Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer(For photos of each band, click on the links below.)
Shiner Rising Star for 2013, celebrating its 10 anniversary, kicked off in high gear Thursday night when three bands, all from outside the Metroplex and North Texas, battled it out to move on to Round 2.
It was two of the alternates who moved into the contest. At the last minute, The Mike Stanley Band had to opt out, and so The Detentions, from Austin, moved into their slot. Earlier, Levi Stephens, from the Texas Hill Country, had said he couldn’t make it also, and so that moved Lauren Alexander , from Bullard, into Round 1. The third band to compete Thursday night (Aug. 1) was Emily Herring and her band from San Marcos. When the announcement came Friday morning, everyone learned it was the Lauren Alexander Band who will move into Round 2.
The three bands drew for order of appearance, and Herring drew the first-place slot. But, when the third-on-the-stage band, The Detentions, learned that Herring’s lead guitar picker had been caught up in traffic and not there yet, The Detentions offered to switch with them. True Texas loving-kindness , musician to musician.
The contest is such that, in Round 1, each band has 30 minutes on stage, must cover one of someone else’s songs, and complete their set with original music. The 24 bands going through the contest are vying for a recording deal with Shiner Records, and quite a few more prizes.
After each band peforms, the judges for the night offer a critique of their music, stage presence, and song selections including the songwriting abilities. Judges for this first week were Brett Dillon (KHYI), Tip Jones (Overdrive Entertainment), and Zane Williams (singer/songwriter).
The Detentions, a duo of schoolteachers Dan Sullivan and Chris Hillier, who switched off on lead and harmony vocals, covered a Jerry Garcia song, mixed in with their various originals which included a feel of the coast.
Dillon led the critique, saying the songwriters had, among other assets, “great hooks on their originals.”
Jones said it takes a lot of courage for a duo to be in the same contest as bands, “There’s no room for error without a band behind you. If there is a mistake, we hear it, and we didn’t hear any tonight.” He
commented favorably on the lead vocal swaps, and finished saying, “You can tell you are from Texas, you can hear the beach feel, and you chose a good cover and did it well.”
Williams cleared his throat before saying he had been the week before where The Detentions were that night, “showcasing and having people standing there with folded arms, evaluating your every move.” Williams had showcased in Nashville, he offered.
“You guys are likeable and laid back, and we can tell you have been doing this a lot together, the harmonies are tight and you communicate with looks between you.” Williams also noticed their more unusual use of capos on their acoustic guitars, saying that because they put the capos in different places on the neck, the guitar sound was filled out fuller. “You have a lot of fun and helped people here have a lot of fun.”
Sullivan and Hillier headed straight to the judges’ table to shake hands with all three of them after the critique.
The Lauren Alexander band came up next. It’s her second time to compete in Shiner Rising Star, and the growth in the band was pronounced since the earlier attempt, 2011. In the band are Alexander on vocals, guitar, harmonica; Richie Kindle on lead guitar and backing vocals; Michael Heatley on bass; and Jeff Odom on drums. For their cover, they chose “The Rabbit,” a Jefferson Airplane song, and played it last in their 30-minute set.
Dillon opened the critique again saying that the band really broke out when they hit the cover song.
Jones said he was really surprised at that selection, but it proved one of his concepts of Texas music, “You can get away with anything.” He commented, too, on the band’s “cool, bluesy sound,” the great tone on Kindle’s guitar and his harmony, and that he noticed both Heatley and Odom had done a great job, “not too flashy, but in the groove. And I love a girl who can play the harp, too.”
Williams commented, “Good job keeping the energy up.” He compared their stage presence and choice of clothing to The Detentions, saying, “You all feel more like you are trying to be artists, dressed more the part. At least for me, that take intentionality. It’s touches like that that make you look more like an artist. On ‘Marketability,’ I marked you high. His take on the band’s style of “melancholy folk vibe, brooding, and that’s cool.”
The Emily Herring Band came to the stage, and she opened by commenting on her favorite Shiner beer ‘flavors,’ and thanking Shiner Beer, KHYI, and Love & War for the contest. Good start! On
stage with Emily was Wayne Manso on drums, John Freeman on bass, and Boy Wells on guitar.
Brett critiqued the band by first comparing Emily as a female Dwight Yoakum and a Patsy Montana, talking about her yodeling skills. “You gotta get hooked up with Dwight Yoakum. If he knew you were doing this, you would be touring with him,” Dillon said, to which someone in the crowd good-naturedly called out “Call him.”
Jones commented that “It’s all about picking the right guys who can back up up,” then commented on Freeman’s harmonies to Herring’s yodel. “The drummer staye din the groove. You don’t play loud — just good.” You have ‘Texas’ written all over you, with a rockabilly-Bakersfield thing, and not everybody can pull that off. You are heading in the right direction. You know your vocal range and you have a great voice.”
Williams started his portion of the critique by saying, ‘Who am I and what the hell do I know? Now, like Lauren, you look like an artist.”
Tip Jones came back in and thanked DB Sound (of Sherman) for supplying the music line and running sound.
Next week, baring any bands changing places with one another, the three bands competing will be Buffalo Ruckus, the Matt Nix Band, and Fishing with Dynamite, and will be held at 8 p.m. at Dodie’s Cajun Restaurant in Frisco. That’s at 3401 Preston Road, and its phone number is 214-618-9440. From 6-7 p.m. at the same venue is the Legends of Texas Music live radio show (KHYI 95.3) with Dillon and Donnie Nelson hosting songwriters.