Written by James Killen
Eddie Ferranti invited me to join him for Mike and the Moonpie’s Wednesday show at Tomball’s Main Street Crossing. Wednesdays are “Texas Mix Live” nights at the Crossing, where the first hour of the show is recorded for broadcast on 105.3FM. This Wednesday was old home week for Mike Harmeier here in Tomball as well. The show was attended by Mike’s grandmother, among other family members and family friends that remembered Mike back in grade school. Everybody was settling in for a great evening of country music.
The room was crowded, so Eddie and I took our seats on the right side of the stage where the sound isn’t so great, but you can get a little close up insight to the stage’s activities. As is the custom at Main Street Crossing, the show started promptly at eight with the band lighting up “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em”. Without a wasted word, the boys rolled right into the honky-tonking “Damn Strait”. I had to take notice from our spot behind John Carbone, what a really great CW piano player he is.
Mike and the Moonpies’ music is a tasty blend of traditional country stylings with a touch of Southern Rock. The interplay of guitar, pedal steel and piano leads behind Mike’s lonesome cowboy lyrics makes for an original sound in a traditional genre. The Moonpies avoid that temptation to join the ranks of pop country bands clogging up the airwaves today.
The band spent a good portion of the evening on tunes from the latest disc,“Mockingbird”, including the title cut and “South First Boulevard”. “Me and Hayes”, off of “The Hard Way” alludes to a changing of the guard from Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings to Hayes Carll and Mike and the Moonpies to carry on the country traditions. Mike dedicated his song “Say It Simply” to Johnny Bush and followed it with the pedal steel tear jerker, “Never Leaving Texas”.
Mr. Harmeier paused long enough to reverently “do one for the Hagg”, covering Merle Haggard’s “Tonight We’ll Kick The Footlights Out Again”, the first of several covers amongst an ample fare of original tunes. Most of the evening was spent on the traditional country songs but the Southern Rock side of the Moonpies peeked its head out on “The Hard Way” with a Dicky Betts style guitar lead.
Songwriter, Mike Harmeier is unmistakably the band leader. From our side-of-the-stage perspective we could see the cues he gave the other players, like a nod to Catlin Rutherford on lead guitar or an appreciative grin to Carbone after a tasty piano riff. The band seemed to be having as much fun as the audience was as they played their way to the end of the set.
The band covered Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and left the stage in preparation for a planned encore (not to say that it wasn’t called for, because it certainly was). Mike started it with a quiet tune on acoustic with Zach Moulton’s pedal steel and Rutherford’s electric. They ended the night with a full band cover of Rusty Weir’s “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance”.
It was truly a satisfying country music show in the finest Texas tradition. Seeing it in Mike Harmeier’s hometown of Tomball made it just that much more special. I do not doubt that if Hank Williams Sr. were alive today that he would be playing music with a band a lot like the Moonpies.