Shiner Rising Star, KHYI, 2011, Finals 9/20/11 Love & War in Plano

| October 23, 2011

Joshua Jones and Blackbird Sing

Story and pix by Mary Jane Farmer, KHYI special events photographer. 

Well, it’s come and gone, only taking 13 weeks from start to an incredible night of such a variety of music that one could only say they had one thing in common:  They were all representative of Texas and Americana music at its No. A-1 finest. Nashville, take heed at what is offered in the Lone Star State!

Five bands worked their way through two previous rounds, like cream rises to the top, to make it to the finals and challenge one another with the best they could offer in 25 minutes. When the dust settled — and literally there was dust stirred up from the carpet on the Love & War in Texas stage —   San Antonio’s Blackbird Sing took the top honor. Also winners, though not with prizes, were Pearl Streeet Riot of the Paris area, Dustin Perkins Band of Grayson County, Brad Dunn & Ellis County of the Austin area, and Sidekick Mafia, based in the Metroplex.

Round One was judged each week by three people, and there were four judges during Round Two. The finals, Oct. 20, were decided by 10 people: Grant Jones (of a previous winning band The Pistol Grip Lassos), Rodney Parker (singer/songwriter), Brett Dillon (KHYI), Rick Lovett (Winding Road Music), Chuck Taylor (KHYI), Kimberley Jones (Granada Theater), Kate Miner (singer/songwriter), Joshua Jones (KHYI), Coach Joe Avazanno (KHYI & Hat Tricks), and Donnie Nelson (Mavericks G.M.). Each offered a critique following each of the band’s performances.

“I’ve always had an inclination, a feeling in my gut, (about who will win), but don’t have a freaking clue this year,” Jones said as he opened the night. “It’s anybody’s game, whatever band brings it…”

The Dustin Perkins Bandopened, and was the only band that moved through it fast enough to get in five songs, including the one required cover, which was Chris Knight’s “Bridle on a Bull.” They also performed the song that’s on the Regional Radio music chart, “Luckiest Man Alive,” along with three other originals.

Dustin Perkins

Grant Jones got a laugh when he commented that he wondered if the drums, with Nathan Brown on them, were going to hold out for the night. Parker commented that he loved the energy and could tell that all the songs were arranged out, not just played out. Dillon commented on Colton Gilbreath’s harmonies, and said the band set the bar high for the contest. “It’s Texas sultry blues, heart-felt emotion,” Dillon said.

Lovett comments included “good time, good energy and state presence, and you were having a good time. You rocked.”  Taylor said the Dustin Perkins Band rocked. Kimberley Jones said it was “awesome, amazing. You came though on Chris Knight,” then told Dustin he had an amazing voice. Miner said, “So much fun, you are young and hot and energetic.”

Joshua Jones said, “You look and sound like a freaking rising star. You have a little more buzz than any other acts coming into this, and literally, the word I wrote down was “wow.” Avazanno said, “I felt this show was as good as any I’ve seen — tight, and your energy and voice drive the band, a very very good, good singer. Keep pushing what you do and keep getting better.” Nelson referred back to the drums, saying they were a little heavy. “But, you were bad, awesome, keep it going, boys,” Nelson ended by saying.

Dustin Perkins Band  pix

Brad Dunn & Ellis Countypresented as their cover a 1976-written song “Barstool” and surounded it with three originals. This six-piece band is made up of two lead guitars, steel guitar, acoustic and bass guitars, and drums. And there was a break time, a signature time, for everyone. Then, there was critique time.

Brad Dunn

Grant Jones started by saying, “This goes to show you how tough the country music business is, because I have no idea why you are not famous. The pedal steel player (Jim Haystack Novack) drinks red wine and smiles.” Parker said the Brad Dunn band presented a “good job, I’m so impressed with the level of musicianship, it sounded like listening to a record.” Dillon said they did a great job with a great selection of tunes. “Toe-tapping band” Lovett said, “So many on a small stage. He commented on one particular original “Haylee” which should be their radio single. “It has commercial potential.”

Taylor’s comments included that he loved the harmonies and the pedal steel. “A little soul patch going on.” Kimberley Jones said, “You started off strong and ended strong. Country rock through and through.” Miner added that the rhythm section was so tight, and the vocals, and when “the pedal steel guy smiled, I knew everything was going to be all right.”

Joshua Jones said the band was a symphony of ass-kicking country rock. “Regardless of what happens tonight, you have proven to everyone here that you are a commercially viable country and western music band.” Coach Joe kept his comments at “harmonies, country, rock, you are what you are, damn good. Very few people can do steel. I love it.”

Nelson got the second crowd-laugh when he said he was a sucker for “steel pedal,” and added, when corrected, “I’ve had had a few cocktails.Tthis was like have a great country bordeaux in your mouth. This is the essence of Texas country, and you rocked it. You are everything right about Texas Country.”

Brad Dunn & Ellis County pix

Next up was Sidekick Mafia, a trio of lead guitar who doubles on lead vocals, bass, and drums. They opened with a guitar version, so close to sounding like a banjo, of a Woody Guthrie classic.

Grant Jones said, “you guys, really good, killer songs. You have the whole folk influence in your music.” Parker added, “A 3-piece is really really hard to pull off, but I was captivated the whole time. I’ve never seen anyone play the guitar that way.” Dillon said, “Great job, Justin, and ‘Natalie’ is a great song. Grunge, Texas.” Lovettsaid, “That was entertaining, musicially, and as I watched you play the guitar, I thought I was on the side of  a mountain. You (the band) need a washboard.”

Justin Pickard-Sidekick Mafia

Taylor commented that 13 weeks ago, when the band was on the first week, folks thought it was a finale show.” Kimberley Jones said, “You brought it fom the beginning. You have such a thick sound, out the window. Your song selection was really good, and (they) flowed very well.” Miner again commented on the rhythm section, saying the bass tone was melodic and wonderful and thye drumming was straight ahead. “You are sexy, dirty, faboulous. I’d follow you anywhere.”

Joshua Jones said it would be hard to follow a band with six members, but “You guys didn’t lose anything. Fullness of sound, a wall of sound. You guys have something. I would encourage you to look into a fourth, texture instrument for diversity.”

Avanzanno said, ” Why I don’t consider this a competition is that all the bands are different. I haven’t figured out what you do, wha (genre)t to call you. All I know is when I hear you I really enjoy what you do.” Nelson concluded by asking the band who, if they could name one person, was its inspiration. “Hard to pick one, lead singer Justin said, but Alligator Dave from right here in town.” Nelson said, “I’ll partner with you on the next CD (if you don’t win). I mean it.”

Sidekick Mafia  pix

Pearl Street Riot chose a Guy Clark song as their cover, “Ballad of the Last Gunfighter” which was a fitting choice for their style of music — western tales with a rock beat. They were the first to begin making dust rise form the rug that stays on the Love  & War stage, with the stomping and activity, dust rising until it collected around the metal overhang/roof.

Grant Jones said, to guitarist Cody Phifer, “The unsung hero in every band is the bad-ass guitar player who knows how to sing harmony.” grant: cody, unsung hero in every band is the bad ass guitar player who knows how to sing harmony.” He also mentioned that the band’s fans “showed up in droves.” Parker said, “I love alternate country, and it’s refreshing to hear a cool and bad-ass band with smart lyrists. You guys have it no matter what happens. You have a new fan.” Dillonsaid, “You guys rock my world.”

Wesley Joe Malone—Pearl Street Riot

Lovett said he felt like he was at a frat party. “My advice is to hit the college circuit, the rock and roll, and you nailed it. Tight, good, moving.” Taylor pointed out that the guys used drug reference and language “when we were broadcasting live. You have got to think about tht stuff, about FCC  and licensing and rules. I like your style of music, a punk rock band.”

Kimberley Jones said she remembered one of Pearl Street Riot’s songs, “The battle song, and that is the song that is going to make your band. That is the one to stick with. As someone who works for a venue, we care about people who can bring a band and sell tickets, and I think you can do that. I believe in you. You are so different from every band in Dallas.” Miner said the band “will probably be rock stars, and if you don’t stay focused you are not going to earn the rock star…”

Joshua Jones said, “That song (Battle of Butcher Hollar) is going to propel you guys. This isn’t a popularity contest. You guys have as good a chance as any, but you have got to drop the drug references and the language, you have to think like businessmen and rock stars. I am being more critical because I am a fan, and I expect big things of you.”

Coach Joe commented that the judges had offered some really good advice, about getting on the college circuit and building the fan base. “You rock the house, you excite people, you have a good band, keep doing what you do.” Nelson concluded the critique by saying, “They (L&W) need to build a bigger stage. You rocked it.”

Pearl Street Riot  pix

Last and not least was Blackbird Sing, a five-piece band with two lead guitars, one acoustic and one bass guitar, and drums. During the first two rounds, Joshua Jones was a judge and commented both times that he would like to hear the band cover a paticular Gin Blossoms’ song, and at Round Two, the band promised it would. On stage Thursday night, lead singer Vito said, “Blackbird Sing does not break promises,” and then the band broke out in the requested song.

Grant Jones, at critique time, said, “Absolutely great, then the Gin Blossoms and I ws totally there. It sounded great. pretty kick ass.” Parker agreed, saying the show had “an extremely cool vibe, cohesive, folky rock sort of stuff.” Dillon commented, “Color, great color, sharp ,” and Lovettsaid, “Very marketable. You pulled me into the music, your look is good, black shits, very cool. We need more of that in the music world.” Lovett also said that was the best vocals on the night, and the band belongs on the radio.

Vito Salinas—Blackbird Sing

Taylor commented that he missed the “horns and keyboards,” which lead guitar player Andy Salazar had also played during the first two rounds. But, they said before the set, with the lesser amount of time on stage, they decided to stick strickly with his guitar for this set. Kimberley Jones noted that the band had a rough stat with the sound system, but “but it got fixed You listened (to Josh Jones’ request)  and that’s a really big thing.” She commented, too, that the indy folk rock thing is huge right now. “Build on it. You need to focus a little more, but you were much better as a unit this time.”

Miner said the band was highly engaging. Joshua Jones’comments were that the band “brought a crunchier, meatier guitar this time. You guys have something really really great to build on. Take freaking Texas music scene by the collar.”

Avaanno said, “I love your vibe. You relate to the audiene, your appearance, harmony, guitar playing. You look very professional, and that’s the way to approach your craft.”

Nelson closed the tailgate on the night with his critique. “You gotta know your audience. Next time you come to Big D, wear Maverick blue instead of Spurs black.”

Back home in San Antonio, Salazar wrote on his Facebook wall, “Okay, much to say… barely (just barely) getting over a 102-degree fever that i’m glad waited until AFTER the competition to hit me. And, I think I’m getting a new guitar!?! What a crazy weekend!!!

“Thanks to all of our lovely friends and families who supported us all the way up there and back and to new friends we make up there (Pearl Street Riot, Brad Dunn & Ellis County, etc..) Amazing, amazing journey and the best part is, we’ve only just begun!!”

Blackbird Sing  pix

After Lisa Hooks, KHYI, and her helpers tallied the votes, Joshua Jones called all the bands to the front. He spoke to them and to the crowd, saying, “If forr some reason your band didn’t win tonight, it’s important not to say anything to the judges. The one you are fussing at might be one who scored your band the highest. Don’t burn a bridge for your band, for a band we like right now.

“Regardless of what happens, there’s 5 bands that deserve to win, and as much as my heart is going to break for the other four bands, and I don’t want to do this…” and he said that wish such emphasis that showed it came from the heart.

Then, he called the names of the bands, and in spite of his admonishments, some of the fans booed the bands who perhaps came ahead of the one they were supporting.

The complete contest , the 8th for Shiner Rising Star, was sponsored by KHYI, Shiner Beer and Shiner Records, Kona Guitars, GP Percussions. Most of the sound equipment, including drums, was provided by DB Music of Sherman. Every week, was there to stream the music live and maintain it for future viewings on their Website. And Scene In Town was proud to have again been a part of Shiner Rising Star and all KHYI 95.3 special events.

Other pix from the night  


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