Written by James Killen
Jan 20, 2013 at 02:30 PM
ImageI couldn’t get my heart into the play-off games with the Texans done for the season, so I decided to spend Sunday afternoon at Anderson Fair taking in a little music and donating a little cash to homeless pups and my favorite radio station. Christie, the former Friday morning DJ was putting on a benefit show featuring some pretty fantastic talent during hours that old people can stay awake through.

The show kicked off at about 2:30 with George Kovacik and Jeff Balke of Orange Is In. Both of them animal lovers, they proceeded to treat us to acoustic versions of their “much louder” rock fare. Orange Is In has been a regular act at Rudyard’s, but has been off the performance trail for a while as guitarist, Chris Rogers, has been down with a broken pelvis. After a little pre-show listening, I’ve decided that “Southern Alternative Country Rock” doesn’t quite fill out the description of their style. The song writing is mainstream enough to be marketable in Nashville and still well enough crafted to allow the writers to hold their heads up off of the commercial beaten path.

It was clear that George and Jeff had played together long enough to develop that symbiosis that results in the fluid multi-instrumental jams. The set included an upbeat apocalyptical “My Town Is Gone”, “Time Is My Enemy”, the quiet and regretful “Last Night of My Life”, and “Let It Flow”. The next show that they have scheduled is at SXSW. When they get back around town, I’ll be checking out Orange plugged in.

Matt the Electrician mounted the stage in the second slot carrying his new custom made guitar and his banjolele (a ukulele sized banjo) for a solo gig. Matt generally tours with Scrappy Judd Newcomb on the road and makes occasional short trips from Austin with comedic sidekick, Southpaw Jones. Today, though, he was alone.

Matt has an amazing grasp of timing and tone. His songs are simple and well crafted, telling stories and opening a new view to the world for most of us. Another art that benefits from timing and tone is comedy, which is as much a part of Matt’s song craft as the music. His point of view and ambushing punch lines make for a quirky entertaining show. He has a good repertoire of established recorded tunes, but intersperses his shows with off the wall little ditties that he writes in a constantly prolific life of observation and writing about what he sees. The show today included “Change the Subject”, “My Dog”, “Got Your Back”, “College” and “Animal Boy”. I’ve brought a number of people to his shows over the years and everyone was thoroughly entertained throughout the evening.

ImageAfter a couple of Muddy’s birthday cupcakes were passed around, Shane Walker (formerly of the Gougers) took the stage with his young friend, Jenna Jones. Since The Gougers broke up, Shane has been teaching Spanish in Crawford, Texas. I’d missed The Gougers when they were active although I had heard a number of their tunes.

Listening to Shane, I realize that I’d really missed something special. Most of his songs had no hook, but were full of imagery. Lines like “Swisher Sweet stranger” and “scared to death and bored to tears” and “like the sound of two people fighting through paper thin walls” painted pictures like Townes Van Zandt’s words did. Shane is still honing his solo act and had Jenna sit in with her xylophone and a bass guitar that she bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking forward to a Shane Walker solo disc and a few more shots at seeing him live.

The Houston blues band, Mojofromopolis, filled up the Anderson Fair stage like I’ve never seen it filled before. I’m certain that it was not the first time that a drummer had been on that stage with a full kit, but it was the first time that I had seen it. These guys are mainstream blues, doing original numbers and covering the Gulf Coast likes of Lightning Hopkins, Fats Domino and Albert Collins.

With drummer, Barry Feldt and bassist, Larry Evans laying down the rhythm, Robert Taylor, Sparky Parker and Applehead Clapp provide the leads. The show was a wonderful trade-off between Taylor on one of his thirteen harmonicas, Sparky on his Gibson and Applehead on his Fender rolling through original tunes “Right Here In Texas”, “Games, Games, Games” and a resounding get up off your butt and dance, “Cold Beer”. These guys are a party waiting to happen. If you see them in your neighborhood bar, stop in for a beer or four.

All of that entertainment and I was out of the door by 6:30 on a school night! Hopefully we were able to help out a few of the poor pooches with some food for a few more weeks. I certainly sated my hunger for a little new music to hone in on.