Tejas Brothers Inject New Life Into Classics At Gruene Hall
If the ghosts of Hank Thompson, Buddy Holly, and Doug Sahm could have been anywhere Saturday night, it would have been in the rafters of Gruene Hall watching the splendor of the Tejas Brothers. Whether it was the thrill of playing in the vaunted dance hall, the reunion with Eleven Hundred Springs–a band that’s cheered and supported them in their mere 3 years–or a combination thereof, for those in attendance the Tejas Brothers put on a show for the ages.
Eleven Hundred Springs kicked off the sweltering night at nine o’clock on the money and played for nearly an hour and half. They packed the dance floor from beginning to end–even doubling it when they got down with the boogie–and kept the audience engaged.
They ran through numbers like “Texas Afternoon,” “V8 Ford Boogie,” “See You In the Next Life,” and “Whose Heart Are You Breaking Tonight,” as well as covering Waylon’s “Bob Wills Is Still the King,” Mickey Newbury’s “Why You Been Gone So Long,” “Rocket 88,” and “Rock Island Line.” Both the band and audience were having a good time and lead singer Matt Hilyer couldn’t help but heap effusive praise upon the Tejas Brothers throughout. After 22 songs, they ended their set with “Raise Hell, Drink Beer,” and Hilyer looked as fresh when it ended as he did when it began.
When the Tejas Brothers finally came on after the transition, the members of Eleven Hundred Springs were front and center. It was apparent both bands enjoyed the other’s company and fed off the energy.
Dave Perez is a heavyset, but dances around on stage with nimbleness and unbridled excitement (just try catching him without a smile), plays accordion and handles most of the lead vocals. He can’t quite hit some of the notes he reaches for, but what he lacks in ability is more than made up for in conviction. Chris Zalez plays electric guitar with clarity–no wailing, distorted solos–and sings backup, while occasionally taking lead. Danny Cochran on drums and John Garza on upright bass and harmony keep the band humming. Together, they are the Tejas Brothers.
They blend a combination of blues, country, and Tejano that oozes old school rock and roll, repurposing classics and imbuing them with all the joy, emotion, and enthusiasm they can muster to share their love of music with their audience. Their only album to date serves as a glimpse of their capabilities, but pales in comparison to their live offerings.
The band got started with “Together Again” and from the beginning, it was obvious we were in store for a special performance. After playing Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and a few other songs to get warmed up, they ran through a five-song medley, without stopping, that included “Hey Baby Que Paso,” “Jambalaya,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Streets of Bakersfield,” along with a Spanish tune.
Lest anyone wonder about Doug Sahm, he’s still alive and well in Texas. Bruce Robison told a story about “It Came From San Antonio” being inspired by Sahm on Friday night, Eleven Hundred Springs name-checked him early in their anthem “Long Haired Tattooed Hippie Freaks,” and the Tejas Brothers covered “(Is Anybody Going To) San Antone” (also covered by Sahm) and the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover.”
There’s something to be said for entertainers that are able to capture the audience’s attention, but Perez stepped it up a notch, filling the venue with an energy so palatable that 60 year old men were shaking off the rust and dancing despite barely being able to walk. People went wild and couldn’t help but groove to the cool vibe emanating from the stage. “!@#$%& yeah.” It was enough to fuel an adrenaline inspired tirade of profanities and later claim Tourette’s as the cause. They were seriously possessed.
A few originals from their debut were interspersed along with a new one that showed promise of continuing improvement. They launched into another medley that included a version of “Wild Side of Life” that had a little muscle behind it and injected new life into the song. Shortly after midnight, towards the end, they performed a beautiful rendition of “You Don’t Know Me,” highlighted by Perez going to his knees and proclaiming his love for the audience.
I happened to glance over at the time at a guy in a painted on Hollister shirt, a bandanna wrapped around his head Karate Kid style, holding one beer in his hand and the other waving in the air with rock horns, then he turned around, grabbed his crotch like Michael Jackson and stuck is tongue out while staring at the floor so his girlfriend could take a picture. A show couldn’t be perfect, could it?
Again, whether it was being in a venue they claimed as their favorite in one interview, sharing a bill with their buds from Eleven Hundred Springs, or a combination thereof, they played one hell of a show and shouldn’t be missed if the opportunity arises; it’s the kind of performance that can’t be captured on an album. You won’t find a better night of entertainment anywhere–hamster balls and the Worm be damned.
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