By now Hayes Carll has to be the musical poet laureate of Southeast Texas, or the "scruffy redneck rocker" division, anyway. (Bun B holds the rapper crown in perpetuity.) Carll's songs are as stuffed with detail as a roadmap, the Piney Woods gamblers of "Rivertown" and Crystal Beach ne'er-do-wells at Bob's Sports Bar that watched some of his first gigs along the route to Americana A-lister, as memorialized in the plucky banjoy tune "I Got a Gig."
Other songs exploded into hypertext both lyrically and musically, like "All Down the Line" and "KMAG YOYO." But Carll knows internal road maps just as well (and painfully), as on "It's a Shame We Ain't Lovers" and a gorgeous "The Long Way Home." He even offered a note of sympathy to Texans fans (sorry, Jason).
It's always a pleasure to watch Carll stomp and holler in his hometown, or reel around a Cajun accordion and bluegrass mandolin on "Bottle In My Hand." He closed with a bruising "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," and Cake kept the outlaw-country spirit going by opening with Willie Nelson's "Sad Songs and Waltzes." CHRIS GRAY
Well, BestFest, I was worried earlier today, but you came through in the end. Better late than never, we suppose, but you missed out on plenty of good tunes earlier in the day. Next time.
Carolyn Wonderland stole my heart early in the day (and I implore the pretty lady to be gentle with it) just before Buxton took hold of a few hundred people, fans and unfamiliar alike, as a few women in the crowd pleaded with the Houston-based fivesome to take their shirts off. Seriously, after every song, this one woman screamed, "Seriously, take your shirts off!! Please?!"
Few artists can harmonize as well as Buxton can during live performances. It's where the band truly shines, as three voices sync up perfectly and guitars are gently strummed in the background.
Then Cake, of course, who were the reason most people came out today. And they didn't disappoint, minus a little too much of a holier-than-thou attitude with the technicians, their performance has been exactly what their fans wanted to see. They've kept the crowd smiling, and who can argue with happy fans?
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Side note: Thanks to staff and attendees for keeping the portapotties so clean. It's surreal. MATTHEW KEEVER
Check back tomorrow for a full-length review of Cake's closing set. They are literally shutting the power down back here. - Ed.