Charlie Daniels Band, Shinyribs Rule Over Three Tons of Crawfish

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As I snapped one little guy in half and pinched all the sweet meat from his tail, all I could think was there must be an infinite number of crawfish in our area waterways. Not all that far away, they had to be eating their share at Weekend 1 of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Here, in Old Town Spring, they were serving mass quantities of the little critters at the Texas Crawfish & Music Festival.

That's not all the local fest was dishing up in large doses. There were bunches of families and friends with smiling faces; a lot more food than mudbugs, including gator on a stick and the requisite smoked turkey legs and fried Twinkies; and ample parking and plenty of elbow room, commodities in short supply at so many events of this nature.

And, of course, there was music. And people who were taking that whole "dance like nobody's watching" thing literally.

But back to those crawfish for a minute.

Jim Whitfield and his Rollin' Cajun Crawfish team have all the crawfish-boiling duties at the fest. This is the sixth time they've cooked for the event, and their experience shows. His team of 20 cooks and serves more than 6,000 pounds of crawfish each day of the event, Whitfield said.

"Here we do a not-so-hot crawfish," said Whitfield, who just bought property in Baytown for a restaurant he's planning. "If people want more spice, they can add more. Some people don't like it hot, some people like it hotter, so we try to cater to both crowds."

We scarfed down two full containers -- one for dinner and one for a late-night snack. In between, we danced off the beers we'd chased the crawfish with. Over at the Louisiana stage, Bourbon Street The Band was not just putting in work -- they were putting in OT, playing late into the night. The massive dance floor ahead of their stage was packed with people moving to their original songs and spicy versions of favorites like "Blurred Lines."

The headliners, heavy on country-rock, didn't disappoint as the festival's dual stages helped keep the music coming. We caught Whiskey Myers on the large stage. These Southern rockers from Tyler have built a nice following, and the Old Town Spring crowd showed its love. I could tell you they shredded, but Shinyribs' frontman Kevin Russell put it best when he said they'd somehow channeled Deep Purple.

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Russell's own act was incredibly entertaining. A veteran Austin-based musician and co-founder of The Gourds, he did some channeling of his own. His showmanship recalled James Brown, enhancing his super-soulful voice and his band's wicked expertise. His live version of "Sweet Potato" from Gulf Coast Museum was an OMG moment that had me tweeting about it before he got to its end, where he advised listeners "don't give up on your dreams, don't give up on your things, don't give up on your people." A cool take on TLC's "Waterfalls" was another highlight.

Charlie Daniels Band did a full and virtuoso set, much to the appreciation of the thousands who'd crowded in to hear favorites like "Long Haired Country Boy" and "The South's Gonna Do It Again." Daniels is a country music legend with 56 years in the music industry, so he gets his pick of the best musicians.

To be honest, there were moments I thought I'd stepped into a Santana show, with Daniels going lick for lick with Carlos. During "Black Ice," a song written just to showcase the band's skills, there was a seven-minute drum solo. It was amazing and entirely unexpected.

The main stage's power died with only 15 minutes left in the set. The anxiety of not hearing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" live began setting in around minute three. Someone actually moaned the song's title, as if possibly not hearing it was literally causing physical pain. Thankfully, the glitch was quickly fixed and many were able to cross hearing the song live from their bucket lists.

There's still a lot more fun -- and thousands more crawfish -- to be served up. Next weekend's events will feature Ben Kweller, Bob Schneider, Alejandro Escovedo and Los Lonely Boys, among others

The Texas Crawfish & Music Festival continues Friday, May 2 at Preservation Park in Spring, with Kevin Fowler, Junior Gordon, Bri Bagwell and Justin Van Sant. See texascrawfishfestival.com or the TCMF Facebook page for more information.


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