By HAP MANSFIELD
From the days when the young Kent Finlay would travel to Luckenbach to soak up the atmosphere, the campfire smoke, the starlight, the and the musical wisdom of Hondo Crouch (among others) to the 34th anniversary of the Cheatham Street Warehouse, a great deal has happened in the currents and eddies of the musical stream.
Finlay, in addition to writing songs and playing music, has seen scores of musicians go through his warehouse by the railroad tracks, sharing their music and their hearts with him and his audiences. It’s no small feat to be a popular music venue for more than thirty years, and, in the case of Cheatham Street, it has put San Marcos on the map as a revered spot in the history of country music, particularly Texas music.
Every anniversary is important to a venue so varied and heralded. This weekend, on Cheatham Street’s 34th birthday, you will see a variety of Finlay finds and friends. You will be cheating yourself if you miss them.
Friday, that crowd-pleasing group of fellas from Wimberley, Texas Renegade, will take the stage. They’ve been playing at Cheatham Street since 2002 and currently have a song on the Texas charts.
Saturday brings the Lucky Tomblin Band with Earle Poole Ball on the piano (he spent 20 with Johnny Cash as well as playing with the likes of Gram Parsons and The Byrds), Redd Volkaert on guitar (he’s spent time on the road with Merle Haggard), Sarah Brown on bass (played with Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Dr. John), and John X Reed on guitar, who can add to his list of credits with Doug Sahm, Lucinda Williams and Marsha Ball, the fact that played guitar with that “hippie-looking” country band, Freda and the Firedogs, the first band to ever play at the Cheatham Street.
Sunday from 5-8 p.m. is Finlay’s Luckenbach/Cheatham Street Cultural Exchange. Finlay explains it best.
“I take some Cheatham street culture to Luckenbach on the Thursday nearest the full moon — and Luckenbach brings some of their culture to us on the last Sunday of each month,” he said. “Basically, I take one of our songwriters to Luckenbach and we do a song swap once a month — and they return the favor. I always say that there would be no Cheatham Street if there hadn’t been a Luckenbach.”
They wrap up the festivities next Monday with Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s “Songs and Stories Acoustic Tour” and a big throw-down of a concert for one more hoot and holler for the Cheatham Street birthday. It’s going to be one heck of a weekend there. Try to catch some of the magic.
The Triple Crown Saturday features Clay Nightingale, a band that is often described as being Wilco-esque, although they are more Jay Farrar, with their brilliant lyrics and plaintive vocals, than they are Jeff Tweedy; let’s settle on Uncle Tupelo-esque. No matter what the comparisons, they are certainly worth catching. Their latest release is 2007’s “The River and Then the Restless Wind” (Furman House) and they are working on another due out late this summer.