam, but I’m weird that way.) There were no indoor toilets–port-a-potty all the way and it was reported by those near me that they ran out of toilet paper halfway through the night. They also charged for parking on top of the ticket prices (this should have been noted on the tickets so that people could be prepared). I wasn’t too pleased about that until the end when I forgave them partially because they hired several people to direct traffic and crowds. With the extra help, we were able to exit the parking lot quickly, rather than be stuck in a mass of honking horns and angry people.

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Posted: October 1, 2017
Filed in Music
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