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Stingaree Music Festival

Hayes Carll hosts a sandy shindig in a reverse hurricane

My only alternative would be the old-school one — drink enough booze to numb the cold. But I didn't have a designated driver, and I have a rule about driving drunk: Don't do it. Especially not at night, in high wind, on a two-lane highway, in an unfamiliar town full of cops. (I imagined being taken to the pokey in Galveston via some kind of middle passage on the ferry, and it didn't seem like much fun.)

But wait — there was one last chance for warmth. All of the artists on the bill had joined forces at the swag table, which was piled high with hats, CDs and other such sundries, including clothing. “All right, who has the warmest merch?” I asked one of the ladies there. With a straight face she offered me a pink beach towel. All right, bartender, make that Jack on the rocks a double, please, and give me a Shiner Bock on the side.

Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans took the stage. “We thought we left this weather behind us up north,” said Lund, in a Canuck accent that would do Gordon Lightfoot proud. And his rollicking, twin-guitar, slap-bass attack set a few of the hardier souls in the windswept mud field dancing. I ran into Carll's former guitarist Lance Smith in the crowd, and he was bundled up in both sensible clothes and a not-so-sensible liquid parka. “Me and my buddy have been on the beach all day boilin' crawfish and drinkin' wine,” he explained. “And tonight we're gonna build a huuuge fire! I got so much fuckin' wood it's pitiful.”

The turnout at the Stingaree Music Festival was pretty good — it was just the weather that was lousy.
Photos by John Nova Lomax
The turnout at the Stingaree Music Festival was pretty good — it was just the weather that was lousy.
Some fans bundled up, some fans drank the cold away. Some did both.
Photos by John Nova Lomax
Some fans bundled up, some fans drank the cold away. Some did both.

Evans had just finished his set, at which he had stripped down to nothing more than his nuthuggers, so the cold didn't impress him that much. He was, however, as mentioned, pretty amazed by the turn-out. And the bar must have been, too, as many of those who would have spent the whole fest in front of the stage had repaired inside, where they hoisted one drink after another. In fact, it was not yet sundown, and at one table a group of raucous fiftysomethings, some clad like KGB agents in fur-lined leather jackets and Russian astrakhans, were already autographing the panties of a woman who had put them outside of her jeans. Don't ask why; their martinis did look pretty damn dry.

By this time, though, the wind had only intensified. Now it was blowing grit into my eyes. Lund was onstage singing a song about how “Good Copenhagen is better than bad cocaine.” Truer words were never spoken, but cold grit blowing in your eyes is infinitely worse than both, so I hauled my dripping nose and bluish extremities back to the beach house, where I decided it was as good a time as ever to teach my wife and son to play poker. We used raisins for chips.

While I was there, I did get to talk to Carll a bit, and he didn't seem too disheartened by the whole cold reverse-hurricane thing. And while we were chatting, a well-wisher came up and said, “Hey, Hayes, don't let this weather get you down. You better do this again next year.” And indeed he should. This year's model might not have been the fun family fiesta I had hoped for, but the people who could drink all day and night and build huuugge fires on the beach seemed to be having a blast.

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