By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Shuffling toward the Pleistocene
Slowly, ponderously, it lumbers onto the horizon, its massive head turning first this way, then that. Somehow, it realizes, something's changed. Is it that the sun is no longer as warm--this winter just a bit longer than the one before? Or is it something else?
A brontosaurus contemplating the advent of extinction? Or one of rock's long-standing institutions--the massive outdoor show--surveying this summer's economic landscape? In a summer that sees the H.O.R.D.E. tour--one of the previous year's big draws--getting no closer than Ennis, and Lollapalooza skipping town entirely, what's the difference, give or take a few pterodactyls?
Of course, it took the giant reptiles millions of years to fossilize; H.O.R.D.E. appears to be accomplishing the same thing in less than a year, bands and tour both giving up their once-cutting edge in favor of becoming mere dispensers of the expected, aural Harlequin romances that substitute long jams for heaving bosoms and torn bodices. Still wildly popular, there's nothing new about this year's main stage mainstays: the increasingly-annoying Blues Traveler, the innocuously competent Dave Matthews Band, '70s flame-keeper Lenny Kravitz, and Pennsylvania tub-thumper Rusted Root, which can play the longest song you never cared about.
Gone is the sense of freshness brought to the table by acts like Morphine and Wilco, innovators passed over in favor of unknown oddities like Leftover Salmon. The only band on the H.O.R.D.E. roster likely to expand any horizons is the Native American band Red Thunder, a second-stage group that combines traditional instrumentation, modern activism, and pop-rock sensibilities. There's nothing wrong with meeting demand, but things change quickly out there. Ask the brontosaurus.
The H.O.R.D.E. tour lands in Ennis at the Texas Motorplex July 19.