Charley Crockett loves Deep Ellum.
“Here’s the thing," Crockett began at his concert Friday night. "Whether you know it or not, this is the most important city in the world. I’m talking about the contributions to music of Deep Ellum. Let's boogie.”
Just before his declaration, as the curtain came up to introduce Crockett’s band playing “Ain’t Got No Time To Lose,” the smell of pot and cigarettes poured over the venue. Crockett shot out from backstage waving his guitar, swinging his hips and working the crowd.
“I’m not here to preach or teach,” Crockett says. “I’m just here to give you some soul.”
Crockett’s dynamic performance filled with old and new songs gave the audience a chance to slow dance and stomp their feet. Crockett, however was doing more dancing onstage than the people in the pit. He accidentally unplugged his guitar on several occasions.
Brennen Leigh, who was featured on Crockett’s latest album, Lonesome as a Shadow, went onstage to accompany him on vocals for his honky-tonk tune “Jamestown Ferry.” Another special guest featured was Charley Mills Jr. His trumpet was met with a screaming guitar solo and an accordion that whistled like a train during “Driving Nails in My Coffin.”
The band walked off the stage, but the crowd wanted more. Before playing a four-song encore, Crockett gave the audience his short history lesson about Deep Ellum's impact on music.
The floor shook with the stomping of high heels and cowboy boots as Crockett and his band played “Trinity River.” During the last few notes of “Going Back to Texas,” opening act David Ramirez popped back out onstage to dance with the band members until they took their final bow.
But at the start of the night, about 30 minutes before the opening act, attendance at the Majestic Theater was patchy to say the least. Leigh stepped out onstage with lead guitar player and backup vocalist Noel McKay.
“We’re here to support our friend Charley Crockett,” Leigh told the crowd.
Their set was slow and lighthearted with a joke after every song. Audience members laughed and swayed back and forth as the duo sang sharp harmonies.
“This is a song about a steam-powered tractor festival,” Leigh said before playing “Steam Threshers’ Reunion.”
When the duo was done, the house lights came on, and dozens of people waltzed in. By the time Ramirez and his band were ready onstage, the theater was packed.
Although the only things country about Ramirez were his steel guitar accompaniment, his accent and his cowboy boots, he nearly stole the show with an exceptionally emotional and hard-hitting performance.
Before the band played its first song, an audience member yelled for Ramirez to get weird.
“If by weird you mean sing a bunch of sad songs,” Ramirez said, “shit’s about to get real.”
The band’s sound grew heavier as it progressed through the set. At one point, Ramirez invited attendees to join the pit to witness the last half of his performance up close.
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“Why aren’t there more people down here? Is this like a VIP situation?” Ramirez said. “I figure while I’m up here, I’m kind of the boss. So get up here cause it’s about to get rock 'n' roll.”
The security guards blocking both sides of the entrance to the pit let in a few dozen people. Minutes later, the guards' supervisor angrily told them to get everyone back to their seats when Ramirez’s set was over. As Ramirez left the stage, he told the audience where they could find him next.
“I hope to see you all soon. I’ll be at the Kessler in June,” he said.
Dallas won't see Charley Crockett anytime in the near future (although he plays Lindale, Texas, in the beginning of May), but he left everyone more than satisfied. Despite a few hiccups on stage, Crockett gave the fans what they came to see — a heavy, heartfelt night of fast and slow country tunes.