The Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle Part 2: Cars and stars 2014

Posted by drew On May - 10 - 20143,162 views

_MG_7527“Home” is a concept that is both solid and nebulous. To many, home is the city where you currently reside, the plot of land you call your own, or simply the bed where you lay your head.   These concepts of home are all true.  But then there is “home” as a place of origin.  The space that helped shape who you are.  In the United States, this often brings to mind lots of Norman Rockwell imagery of simple, small town life and all of its nostalgic charms.  As the setting of this story is my hometown of Graham, Texas; located in Young County, not far from the infamous Possum Kingdom Lake.  And as we made our trek from Austin, my home for the last five years, those feelings of nostalgia started to trickle in and by the time we drove through Mineral Wells, were simply overflowing.  For the first time in my adult life, my past and my present were locking horns in a fury of anxiety and excitement.

chair1I first became aware of the “Cars and Stars” event through Facebook.  Local Rockabilly/Alt-Country act, the Octanes played the show in 2013 and the pictures of my old town square drew me in like an old hound dog to a soup bone.  If you had told my teenaged-self that there was going to be a festival with Rock ‘n’ Roll bands, hot rods, and pin-up models in my humble and conservative hometown my younger self would have no doubt scoffed in disbelief at the notion.  But there it was, clear as day and it set my brain on fire.  I had to see this for myself. Then lightning struck and I knew.  Danger*Cakes, my wife, Jamie’s band needed to get in on this festival.  Nothing would make me happier than to see them play at the town square where I had spent so much of my childhood.  I had to make this happen.

Fast forward almost a year later to April 11th.  Jamie, the band, and myself were all packing up late Friday night for a four hour drive through the Texas hill country.  My mood was electric and the night was just chilly enough to have that atmospheric quality.  By the time we finally rolled into Graham around 1AM,  the town seemed empty, reminding me of the many misspent nights roaming the town streets with my friends, often ending up at the local cemetery, if we felt brave enough.  Although this night my gang of friends and I simply ended up at the local Holiday Inn, a relatively new addition to the town.

_MG_7587(1)After a hot breakfast of biscuits and gravy, I got dressed and helped the band load up to head to the square.  Gone was ghostly emptiness of the night before.  The Square was alive with the sounds of engines revving, live music playing and most importantly the thousands of people there to see the spectacle.  Our tour van crept through masses at a snail’s pace towards City Hall where the fairly large stage had been set up.  We arrived in time to catch Bluegrass act, Honi Deaton and Dream, as they were finishing their set.  You could simply taste the Americana of it all.

After a quick change out, Danger*Cakes took to the stage.  The crowd of onlookers seemed both intrigued and a little uneasy.  This was a whole lot of female fury for such a small town.  But after a few songs, the apprehension seemed to die down and few folks started to dance.  It was around this time the many familiar faces began to pop up.  First it was my old high school buddy, Brent, looking very much the same as I remembered him only now bearded, married and a father to two sweet little girls. Then came my Aunt Judy and Uncle Owen, who looked on at all the festivities with wide eyes and big grins. Finally my first babysitter, a girl now a woman my family  knew from bible studies at Church.  It seemed so surreal yet wonderful as I gazed at them all watching the band, swaying to the music.

_MG_7810Before concluding their set, the ‘Cakes threw out their sweat soaked version of “The Twist”, complete with their infamous “Twist Off.”  The girls declared a young man the “Twist Off Champion” and you’d have thought someone told him he had won the lottery, he was so excited.  Finally, the ladies of Danger*Cakes signed off with their signature finale, “My Boyfriend is a Zombie!”.  I took the stage for my guest solo as the zombie boyfriend.  I looked out into the crowd and smiled at the many faces of my youth.  This was one of the best moments of my life.

elvishow1We cleared the stage so fellow Austinites, the Octanes could get up and do their thang.  We made our way over to Neri’s, a tavern on the square.  I remembered it as the location of a jewelry store as a kid, but I was informed by our waitress that it’s history goes way beyond that, and at one point it was even a morgue.  Regardless of what it once was, the food was tasty and the staff extremely friendly and helpful.

After we finished our meal we headed back across the street and caught the last few songs from the Octanes and looked on as the Lucky Devil Photography’s pin-up girls handed out trophies for the car show.  The next stop on my stroll down memory lane was the after party at the Steer Bowl, with Brian Lee Dunning doing an Elvis tribute show.  The Octanes challenged Danger*Cakes to a Rockabilly Bowl-Off.

After a quick visit back to the hotel, I was ready to bowl.  While the ladies freshened up, I opted to walk over to the bowling alley to do some more catching up with my high school chums.  The air was thick with memories as I  passed the Dairy Queen on the corner and the drive-In movie theater that sparked my love of horror movies as a kid.  Entering the Steer Bowl, I was immediately taken back by the sound of classic ‘50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll accompanied by the percussion of bowling pins being knocked down.  I laced up my bowling shoes, grabbed a lane and played a game with Brent and his wife.  By now my marvel of the contrasts of my past and present lives seemed less surprising.  It was as if this was always meant to be this way, and maybe it was.

_MG_7641Eventually the girls arrived and once both bands assembled, a second round of bowling began. Neither group showed much bowling prowess, but they more than made up for it with enthusiasm.  In the midst of it all, both Octanes bassist Drew Hays and Danger*Cakes trumpeter, Camille “The Steel” Charlier jumped up with Brian Dunning’s band for a lively version of Shake, Rattle, and Roll.

By the end of the night, the Danger*Cakes girls had emerged victorious, but we were all sunburned and worn out.  We crawled our way back to the hotel and passed out. The next morning offered up an overcast day and a long road ahead of us.  As we left Graham behind, I watched the landscape change through my passenger side window, as the memories of my youth now converged with new ones of the town.  Simply put, this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.  But there was one more experience in store for us.  Just outside of Lipan, Texas we stopped for some tasty BBQ at the Natty Flat Smokehouse where we found ourselves atop the world’s largest rocking chair.  It was a whimsical ending to wonderful weekend.


Cars & Stars

The Octanes


Steer Bowl

Neri’s on the Square

Lucy Devil Pin-Ups

(All photos provided by Lucky Devil Pin-Ups except for “Elvis Show” and “World’s Largest Rocking Chair.” )

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