Whenever I mentioned to people in the past few weeks that I was going to be attending the Toyota Texas Music Revolution (TTMR) on March 23 and 24, I got a few comments to the tune of, “That country music festival?” or “I don’t like country music.” To call TTMR a country music festival, especially considering what passes for country music today, is a bit of an insult. KHYI 95.3 The Range brought together a diverse – but cohesive – group of artists that can’t be placed into only one specific genre.
I arrived at Plano’s Oak Point Park at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, just as The Texas Gentlemen were going on. These guys have garnered a lot of buzz the past couple years, and I was anxious to see their set. A group of friends who began their careers as session musicians and a backing band, they recently released their first album, “TX Jelly,” last fall. The Gentlemen hit the stage in matching red pearl-snap shirts with their names embroidered on the front and “Texas Gentlemen” on the back.
What followed was a blistering set that ranged from rock, soul and jazz to old school country. The audience had no idea what was coming next. Their final song “Shakin’ All Over” started off like a Lynyrd Skynyrd three-guitar assault, then shifted gears into a Tex Mex surf jam, with a little Motown soul thrown in. Two thoughts crossed my mind when they finished – “Wouldn’t you love to play in a band like this?” and “Who wants to follow that?”
Though the Texas Gents set the bar high, the artists that followed kept things rolling through the night. Next up on the Toyota main stage was Ray Wylie Hubbard, often referred to as a Texas singer/songwriter, but really he’s a musical poet/philosopher. He played crowd favorites “Snake Farm” and “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” a song made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker on his classic 1973 album “Viva Terlingua.” Hubbard also sang songs off of his new album and entertained the crowd between tunes with his quick wit and humorous stories.
As the Texas sun began to set and paint the clouds in purples and pinks, Margo Price took to the stage with her guitar, a cowboy hat and a dozen red roses. If you haven’t heard Price yet, she plays old school, 100 Proof country, the kind they would never play on most “country radio” stations.
Miss Margo performed songs off her two albums, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” and “All American Made.” Her song “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” morphed into a medley, paying tribute to Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” and Merle Haggard’s “Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.” Price also showed off her rock and roll chops with a blistering version of a Tina Turner-inspired version of “Proud Mary.”
Headliner Ryan Bingham kicked off his set by inviting Margo Price back on stage to perform Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on a Fast Train.” Bingham’s band was incredible, featuring Jesse Dayton on lead guitar (who had performed a country/blues set earlier on the Deep Ellum Brewing acoustic stage) and fiddler extraordinaire Richard Bowden.
Bingham performed some of his most popular songs: “Depression,” “Nobody Knows My Trouble” and “South Side of Heaven.” He spent his young years on a family ranch in New Mexico, which was sold due to hard times. What followed were almost yearly family moves chasing oil field jobs around Texas. You could see Bingham getting genuinely choked up introducing the song “Island in The Sky,” inspired by his past. Bingham and his band also paid tribute to Gregg Allman by performing the classic “Whipping Post.”
Bingham’s set was the perfect ending to a beautiful spring night in Plano, Texas. Tip of the hat to KHYI, Toyota and the City of Plano for putting on such a tremendous event.
More from the two-day festival // photos Jennifer Shertzer: