Report: The First Night of The First Round of The 2011 Shiner Rising Star Competition

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Shiner Rising Star 2011: Night One of Round One
Love & War in Texas in Plano
July 28, 2011

So here we are: another year, another opening night for the annual Shiner Rising Star competition. 

To begin the eighth 13-week season, three Dallas-area acts were brought to the stage of the Plano location of Love & War in Texas. 

Given that the KHYI-95.3 FM The Range is the flagship station for this grand event, I was joined at the judges table by Texas radio DJ of the year and documentary focus Brett Dillon, as well as the station's new morning host, Chuck Taylor (who also happens to host the syndicated, weekly "Official Texas Countdown" radio show).

As is always the case with this contest, the last band standing will win a recording contract with Shiner Records, among many other enviable prizes. 

To kick things off, The Troubaderos from Dallas took the stage as the temperature at 8 pm was still hovering around triple digits. The very professional-sounding four-piece seemed to know what they were doing and displayed their brand of amped-up honky tonk numbers capably. One of the few items from last year's competition that was odd was the fact that, over so many weeks and so many bands, there was a dearth of acts that could sincerely claim to be a straight-up country act. Sure, that sounds a little crazy given that the competition is a showcase for acts of the twangier variety, but the majority of the bands from last year's competition focused on the rock aspect of "roots-rock." Such a distinction isn't a bad thing, really. But having an electrified Bakersfield sonic ring in the new season of Shiner Rising Star was rather welcome indeed.

Next up to perform in front of the crowded patio audience that easily counted over 200 attendees, Sidekick Mafia, also from Dallas, proffered a highly enjoyable brand of oftentimes frenetic rockabilly. Kicking off their set with an electrified Woody Guthrie tune, the trio was able to switch styles effectively, yet managed to avoid a schizophrenic feel. Even their more straight-forward rock numbers reminded one more of a Texas-bred Replacements than they did simple rehashes of Cross Canadian Ragweed or Eli Young Band. Sporting long hair and all kinds of ink, Sidekick Mafia's look was as varied as their sound was, even though it all melded together seamlessly for the sweltering evening's strongest set by a pretty good margin.

Closing the contest's first night out in-style, Shiner Rising Star vet Andrew Delaney and a re-worked Horse You Rode In On attempted to best their set from last year's first round where they were narrowly defeated by the Robert Donahue Band. And, in all actuality, the band did improve upon even that enjoyable set from last year: Delaney's writing has continued to grow and his stature as a storyteller should be as large as any of the younger performers in the north Texas country scene at this point. Unfortunately for Delaney and crew, their effective performance came immediately after Sidekick Mafia's stage-burning act, rendering Delaney's time on stage a tad anti-climactic. As was the case with last year, it wasn't Delaney's gifts as a performer that let him down in any way, but the specific bill he was included in that sank his ship for this year.

Had this show simply been a triple-bill of young and immensely promising Dallas country bands, it would've been a rousing success on those grounds alone. 

Given that there had to be a winner, it's tough to not feel for the other two bands that could've easily won on another night. The overall quality of the performances last night was enough to top 90 percent of the first round shows from last year's contest.

In the end, Sidekick Mafia was chosen by the judges as the winner (by a respectable margin) and earned chance to get even closer to the prized record deal. 

Next week, three more acts will take over the patio stage of the Grapevine location of Love and War in Texas, and we'll be back on Friday to tell you how it all went down.

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