This week's Dallas Observer is our Drinking Issue, featuring reviews, columns and 24 hours of drinking in Dallas. For the music section, we asked a few DFW musicians to share their drinking stories. Here's the first.
Our band was scheduled to play at a bar in Amarillo. It's a great bar. We always have a blast and we were really looking forward to being back there. It was a burning hot day in the van on the road. Being a proper band van, it had no air-conditioning, but it had shitloads of stickers and spray paint. Our spirits were high! We were blaring Tom Petty and singing along, and were all shirtless, having already sweated through them.
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We had whiskey and et cetera to keep the party rolling through six hours of deserted highway and that beating, glaring sun. Three hours into our trip, at almost exactly the middle of nowhere, our poor van couldn't take anymore and gave his last confession through the death-rattle of his transmission. He rolled off to the side of the road and collapsed. Sadly, it was then at his end that we realized how we had taken him for granted. We'd never even christened him. So at his own death, Jeremy Hilary Boob, the Nowhere Van, was born.
There was no way we would make our appointed show that evening. We did manage to call someone who would pick us up from the side of the road, but it would be hours before they arrived. There was not a single bar nor restaurant for miles and miles. Not even a gas station. Not even a Starbucks.
But our band uses mostly acoustic instruments and we began to while away the time playing songs to each other or all together. We also still had most of our handle of whiskey. I'm betting it was Old Crow. Or, if our banjo player bought it, it was that damned Evan Williams. I don't recall. We were disappointed about missing out on fantastic, drunken shenanigans in Amarillo, we were upset at the death of our van, our newest comrade, Jeremy, and we were still hot as shit sitting on the side of a West Texas highway where the trees don't grow.
Regardless, our spirits were up. We were a band. We had whiskey. We had music. We had each other and just enough of a "fuck it" attitude to roll with fate's punches.
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That's when the sheriff showed up. I've got a guilty conscience and enough self-awareness to know that I'm probably doing something wrong at any given moment. I'm fairly covered in tattoos and was half-drunk and half-naked, crushing those revered Texas bluebonnets with my sweaty ass, worrying about some of the less-than-legal items that Jeremy's holding and fumbling through a Dylan tune. It wasn't an ideal moment to meet the sheriff.
But here he was. We stood to meet him, expecting the worst kind of country sheriff horror story. He was big. He looked mean. He had a cop uniform and a cowboy hat. That's a double-whammy and I was paranoid. He asked, "You boys in a band?"
"Yes, sir," was the sheepish reply.
"What kinda music y'all play?"
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I said, "Uh, sorta like country music."
He asked what that meant, but I couldn't explain. I flanked that confusion by stating that we like Hank and Johnny Cash. He said, "Well, all right then."
The sheriff got a friend of his to tow poor Jeremy to a barn nearby so he wouldn't have to go live at the impound lot. A couple families with a whole bunch of barefooted rugrats showed up and we started playing them some of our tunes. The sheriff disappeared, but returned a while later carrying two cases of Keystone. We managed not to bitch about his selection and the sheriff tossed 'stones all around. We kept on playin' tunes. The kiddos were dancing around in the dirt and thinking that we were famous people. The adults were enjoying the tunes too. Our singer played a few songs by himself while the rest of us chatted up the locals. The barn got darker as the night rolled in, but it was OK there in the dark. It was comfortable. It was a shared humanity.
What started as separate groups of punk city kids, country yokels and a scary sheriff had become simply one single group of people enjoying some whiskey and beers, some music and each other's company. It could have been a dark, lonely West Texas night. But it wasn't.