Texas Concert For Conservation at Sam Houston Race Park, 5/18/2013
Only moments before, one of them had asked me "on a scale of one to ten, how great was that?" after "Merry Christmas From the Family." (Yes, he plays it in May too, if you were wondering.) I told the kid it was about an eight, and I wasn't lying. But the acoustic-flavored songs before that had been a nine -- "Feelin' Good Again," "Gringo Honeymoon," and the practically new "I Gotta Go."
Later came a "Honky Tonk Women" twist on "Corpus Christi Bay," a pile-driving "Amarillo Highway" that left all that previous acoustic nonsense in the dust, and of course Lovett walking out to steal the show with a few well-chosen heys. "The Road Goes On Forever" closed out Keen's set and was almost anticlimactic after Lovett and that whole law-enforcement eruption, but that song is like sex, or a doughnut. Even when it's just okay, it's still pretty great.
Yoakam went on so late, around 10:30 p.m., it almost felt like a completely different show by the time he went onstage. His set really deserves a review of its own, but it went off without a hitch except for when the mandolin cut out right when "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose" gets to the solo. He vamped a bit, broke into a little of Buck Owens' instrumental theme song, and scatted some words until the proper lyrics came back to him. It was all very seamless and professional, the way he never broke stride.
Other than that, Yoakam gave us a little half-turn, a little more hip-swivel, and a lot of honky-tonk moonwalk. His excellent 90-minute set mixed in a couple of choice cuts from last year's album 3 Pears, "Take Hold of My Hand" and "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" with songs like "Blame the Vain" that are no doubt only in the set purely because he wants to play them. He tossed in with a couple of old barnburners like "Little Sister," extended jams on and Dwight Sings Buck standout "Fast as You," and a power-chorded version "Ring of Fire" that almost sounded like T. Rex.
Yoakam also gave a sincere-sounding speech about CCA's efforts that seemed like he'd done more than just read a pamphlet on his tour bus. He'll be back in December, and so will I.
Personal Bias: Four of my favorite twangy types all on the same bill, plus perfect weather. No bias here.
The Crowd: Besides the aforementioned my-first-beer club, about as mellow as the performers. No complaints about all the pretty girls present, either.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Is that your dick?" Said by a woman behind me on our way into the concert. I did not look back to see to what she might have been referring; don't shoot the messenger, please.
Random Notebook Dump: Whoever was choosing the transitional songs went way above and beyond the call of duty, tossing in everything from Sade's "Soldier of Love" (which I downloaded on the spot) to Johnny Rodriguez's "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico" and the Austin Lounge Lizards' "I Wanna Ride In the Car Hank Died In."