Written by Daniel Barker
May 30, 2009 at 04:00 PM
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Bolivar is Back!!! That was the theme for the 2009 Crab Festival in Crystal Beach, Texas on May 29th & 30th with music entertainment being provided by The Stingaree Music Festival organized by Hayes Carll. The two festivals have always been held separate but in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike they joined forces to put forth this benefit to restore Gregory Park where the festival was being held. HMR was here for the music. After being on rubber legs for many a month these guys pulled it together and finally ended up with a date and a decent line up mainly consisting of past Stingaree Festival veterans namely Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham, John Evans, Jesse Dayton, Sister Morales and the Magpies..Little disappointing that there were few new faces but under the circumstances it was obvious Hayes went with good friends he can depend on and that will…uhhhh….play for free…

The adventure began for HMR just getting out of Houston and down to the peninsula…With the festival being reduced from 3 days to 2 and the music not really starting until 7 on Friday, HMR decided to just roll out the J.O.B. early instead of taking the entire vacation day as in years past which lead to a super stressful commute with your untimely Houston traffic and classic I-10 construction…It was nice to finally roll up to our rented cabin to unpack and go hit the event or so we thought……

WOW!!!! We rented the Margaretville cabin from an HMR friend Christy LeBlanc with Swede’s Real Estate for a sweet price and it was very apparent why….What a dump!!!!…From the minute HMR was inside it was a nightmare…Hot as hell’s basement, stinky and just a flat out mess…but that’s not the bad part…The cabin was an electrical hazard…Funny that the HMR staff covering this gig are in the electrical biz and end up in this dangerous situation….After seeing sparks and realizing half the lights did not work we had to make the call…Long story short , after the highly trained maintenance man used a hammer and screwdriver to open the locked downstairs door that we had no working key for and he realized we were not bullshitting  – we were out. In a wonderful turn of events, at no additional charge and with sincere apologies, Christy LeBlanc and Swedes stepped up and put HMR up in the mustard yellow Taj Mahal. Problem solved but after basically going on a scavenger hunt with a shitty map to find Ronnie Jones’s cabin it was getting really late…Forget seeing Ray Wylie we were just hoping not to miss Ryan Bingham.

Freshly showered, HMR made our way to the event…The parking was tricky due to the fact that basically the entire park was sand. People were getting stuck especially the ones that did not understand that driving in sand is like drinking a fine wine. Once stationary, HMR made our way into the event with Jason Allan on stage…Jason Allen kind of sticks out from the rest of the lineup. He is Strait Up country. OK stuff but not our cup of tea…No longer had we met up with our compadres and set up HMR camp than Senior Editor, The Edge, got drug into the Budweiser VIP booth by Stingaree restaurant manager, Brad Vratis which proved most awesome. Thanks to the Amy Winehouse look-a-like beer server, Beck, bossman was rarely without a cold adult beverage PLUS had all access pass to the artist schmoozing area for the entire event.

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All settled in, HMR was ready for Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses. RB is touring behind his June 2 release of “Roadhouse Sun”. A very solid sophomore effort that follows up where “Mescalito” left off… Mainly Marc Ford type strong driving riffs but with a good variety of songs all around…. RB played a good mix from the two albums and was the first artist that really showed how much fun he was having here on stage, a trend that would dominate Saturday night. The highlights by far were an extended smoking version of “Sunshine”, the instant classic “Hey Hey Hurray”, and the finale where Hayes Carll and John Evans joined RB on stage to close the night with TVZ’s “White Freightliner Blues”. HMR got the hot tip that the after party was at Coconuts Bar and Grill and that HC and JEB would be performing… We were there after we made a trip to the port-a-potties which for some reason were actually located in Winnie, Texas…I mean come on!!!! Bathroom death marches ala Bocktoberfest, in the sand no less, were in order for many times to come actually leading to The Edge having to see a chiropractor shortly upon his return to the big city.Let’s just say there still is not a lot open on the Bolivar peninsula but as Hayes tells in several songs inspired by his short stint living here – there is never a shortage of bars. Coconut’s was one of the first bar and grills to open after the storm and is serving the beach community well. However, I don’t think anything could have prepared this place for this night. God Bless Hollie and the Coconut girls. They took care of HMR and we appreciate that…even though HMR heard they charged Hayes a $50 bar tab…Classic…HMR basically took a B-line straight there after RB closed up so we could get a table front and center… It was not long before the 3 guys that were just on stage singing TVZ made their way in. The place was completely electric… The Gulf Coast Orchestra was starting to set up, Ryan Bingham was shit faced, Hayes and Jenna were making the rounds taking pictures and signing autographs with JEB just being JEB….Hayes had a cowboy hat thing going on the whole weekend that was just too much…It even seems that Hayes’ bass player, John Michael Schoepf, has a following wearing some of the same classic digs. I counted at least 2 look a likes at one point…???

There is no stage at Coconut’s so Hayes Carll and the Gulf Coast Orchestra were eye level with the patrons dancing and singing literally right in their face. Hayes played many new songs that I did not recognize. It seems he has really found his total trust in his band which is super tight. He is so confident in these guys that he is straying into a more folksy area on the new stuff. Of course, the beach inspired classics “Hwy 87” and “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long” had the place in a frenzy. It was a great night. JEB spent little time setting up and played a short set in board shorts and T-shirts kickin’ ass with “Waco” and “Going Down Loud”. The event could have ended here and it would have been a success even with the Chupacabre-like mosquitoes the size of bats.

Saturday morning was a standard issue beautiful beach scene which was originally scheduled as the beach cleanup day but the beach is so clean that Hayes decided to have the clean up where Bob’s World Famous Sports Bar and Grill used to be…The establishment that inspired “I Got A Gig”. HMR did not participate. Edge and Rosie headed out for their walk and then we had to go thank Brad Vratis and eat some delicious vittles at The Stingaree…

After that, your reviewer put in his 3pm-6pm volunteer patch at the merchandise booth while all the crews that had gathered were in the bullpen warming up for a great night of music. In the meantime, HMR made a visit to Barker RV Park to catch up with Greg, Carrie, Shelly, Jeff, Barrow and Heather. What a turnout. We had the AssJack crew, the DD crew, and the aforementioned local veteran crew all fired up and in attendance from all over this great state for this great cause. Brandi came all the way from Annapolis, Maryland carrying a special surprise for the happiest soon to be grandparents-Frank and Charmaine…..Congratulations…To you too Aunt DD….

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To kick things off, JEB and his motley crew of youngsters hit the stage. A really nice stage by the way…Someone pulled some strings to get that here…JEB’s slot bounced around some but HMR felt this was the perfect spot for them.  JEB has a new record they are finishing up and HMR was lucky enough for JE to give us a preview during the weekend and we feel it will be their best effort to date…The set this early evening included “Girl from Pasa-get down-dena” and the crowd pleasing like….GREAT start off just as anticipated..The wonderful ladies known as Sisters Morales were next up… Looking great and feeling the love these bilingual beauties put on a great set…These wonderful women were really instrumental in helping Hayes Carll get off the ground as far as recording and media, etc…They are friends with Old Quarter owner Wrecks Bell and frequented his place when Hayes was cutting his teeth while waiting tables at Landry’s…They blew the crowd away with the song that seems to be made for an outdoor festival – “Only Gets Better”.. Good stuff from the talented group.

While SM was finishing up HMR got backstage for the arrival of Jesse Dayton…This guy is a walking one liner for sure and it was our honor to buy him some Shrimp-on-a-Stick to fuel him up for a blazin’ set. It was about this same time the John Evans helped yours truly get access to the coveted VIP area……Thanks John……Jesse Dayton always puts on a great show and HMR cannot think of a better warm up for Hayes then this man…Playing songs like “Ain’t Grace Amazin’”,  “Creek Between Heaven and Hell” and the show stopper cover of The Cars classic “Just What I Needed”.. Patrons had made their way down to the front for some barefoot dancing in the sand… Everyone had smiles on their faces and the sun was setting behind Jesse the man….What a scene.

Well, the time had finally come. Ann Willis, the organizer of the Crab Festival, gave Hayes his introduction explaining how things had come together and how all the profits were going to rebuild the park right where we were this night…Then Hayes and TGCO kicked it in big time. With the breeze blowing and Hayes glowing from the all out blast he was having HC brought the house down. Short of the few newer songs he played the crowd sang along with almost every word of every song. The mutual admiration created a euphoria that was infectious from the 6 year old to the 60 year old.

“Flowers & Liquor”, “Beaumont”, and “Faulkner Street” were sure highlights…Hayes blended great stories set for this evening. The usual stage banter holds so much more weight when you are literally standing in the punch line…But without a doubt, the climax of the event was “I Got A Gig”….Once JE did his annual streak in his underwear Hayes wrapped up with the most fitting “Girl With The Dirty Hair”. A cover of the Adam Carroll song that was inspired by his time on Galveston Island…

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The poor Magpies always drew the short straw having to close on the Saturday again but it is a nice wind down for everybody.  These guys can rock but to be honest, HMR had to take deep breath and did not pay too much attention while we were sucking the last bit of life out of the VIP area…We headed back down to Coconut’s for another after party which proved to be way more constrained than the night before…No one played but everyone’s faces were hurting from all the smiling from the past two days. We enjoyed the DJ, made our rounds and called it a night.On Sunday, HMR found itself smack dab in the middle of The Ship’s Wheel at noon with none other than JEB and crew…With Chocolate Cake shots provided by barmaid Amanda amidst classic locals it was quite a site…HMR picked up the $150 bar tab while convincing the locals to buy a disc or too. It was a nice follow up to recap with Hollie, Beck, Kimberly, Amanda, and others about what a great time we had all had.

Your reviewer was born and raised on the Bolivar Peninsula and was directly impacted by the devastation that Ike laid upon this community. All the scars are still visible as you ride up and down 87 and provided an unforgettable backdrop. Personally, I would like to give thanks to everyone that was involved in this event in any way from the musician to the patron to organizer. It was nice for everyone to come see how Mother Nature can be so powerful while proving that human nature can overcome any obstacle that is placed before us.  I do not believe “Bolivar is Back” but it has its tires firmly on the pavement and is locked in on the destination. Can’t wait for next year….HMR will see you out supporting live music…