A few weeks ago, I was presented the opportunity to go see the Casey Donahew Band live at Billy Bob's in Ft. Worth, Texas with uh, "minimal impact upon my financial situation." I've clearly never been a fan of the band, but how could I pass up visiting the world's largest honky-tonk, enjoying the best of Texas' food (at Cooper's BBQ, preshow - try the peach cobbler, it's divine!) and drink and meeting a band who's seemingly on the cusp of stardom?
From most peoples' perspective, this was a no-brainer, but I pondered on the invitation for a bit. Was it "selling out" to take up this offer? Did I care if it was? A few people whose opinion I respect said I should go, so I did.
I had a great time at Billy Bob's Texas. "Everything is bigger in Texas" certainly applies to this montrous honky-tonk, with it's multiple bars, bull-riding arena (real bulls, not the Urban Cowboy kind) and football field-sized main arena. I'd heard bad things ahead of time about the service, but it seemed no different than any other overcrowded barroom to me.
We sat at long tables, which was new to me for a concert. Standing was frowned upon as far as I could tell. Okay, if that's your thing.
So how was the band? Well, not bad at all, in my estimation. They were tight, yet playful as they tore through an hour-and-a-half set of their Texas hits and fan favorites. The crowd sang along with nearly every number, so I felt in the minority not knowing most of the words. On the other hand, I felt completely at home though, as the crowd was very friendly and upbeat.
Some songs CDB played were "White Trash Story," "Give You a Ring," and CMT.com hit "Double-Wide Dream." They also, of course, played their signature hit "Stockyards," about the very area we enjoyed this show in. My favorite choice was the Delbert McClinton-esque "One Star Flag," a Texas-celebrating country-rocker. I may be mistaken (or my memory faded by adult beverages), but I believe their final song was "Runaway Train," during which Casey called on the audience to break free of their seated politeness and get loud. They complied enthusiastically.
|Casey Donahew and yours truly.|
I thought all members of the band were solid players, especially lead guitarist JJ Soto, who had rock star swagger and chops. Casey, himself, seemed to stand at odds from the cutting edge buzz of his band, and not necessarily in a bad way. Mr. Donahew comes across as an everyman. He's so down-to-earth in his mannerisms, delivery and rapport with the audience, that he almost seems like a karaoke singer showing off for his friends. That's not meant as a slight - much the opposite, it's a compliment - his vocals are far above that of your typical karaoke singer; Casey just seems to lack any sort of "untouchable star" presence onstage. He's like your buddy who used to be in the high school show choir getting up onstage and wowing everybody.
He and the members of his band that I met after the show, were all friendly and welcoming to me, despite my previous venomous jabs at them. Casey, in particular, took time out of his meeting and greeting to talk with me for quite a while about music and how I came to start Farce the Music. Seemed like a very nice guy to me, and he even introduced me to Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, who was pretty cool in his own right. I also spent half the night sharing tales and brews with Billy Bob's Director of Entertainment, Robert Gallagher, who's a big fan of FTM. He's a hilarious older gent with a taste for "monkeys" (a drink specialty) and off-color language. Casey's wife, Melinda, was also very warm and genial towards me, despite some preconceptions I may or may not have had about her. :)
In summation, I had a very cool time in Ft. Worth and I'd certainly see the band again if given the chance. I'm still not a big fan of their recorded output, and they're not out of my crosshairs here at FTM, but I certainly see how and why they relate so well to their audience.