Do It for Durrett Benefit Billy Bob's Texas, Fort Worth Monday, September 8, 2014
Even if you don't religiously follow the Texas Rangers, it's impossible to miss the mark that Richard Durrett left on the Dallas media landscape. In the years that he spent cutting his teeth at Texas Christian University and eventually in his latest role at ESPN Dallas, by all accounts Richard Durrett was one of those guys that doesn't come around too often. One of the good ones.
It is unfortunate that we have to talk about Durrett in the past tense, but here we are. Put simply, this kind of awful couldn't have happened to a better guy. Making an already tragic situation worse, Durrett left behind a pregnant wife and two small children. In the wake of his death, the Dallas music and sports communities banded together Monday night at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth to raise money to support the beloved family that Durrett left behind.
Which is only part of the reason why last night's Do It For Durrett benefit was so special. Outside of the fact that some of the city's biggest media, sports and music stars planned one of the best local benefit concerts in recent history, there was also some damn fine country music on that hallowed stage last night.
Daphne Willis, a pop-country newbie with Texas roots, opened up the evening with a powerful set. Unfortunately for her, most of the fans in attendance were still browsing through the ridiculously comprehensive silent auction and schmoozing with the crowd that was as equally star-studded as the stage. Before the first act even took the stage, I watched MLB Hall of Famer Eric Nadel chatting it up with Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis. An unassuming Jon Daniels coolly greeted fans and posed for photo opportunities.
The stars in the audience may have stripped the focus away from Willis, but she shined despite the distraction. What was odd, though, was Willis being lumped into a group of "Texas Country All Stars." She decidedly does not fit that mold, but was excellent nonetheless, especially on a cover of "Eleanor Rigby."
After Willis' set and a live auction that resulted in not one but two lucky girls having the privilege of going on a date with Rangers pitcher Derek Holland, Old 97s frontman and prolific solo artist Rhett Miller took the stage with just an acoustic guitar and his bandmate on rhythm. If you've been spending too much time listening to Most Messed Up, it was refreshing to hear Miller in a more elemental state. Vocally, he was as strong as ever, which makes his forthcoming solo album all the more exciting.
The rest of the evening's lineup was truly a grouping of some of Texas country's best. Wade Bowen, Casey Donahew and Randy Rogers were part of the "secret" lineup that was not announced prior to the show due to radius clauses, and they took the stage together to play an acoustic "song swap" set. According to the event promoters, these three artists have sold out Billy Bob's a combined total of 15 times, so it was particularly special that they were playing so intimately.
Rogers opened the evening with "Tonight's Not The Night," the first single from his 2004 album Rollercoaster, and played a not-at-all-begrudging version of "Kiss Me in The Dark" a few swaps later. For fans that have been following Rogers' work over the last decade, it was a performance that summed up everything that is simple and great about him -- except for those few terrifying seconds he played the opening chords to "Crash Into Me." For a second there, I thought he might have gone full-douche. I was pleasantly surprised.
On stage, Rogers and Bowen played the seasoned statesmen to Donahew's up-and-comer. Rogers and Bowen were more comfortable and laid back, while Donahew was intense and energetic. This should really come as no surprise considering that the Cleburne-born Donahew is set to release one of country's most anticipated albums of the year. Still, his Cleburne roots have strong pull, as evidenced by an emotive rendition of "Stockyards" that got some of the night's biggest cheers.
That is, of course, until the trio used their place on the stage to raise more cash for the Durrett family. For a few lucky winners, that meant getting to sit on stage during a song or two, and in one case, a bottle of (likely) Tito's vodka and a meet-and-greet with Bowen. Of the three, a spot next to Donahew fetched the most, $2,200, and one lucky lady had the privilege of being "sung to" by what is likely country's next big star.
Masterminded by Eric Nadel and Rhett Miller, Do It for Durrett was simultaneously an incredibly successful event and great concert. There were no lags in the show, no incessant retuning breaks. There was, however, a group of great musicians with guitars raising money for a great cause. All told, the evening raised over $150,000 for the Durrett family, a number that doesn't even begin to put a dent in the pain of losing a beloved husband, father and journalist.
Still, it was remarkable to see so many people, members of the media, athletes and fans alike make it out to support the Durretts on a Monday night. After a night so completely focused on healing as a community and supporting a family in their time of need, I refuse to be cynical about the role music plays in our culture.