It's been nearly a decade since legendary Dallas band Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians played a show in their hometown. It's taken years for them to work out all the logistics for a proper reunion, which is finally poised to take place at this weekend's North Oak Cliff Music Festival in Lake Cliff Park. After all the effort to make things happen, the band won't be letting anything get in the way of their plans -- not even the unfortunate recent injuries of two of the band members, bassist Brad Houser and guitarist Kenny Withrow.
"Brad was like, 'OK y'all, first of all, don't cancel the gig, but I chopped the tip of my finger off," recalls Withrow with a laugh. He's seated outside Davis Street Espresso on a cool, overcast morning. As he sips at his frothy latte, he gingerly rubs the now blood-stained bandage on his index finger, which had its own grisly meeting with his front door earlier this morning. "I'm hoping I don't need a stitch," he muses. "It's pretty deep!"
Withrow has been an Oak Cliff resident for eight years, and has long been an important figure to the local music scene. He not only performed at the time of a burgeoning new scene in the '80s and toured with the New Bohemians, he's also been an integral member of Forgotten Space, a Grateful Dead tribute act, and when he's not touring or performing with numerous other local acts, he spends his time teaching guitar at the Kessler Theater and in the after-school music program La Rondalla at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Withrow, not unlike the other members of the New Bohemians, is busy.
"It's actually been about three years from sort of negotiating different things to trying to get it together, and everybody lives in different places," Withrow says. "The rest of the band lives in Austin. Edie of course has been really busy, making records and is doing really great, that great record she made with Steve Martin."
That great record Withrow speaks of was a collaboration between Martin and Brickell, who now lives in New York. Martin had sent her three songs to choose from, and Brickell, with her fluent ability to improvise and write music at the drop of a hat, quickly turned around all three.
"I don't know if she did it in one night; I like to say so, but I don't wanna put words in her mouth," Withrow says. "But I think it was really fast. I think it was a day or two and she sent back all three songs completed."
Today, Withrow is the only member who still resides in Dallas, where this seminal act made its humble beginnings. "I am the stubborn person that is still in Dallas," Withrow says. "You know, I like Dallas. A lot of people are like, 'You are insane for saying that,' but I mean people like Jeff [Liles] and people who are involved in the community, they understand."
Jeffrey Liles, talent buyer at the Kessler Theater, has had an ongoing dialogue with the band about a date for their performance, and has watched them develop and establish their place in the Dallas music scene as a friend and fan over the years.
"They played at pretty much every venue that I was booking back then: Theatre Gallery, Prophet Bar, Club Dada, etc. Those shows were always special," Liles says. "Really hard to beat seeing and hearing that band underneath a full moon in the backyard of Club Dada."
Now with the music festival just days away, not only will this community's rich history and culture of funk and blues be properly represented, it will be capped off with an appearance by Oak Cliff native Brickell.
"I'm excited to play in Oak Cliff because I was born in Oak Cliff and my musical expression, career-wise, was first born with the New Bohemians," Brickell says via email. "So for me, it's a celebration of life and living a life you love with great people."
"Yeah, I feel pretty good about it," Withrow says. "Getting to play with these people, there's really no replacing it. People that you went to school with and came of age with, that connection can't be replaced. It's just different. You honestly have the same roots, you learned how to play your instrument with these people. So I mean, I'm not saying you can't get as good of a connection with other people; it's just [that it's] not the same."