A View From The Judges Table At Week Five of The Shiner Rising Star Contest

Shiner Rising Star Contest: Round 1, Week 5
Main Street Liquid Co., Richardson
Aug 19, 2010

For week five of the preliminary round of the Shiner Rising Star competition, three more bands took over the small in size, but big in character Main Street Liquid Company in Richardson.

Last week, bands from outside of the North Texas region made themselves known, and last night carried the same, geographically interloping vibe--only one of the acts has spent a considerable amount of time in the Metroplex.

This is fine, by the way.

The contest's purpose is to uncover the best band, not the best local band, necessarily. Of course, it just so happens that bands that live north of Austin and south of Stillwater have dominated the Shiner Rising Star roster in recent years.

Joining KHYI-95.3 FM The Range DJ Brett Dillon and me at the judges table this week was the original Shiner Rising Star himself, Darryl Lee Rush. The East Dallas dweller has long been thankful for the role that this prize has played in his career, and last night was a chance for him to help another band along, as each of last night's three bands were looking to gain access to the next round and to be one step closer to a recording contract with Shiner Records.

Those acts? Mike Schikora, Two Door Ford and The Rock Bottom Ramblers. Each act engulfed the tiny, corner stage of the jovial, packed-to-the-brim bar and provided another night where country music's true diversity was on full display.

Playing in the lead-off spot, recent Colorado transplant Mike Schikora displayed a great deal of range, as his distinctive tenor turned his well-written originals into tunes that showed off a bit more character than your typical, modern country ditty usually does. Blending blues, jazz and even a bit of Latin flair into his performance, Schikora's newness to the area, and to the Texas-scene in particular, really showed when his well-performed cover of Billy Currington's "People Are Crazy" didn't impact the crowd in the way that he had hoped. Thing is, I absolutely appreciated the unsafe nature of that pick. Texas country/red dirt fans all too often pride themselves on being decidedly non-mainstream, but Schikora's naiveté was refreshing and, perhaps, much needed.

The second act to take the stage was Fort Worth's Two Door Ford. The four-piece act belted out some solid tunes that would likely remind Reckless Kelly fans of their favorite band's younger days. Only playing three songs, including their revved-up cover of "Amos Moses", the guys didn't really give the sizable group they brought with them as big of a chance to cheer as the other acts did. Similar to a couple of the other, younger acts from previous weeks of this competition, there was enough evidence to support the claim that even if this isn't their year for the Shiner prize, exciting things surely lay ahead. If nothing else, Two Door Ford provided further proof that there is just an insane amount of talent in Fort Worth.

Batting last for the night, Oklahoma's Rock Bottom Ramblers donned their stringed-instruments and hit one out of the park. In one of the more serendipitous turns of the entire competition thus far, the evening's best band closed out the show as a true headliner always does. Performing a style that Dillon dubbed, "Psychobilly-grass" and "Woody Guthrie on acid," the quartet amplified every ounce of soul and fun from of its stand-up bass and fiddle, specifically. Stomping and, yes, rambling, through their set, the band barreled onto their closing number, the extremely fitting, "Orange Blossom Special" and brought the bar's patrons to their collective feet. While the actual choice of cover song wasn't particularly inspired (similar to last week's safe picks), the manner with which they carried the task was truly remarkable. Fast-paced without losing control and energetic without covering themselves with a hokey-sheen, their performance provided another example of how the basics of roots-music, when done excellently, can be absolutely thrilling and anything but simple.

Given the way that the Rock Bottom Ramblers lit fire to the place, it's no surprise that they were this week's big winners. At this juncture, the possibility of a showdown between them and the winner from two weeks ago, Shutdown Town, is an enticing one.

Next week, the contest moves to Deep Ellum, as La Grange becomes Shiner Rising Star central on Thursday night.

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