Holy honky-tonk hell, Houston. When you put on your cowboy boots, cowboy hats and drinking pants, you sure can throw down with the best of them.
Wednesday night at Verizon Wireless Theater, 100.3 KILT continued its annual Ten Man Jam, with quite a solid lineup consisting of both reputable musicians and a few up-and-comers. The show, to which tickets were not for sale, brought a large enough crowd to comfortably pack the downtown venue.
The unique aspects of TMJ, we were told by an enthusiast, are that it's all acoustic and that nowhere else will one see this many well-known country artists onstage together. Except maybe at the Country Music Awards. We were also told that KILT tends to schedule a well-established artist to play right before an up and coming artist (Clay Walker played before Stoney LaRue, for example), which keeps the fans appeased with what and whom they came to see while opening their eyes and ears to few lesser-known artists.
To start the show, Alan Jackson performed "Good Times," "Remember When," "Five O'clock Somewhere" and "Chattahoochee." The crowd, sparse though it may have been at 7:30 in the evening, got to two-stepping, swaying and singing along early in the night.
In between his songs, when Jackson was addressing the crowd, all we could think was, "There is no way his accent is really this thick." But what do we know? We may be from the south, but Houston is hardly the heart of county.
The JaneDear Girls seemed to be a polarizing group for many of the crowd. To our right, our friend told us that they were stealing the show; a young woman on our left, meanwhile, said that they were the least enjoyable piece of the night's puzzle. Our feelings fell somewhere in between, but we were definitely impressed with Susie Brown's prowess on the violin... Er, excuse us... The fiddle, we mean. She gave one hell of a performance of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," which got even our feet stomping.
Relief washed over us when we learned that "Shotgun Girl" is about riding in the front seat of some boy's pickup truck and not, you know, shooting him in the face with a shotgun for cheating. While we haven't heard a song quite that violent from a female country artist, many of the feminist anthems these southern belles sing are getting dangerously close to being downright man-hating. And being that we're men (and because we were surrounded by the fairer sex), we feared they might take us in numbers had they been provoked.
"She likes Texas, and she likes meee," the Josh Abbott Band cooed to the cheering crowd. After that, Clay Walker brought a young woman onstage to perform a duet. He said that he had met her a few days prior; that she had mentioned her dream of performing with him onstage and that he decided to make that happen. Of course, judging by her vocal abilities, this wasn't just some girl he had plucked out of the crowd. The woman had pipes, we tell you.
Gary Allen took the center microphone a little after 9 o'clock and brought the crowd into a frenzy with "Right Where I Need To Be." Then Martina McBride's "Love You Through It" kept the ladies' spirits high as their men sat back down, sipping their beers and silently nodding in approval. The song is, after all, about a man sticking by his wife when she's diagnosed with cancer. So, while we're sure they appreciated the overall message, most of the men couldn't quite relate.
People make jokes about tractors, dogs dying and women walking out on their men being the groundwork upon which all country music is set, but what we noticed Wednesday night were the number of songs that made the women in the audience all but tear their clothes off. (It was pretty cold outside, mind you. Under warmer circumstances, it might have happened.) When Walker went falsetto during "I Can't Sleep," even the male concert goers rose to their feet and went wild for the hometown hero.
Jack Ingram's "Love You," a Cee Lo Green-esque upbeat ditty with not-so-subtle undertones, got everyone chanting along before Kevin Fowler's "Pound Sign" imprinted a smile on our faces for the rest of the evening.
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It may not be our preferred genre, but since tickets weren't for sale and because no one seemed at all interested in selling the tickets they had won, it's safe to say that this music strikes a chord with quite a few people. And although we didn't have the slightest urge to go buy any of it as we were leaving the venue, we sure had a lot of fun clapping our hands, stomping our feet and dancing along to the evening's soundtrack while it lasted.
Personal Bias: We were raised on country and, like it or not, we'll probably die listening to it too.
Overheard in the Crowd: "He's either vomiting in there, or that boy has got one heavy, inconsistent stream!" (in the restroom) "You won't even see this shit at the Grand Ol' Opry. They won't put this many people onstage." "That ain't a violin; that's a fiddle!" "You know what his last name is? Church! Ironic, right?" "For as country as he may be, I still hear Hootie."
Random Notebook Dump: The woman sitting behind us had such a raucous whistle, we honestly thought it was feedback from the microphone the first time she did it.