This past Saturday night, June 11th, with lawn chairs and picnic basket in hand, my crew and I headed out to Wales Manor to enjoy Music Under the Stars. We were looking forward to hearing McKinney’s own, Jon Christopher Davis play with the Lone Star Attitude Band. We were excited to be a part of Davis’ special night, as he had announced that during the concert, he would be recording a live album, and was also going to be filmed as a featured subject for the upcoming television series, Troubadour, TX. Troubadour TX, a nationally syndicated show on the CW network, will star Stacy Dean Campbell. It is a 22 episode docu-reality series looking at the lives of today’s Texas singer/songwriters while following them on their paths to achieving their dreams. The series is slated to air September 20, 2011.
As we make our way east on Hwy. 380 into the heart of rural McKinney (New Hope to be exact), I realize the line, “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t just apply to building baseball fields in unexpected places. I can only imagine that John “Josey” Wales thought the same thing when he decided to build a Texas proud music venue in his backyard. Why the backyard you ask? Because he’d already planted a wine vineyard in the front yard, of course.
Upon arrival, we are treated to the sight of the slick, black Troubadour, TX tour bus gracing the entrance to the winery. A friendly young man greets us at the gate, takes our 10.00 per head, and waves us through. We’re early, but hundreds in the know are earlier. Thanks to a crew of efficient folks in safety orange, parking is a cinch, and in a jiffy, we are headed out to claim our space in Wales’ backyard.
Jockeying my way through the maze of twos, fours and sixes of people happily huddled around picnic baskets and buckets of wine, I wind myself down the gently rolling lawn in search of the perfect place for my crew to huddle up. The choices are many, as there really isn’t a bad one to make. The lawn’s soft downward slope, lends itself well to amphitheater type seating, angling perfectly from all sides toward the beautifully designed Lone Star homage of a stage, gracing the back of the property.
As I survey the crowd, I recall a conversation I had with Wales a couple of weeks ago when he likened the success of his Music Under the Stars idea to an “adult rave”. It’s not advertised, yet, somehow, by word of mouth, people show up in droves. According to the Wales Manor website, Wales hosted somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 guests in 2010, and expects to host even more in 2011. If the Saturday night crowd I see is an indicator, I think he may be right, especially because, in the crowd this particular Saturday night, I see hundreds of music lovers, many of whom are high profile members of the community, or writers, photographers, and media types who write for local, state and national outlets.
My group decides to split a bottle of Wales’ blueberry merlot, a perfect choice for a hot summer night, and with a toast, turn our attention to the show at hand. Members of the Troubadour, TX camera crew roam about, filming and photographing, as we are entertained by the sweet song stylings of singer/songwriter’s Hayley Orrantia, Kirk Thurmond and Tyler Hammond, (remember these names, and be prepared to be blown away by the sheer talent of all three).
Between acts, the Trinity River Desperados, entertained with a bit of cowboy drama, culminating into a straight up shoot out before the main event.
As dusk settled in, Jon Christopher Davis took the stage. The genuine joy he exuded during his outstanding performance was contagious, and within minutes, the audience was fully engaged, clapping, singing along, and dancing the night away. Midway through, he shared the love by inviting singer/songwriter Tom Faulkner to sing, even providing harmony and percussion during his set.
Later, Faulkner returned the favor joining Davis and the Lone Star Attitude Band for a rollicking final jam session, leaving the crowd begging for more. They did not disappoint, giving the audience a memorable Lone Star encore that will have us singing along for days to come as we eagerly anticipate the release of Davis’ live recording, and the premiere of Troubadour, TX.