I felt sort of like the quintessential stranger of the Wild West as I strolled into KHYI’s 20th Annual Toyota Texas Music Revolution festival. I wasn’t too familiar with some of the acts and the Oak Point Park venue was brand new to me. Fortunately, I found out fast (right after I picked up a cold Nine Bands brew at the local saloon) that this was Plano’s first time hosting the festival and I wouldn’t be the only newcomer.
Presented by KHYI 95.3 The Range and City of Plano, the Toyota Texas Music Revolution saw a Friday/Saturday full day, two-stage lineup. I got in as the cool breeze blew in Friday late afternoon, just in time to witness the entire spectrum of country music within two of its excellent torchbearers: Chris Knight and Lee Ann Womack. I’m talking about two different elements of the six string here: Knight, the hardwood, the very foundation country music was built on, and Womack, the shiny strings and sweet melodies.
Chris Knight presented a storyteller’s soul and immediately struck me as a musical descendent of Kris Kristofferson and Tom Waits. Knight’s songs spoke for the old heart of America and were a bittersweet reflection of a world that may or may not still exist. If there’s some line in the sand, defiantly telling Nashville to take a hike, you will probably find Chris Knight a few steps away with sand on his boots. His middle class music was mirrored in his spartan sense of style: a rugged camo jacket and a simple baseball cap. In a modern age where more attention demands more spectacle, Chris Knight offered a refreshing alternative where quality trumped commotion. Knight didn’t just engage the audience, he moved the audience.
Next up, Lee Ann Womack, a fine pillar of establishment country, gave an elevated and excited performance. Where Knight reminisced, Womack reinvigorated. Lee Ann gave an interactive, feel-good concert. Presented with a modern legend, the people of Plano welcomed Womack with open arms and a sing-along for every song. Sitting backstage, I noticed her energy going on and off stage. If she plays a show any different for 1,500 than she does for 15,000, you’d never notice. She was dedicated, appreciative and 100% classy. And she had the tallest heels I’ve ever seen. Take that, Gaga. It might have been a cold night, but Lee Ann Womack put on a hot show.
I spent a little time chatting with a couple members of the featured band Chubby Knuckle Choir and I’m pleased to say their beats are currently filling up my iTunes playlist. These guys are down to earth, generous with their time and beer, and a bona fide original collective. It’s hard to nail down their sound. Just take some folk, some blues, some country, and chuck that at the wall and see what sticks. You can pop over to their website and find out when they’ll be playing in the area.
Other Friday highlights included some quality stage time from Mark David Manders, a Plano native and Plano High alumni, who said it was nice to come back home and play a gig, and John David Kent, who declared from the stage: “This is rock and roll. This is freedom. This is fun.”
Saturday brought in a sizeable crowd and just as many sweet performances. Zane Williams riled up his Zaniacs with some impromptu walks through the audience and what I guess you could call a really conversational concert. The crowds showed up for headliner Stoney Larue, a Texas Country institution who delivered a rock solid performance of fan favorites. My favorite performance of the day? Glad you asked. That goes to a ragtag 5-piece: The Bird Dogs.
The Bird Dogs showed an awesome and eclectic range, complete with one of the finest fiddlers I’ve ever seen and enough rollicking lead guitar to make Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell grin from ear to ear. The Oak Point Park amphitheatre was perfect for The Bird Dogs’ mix of Eagles style classic rock and heartfelt country. It felt like watching nature’s stadium gig.
I have no doubt that after this weekend’s solid slate of consistently awesome performances, we’ll be seeing the 21st Annual Toyota Texas Music Revolution right back here in Plano. I, for one, can’t wait. I came a stranger, but I’m leaving a friend.
Enjoy our gallery of pics from the weekend. Click to enlarge.