Jesse Dayton’s Honky Tonk & Hot Rods Music Festival – Continental Club (Houston, TX)
Except for Redd Volkaert, “honky tonk” was a misnomer for this furious, wound-up-like-a-nine-day-clock rock ‘n’ roll package show. As each act wiped the sweat away, the question came to mind: “How will the headliner ever top this?”
Early on, thunderstorms that played havoc with the outdoor hot rod show coupled with a plethora of high-profile Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo events threatened to turn this mini-festival into a financial meltdown for promoter Jesse Dayton and his Stag Records label. As Dayton finished the 5 p.m. opening set (“I’m trying to fool myself into believing it’s 11:30 right now”), which featured the first public performance of the entire Banjo & Sullivan album, there were barely enough $20 wristbands sold to pay for the electricity Dayton’s power-tonk band consumed.
But despite the thin early crowd, as the weather cleared and darkness approached, Dayton re-emerged from backstage and plugged in beside Austin’s Ricky Broussard, sending a “fasten your seat belts” signal that this jet was about to leave the runway no matter the crowd size. The two simpatico guitar-slingers opened with a searing version of the Lonesome Strangers’ anthem “We Used To Fuss” and never let up during a set that saw Broussard cover Nick Lowe’s “Ragin’ Eyes”, Johnny Horton’s “Battle Of New Orleans”, Dave Alvin’s “Marie, Marie”, and most of the tracks from the latest Two Hoots & A Holler release, Songs Our Vinyl Taught Us Vol. 2.
Murky light filtered through thick smoke as voodoo swamp-rocker C.C. Adcock’s crew reconfigured the stage. Adcock fulfilled every expectation with a high-volume, effects-laden intro that took the vibe to the edge of craziness and drew the crowd to the stage front. Dayton joined Adcock for the final three songs, and they traded extended solos while engaging in all manner of rock ‘n’ roll poses. Leaving the stage to a long ovation, Adcock told the crowd, “I could be in Lafayette at Mardi Gras right now, but it don’t get no better than this.”
Volkaert’s three-piece exploration of country classics such as Charlie Rich’s “Sittin’ And Thinkin'” seemed like a preposterous scheduling snafu after the insane swamp-funk of Adcock. But Volkaert put on a purist’s picking clinic during his hour in the spotlight and more than held his ground as he finished with crowd-pleasing versions of “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone” and Waylon’s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line”.
A sea change took place midway through Volkaert’s set as the late-arriving crowd that follows Los Skarnales sent the room beyond capacity. Los Skarnales was originally an in-your-face, gang-sign-flashing vatos rudos ska outfit, but maturity and personnel additions have widened their musical menu and brought them to an artistic sweet spot that encompasses ska, rockabilly, punk, honky-tonk, metal, and a jumble of Latin styles from conjunto to salsa.
Singer Felipe Galvan is the most magnetic frontman in Houston; his vintage pachuco suit, punk leaps and constant motion added an exciting visual element to explosive tunes such as “Juana”, “Borracho”, “Street Fight”, and the lazy Ship Channel reggae anthem “I Need Some Money”. Finally, Los Skarnales dropped a loving doo-wop cover of Cookie & the Cupcakes’ Gulf Coast favorite “Mathilda” on the wildly appreciative crowd, and Galvan left the stage saying, “Only in Houston, baby.”
The odd aggregation of gearheads, rockabilly cool cats and kitties, nuevo pachuco East Side hipsters, Midtown yuppies, college kids, and the edgier fringe of the Houston Livestock Show after-crowd hung on every hot lick as Dayton and his old band the Road Kings closed the seven-hour marathon with a torrid romp through the likes of “Boystown”, “Harder Than Your Heart”, “Super Cop” and “Cast My Spell”. Despite infrequent appearances since Dayton semi-retired the Kings in 2000, an ecstatic crowd proved the band still has a hardcore following her. And that rock ‘n’ roll’s not dead yet.