Charlie Robison at JC Cowboys, Weatherford, Oklahoma
At JC Cowboys in Weatherford, Oklahoma, they were screaming for “My Hometown” right from the beginning of Charlie Robison’s Saturday night show. Well, maybe not right from the beginning. First thing that happened was a nice lady bought Robison a shot and handed it to him as he walked out. He took it, thanked her, and drank it down, chasing the shot with the drink he brought onstage. Right after the first song, they started in. When they’d shout for “My Hometown,” Robison had a series of comebacks. “We’ll get to it,” “Wait for it, wait for it,” “We’ve got a new drummer, he doesn’t know it yet,” and “Do you have somewhere you need to go? If we play it are you going to leave?” My favorite, by far, was early in the show, when he said, “We gotta play a bunch of our shitty songs first.”
Robison did “My Hometown” at the end, second number in a two-song encore that started with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy.” When Robison kicked off “Pride and Joy,” a lot of the folks in the audience had left their seats and were standing on the dance floor, a collection of good old boys and girls in semi-designer jeans (not sure I saw any Wranglers), shorts, t-shirts and the occasional Saturday night button up cowboy shirt. There were more than a few trucker caps, and some cowboy hats. The joint billed as “Western Oklahoma’s Largest Nightclub” was rocking by this point in the show. Maybe it is the largest, and maybe it ain’t, but it’s not Gilley’s or Billy Bob’s, if that’s what you’re thinking. When I pulled in an hour or so before the music started and found a parking place after driving uncertainly over the terraced gravel parking lot (something like a series of huge speed bumps all pushed together), I kept looking for Patrick Swayze’s clunker from Roadhouse, but it wasn’t there. It had that kind of feel outside. Inside, it’s not cavernous like the mega-music halls, much more intimate. There’s seating on two levels built around a dance floor and stage, and a huge bar at one end. There are lots of dead animals on the walls, and banners from upcoming shows and events below the second floor railing. On this night, attendance was moderate in numbers but enthusiastic – local folks cheering, singing along, and dancing.
The “shitty songs” were pretty good. Robison has a fine catalog of tunes, and he played a lot of them this night. “Bar Light” (medleyed up with “Woolly Bully”), “Desperate Times”, “Down Again”, “Good Times”, “New Year’s Day”, “Poor Man’s Son”, and “Big City Blues”, to name a few. And yes, he covered “Whiskey River”, making it sound like his song, yet still remaining respectful of its origins. His band is hotter than a plate at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and they turned it up as circumstances dictated, playing a break here and there as he took a sip, or lit up another smoke.
When Robison cranked up “Loving County”, it occurred to me that this is what it’s all about. Saturday night, a cold beer, you’re out with your buds and/or your date at JC Cowboys, and you get to sing along: “And her diamond how it sparkled in the lights of Loving County.” And Charlie Robison seems glad, or at least unperturbed (which is sometimes his version of glad), that you are singing along. So you buy him a shot, and go stand in front of the stage until he takes it. And he drinks it down, lights another cigarette, and plays another song. This doesn’t happen every day here in Weatherford (or anywhere else for that matter), and it makes for a special weekend. I was singing “Bar Light, Bar Bright, first bar that I see tonight” as I headed back east on I-40.