Two bands graced the great stage at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Dallas Thursday night (Oct. 4), both vying for the chance to move into the final round of Shiner Rising Star. “Graced” might be a mild term, because both Manny & The Gringoderos and The Bigsbys more like “tore it up” with their separate styles.
It was Round 2 Week 2 of the annual event that provides the final winner with a recording contract, and this year the winning band also receives new instruments from Kona Guitars, a week’s gig at Toby Keith’s, and a spot on the 2013 Texas Music Revolution (being held in March).
This week, the three judges — KHYI’s Chuck Taylor and Alan Peck and singer-songwriter Darryl Lee Rush — chose The Bigsbys to move on into the final round, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 1, at Love & War in Texas, Plano. Before the competition, the band members were busy making each others’ acquaintances and in generally enjoying the new commaraderie.
Manny & The Gringoderos, led by Manny Trevin on vocals, harmonica, and guitar, also includes Lindsey Duffin on fiddle, Justin Leu on drums, and Kevin Bach on upright bass. A mix of acoustic and electric Texas rock, folk, and so much more.
The band filled its 45-minute set with a mix of original songs and two covers, using their own arrangements on those.
At the end of the set, the judges critiqued what they had heard. Peck began by explaining that “If you want a future in Texas music, as Darryl can tell you, there is a tremendous amount of competition. So you have to do something to get the attention of those with the money, and those who are not yet friends… something to make you special.” He commented that they did that in a couple of the songs, especially their Robert Earl Keen cover song and a dance song they had written, Peck mentioned. But, he added that at times the band could have added more pizzazz to some of the other songs. “You can be an up-and-coming band,” Peck closed by saying.
Rush brought smiles to their faces when he said that, when he was in the 2004 Shiner Rising Star competition (he was the first Shiner Rising Star), “I was really happy that Alan Peck wasn’t a judge.” He remembered he had heard and judges the band before and “You get better each time.” Rush was especially fond of the fiddle player and of the song “Sweet Child of Mine,” noticing that the rhythm section was tight and that Manny’s songwriting is “very very good.”
Taylor, who also was a judge in the 2011 SRS contest when The Gringoderos vied, told them, “You have came a long way from last year. The fiddler is probably the best musician in the entire band (no offense to the others).”
Taylor, after looking around the Toby Keith’s large venue and the relatively small crowd, spoke to both bands, saying, “Competition is about doing everything you can to be the next Rising Star, and it includes promoting and getting people into the seats and I’m really disappointed in (that aspect) of both bands.” He remembered, he said, when Rush competed he chartered a bus and filled it and the venue with fans.
Then, back to the band critique, he commented favorably on Trevin’s songwriting ability and the band’s ability to make a cover song their own.
Next up, was The Bigsbys, from Palestine, Texas. This is also a 4-piece group, consisting of Alex Smith on vocals and acoustic guitar, Russell McClendon on bass guitar, Brad Hobson on lead guitar, and Nick Odom on drums. They had just come off of a tour throughout the southern states, and commented that, while it was strenuous and productive at the same time, they had increased their fan base all along the way.
Peck started again, positively, saying the “second song harmony was perfection.” His favorite, which turned out to be the favorite of all three judges, was the “whiskey song,” but, Peck commented, “before you were finished with it, you were bending over to get drinks and singing to the floor, as opposed to the audience. These are little things, but when you get those ironed out, that makes you a professional as opposed to a lot of people. I want to hear more. You guys are good.”
Rush commented that, “When you first got on stage, you looked like a band. You guys not only look the part, you guys rock.” He compared their musical style with that of the Drive-By Truckers and their “good southern rock. I loved it. I think it all starts with the songwriting.” Theirs was great, Rush said.
Taylor concluded the critique by saying, “I don’t pay to go see shows, and I would pay to go see you guys.” He compared The Bigsbys to the Austin-based band, Uncle Lucius. “The only thing is, when you are talking to the crowd, slow down and enunciate. You were talking really fast and mumbling.” Taylor, too, liked the “Why Whiskey” song. He disagreed with Peck’s comment about their stage presence, saying they did have what it took along that line.
The recording contract is with Shiner Records, sponsored by Shiner Beer.
The Bigsbys now join the Kerry Davis Jr. Band and two others, yet to be determined, in the finals.
This next week, (Oct. 11) Blacktop Outlaw challenges 121 North at Jack Daniels Saloon on Lamar Street in Dallas, and the fourth and final set of Round 2 will have New Old West competing against Rhythm n Roses at Southern Junction in Rockwall on Thursday, Oct. 18.
And kudos and attaboys to the sound and lighting man at Toby Keith’s… he put on an incredible stage-light show over and behind each band!