Texas is big. It’s mysterious. It’s wild. It’s independent. It’s renegade. It’s a place where misfits go to make art. But, during the summer it can be brutally hot. And apparently, the state has a power grid, not connected to any national grid, which might just shut down, if it’s too cold or too hot. And, it appears, Texas leads the country in radical-right craziness and conspiracy-driven thinking. It’s harsh in many ways and not as “down home friendly” as one might be led to believe. We have our ups and downs. People are also moving here, constantly, for a variety of reasons, probably for the “opportunities” Texas offers, whatever those might be.
For Denton, it means the homogenization of unique coolness and eradication of special locally owned businesses. Prime locations are just too expensive for small-timers. It’s nothing new or unexpected, but the blandness is accelerating, and it stings. And, of course, I’m hearing more about people who have moved to Texas who regret it. Our governor is obviously positioning himself to run for president, so he has doubled-down his appeal to the voter-suppression/anti climate-change/anti-vaxxer crowd, which defines Texas to a lot of folks. Pride is rarely positive, but Texas pride is often unbearable. Now, before I get a bunch of y’all all riled up, I love Texas. The potential I see is mind-blowing. This state has clout. It is physically huge and romantically huge. The Texas mystique is real. A lot of amazing things have happened within our borders, including some of the best music ever made anywhere and I’m not talking about Brave Combo. It’s a place which inspires and, I guess, can still dangle a carrot in front of wandering souls looking for authenticity and the meaning of life. I like living in a wild and wooly place, even as a long-time vegetarian/animal activist. For me, the whole vibe of Texas has been unlimited freedom of expression, as a musician and an artist. When Brave Combo first started it really did feel like anything goes, so let it rip. But the edges have been slowly whittled away by a permeating conservative mind-set. For a long time, the hippies were winning. Even on college campuses all over the state, the fraternities and sororities, God bless ‘em, took a serious back seat to the progressives. When I was in college, the Greeks were practically non-existent. They were contained. Groovy was everywhere. Not that this should be a goal for any downtown, but there was a hard-core X-rated movie theater right on the town square. And, yes, that’s really a terrible idea, but it speaks to true independence of the time. Creatively, anything could happen. And people were, generally, nicer, and way gentler. But there is no value in living in nostalgia and I am solidly in the “been there done that” camp. I have no desire to repeat the past. Even in our troubled times, I enjoy the challenge of maneuvering through the muck and mire. Life is about survival and how wily you are in that attempt. Surviving and thriving as an entertainer is tricky, at best. Figuring out how to grab someone’s attention when everything is so topsy-turvey is a much tougher game. Before I leave this fascinating explosion of words, I must admit that there are times when I have felt very protective and proud of my home state. Once we were on a train in Switzerland and a passenger overheard us talking and must have heard the word “Texas.” He stood up and wagged his finger at us and blamed us for killing Kennedy. I don’t remember how we responded to him. He might have been drunk. Lots of Europeans drink constantly, even more than Texans. But I do remember feeling like, “Hey, watch your mouth.” You can’t talk to Texans that way, even if there might be some truth to his accusation. Dallas didn’t prepare for Kennedy’s visit as well as it should have. That’s for sure. A lot of mistakes were made that day. But, on that train, in Switzerland, I was suddenly all about “Remember the Alamo!” To wrap up, I believe in the promise of Texas. I just want us to live up to it, FOR EVERYONE. Which means, if I’m open to helping the migrants at our southern border, I have to be accepting of people moving here from Oklahoma and Louisiana, too. Maybe we should put up signs at every entrance to the state which says something like, “If you are a nice person, come on in. If you are a scallywag, turn around or just quickly pass through.” Almost no one wants to be known as a scallywag, unless you’re a professional wrestler or a member of a punk band, which doesn’t really exist anymore.
Speaking of music, Brave Combo is a band. And this a band newsletter, sorta, in case you forgot. We actually go out and play music for people and are starting to carefully dip our toes back into the live music pond, soon to be a lake, then an ocean. We have played a couple of big shows recently and all has gone swimmingly. It feels a little weird, but at least we’re on a stage most of the time we’re at a gig, with blots of space around us. I don’t know how it feels to be in the crowd out front. You know, it’s almost normal, but really, not close, yet. How could it be? All of us have been traumatized, to some degree, by the pandemic and the over-politicization of it. Jeez, what a great time to undermine science, huh? But there is always a new normal popping up. Even without the pandemic the chances of a new adult movie theater on the downtown square in Denton would be pretty slim. So, bands and musicians always must adjust to the times, just like everyone else. It looks like the concept of virtual shows finally has a foothold on the psyche of the public, which is fantastic. People liked them and now that we’re all familiar with the idea and not scared of it, some cool things are bound to emerge. Every band realized its potential reach. Why wouldn’t this continue with gusto. Not everyone can make it to our show at Rubber Gloves on July the 30th with our friends, the Wee Beasties. But if we stream it, and I guarantee several people involved know how to make that happen, we could perform for ten times as many fans; a hundred times, perhaps. As this technology gets easier and easier and more user-friendly, the dream of actually playing for a world-wide audience becomes reality.
Okay, I am tired of rambling and it’s time to dispense tape worm medicine to several cats. Please check our itinerary often. Last-minute shows could pop up overnight and, once September arrives, Brave Combo gets super busy again for a few months. There will be lots and lots of chances for you to see and hear what the fuss is all about. And, if you don’t live near us, just hop on a plane. The friendly skies are back. Well, not really. Planes have turned into rowdy kindergartens, but you would probably live through it. I wish you peace, happiness, and good times!