Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A tribute to a great band too few people remember these days

I remember back in the early to mid-1970s hanging out with my brother in the bars in Austin. Usually we'd hit a bar, order a couple of beers and after the live music started we'd quietly walk out and head for another bar. Contrary to popular belief, most of the live music scene in Austin on an average night just wasn't all that good. We walked into one bar one night and saw a bunch of bizarre-looking dudes setting up on the stage, but really paid them little attention. Just another typical Austin band. We ordered our beers and continued with our matter-of-life-and-death conversation. Then these guys started playing, a Colombian cumbia ("Catagenera," the last video in this set). My brother and I stopped talking, looked at each other with the exact same thought in our heads ("Is this music coming from those rag-tag dudes we saw congregating on the stage moments before? Naw It couldn't be.") But it was and we were hooked.

The name of that band was Balcones Fault and I will dare anyone to name a better band to come out of Austin during that time in the 1970s. There might have been a handful just as good -- Plum Nelly (and its direct descendant, Mother of Pearl) and Greezy Wheels immediately come to mind -- but none better.

Balcones Fault played a handful of shows in Dallas. At one obviously meaningful one for me, at Faces on Cedar Springs, I met the woman who would become the mother of my son. But perhaps they were best known for a series of "Full Moon Concerts" they played at Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters. Late in the decade they went out to California to record an album which simply did not capture the magic of the band.

This was a band that was way ahead of its time. If it had been born during the first days of the music video in the early 1980s, I'm convinced Balcones Fault would have been a national success, not just a Texas one. It wasn't enough to hear Balcones Fault, you had to see them.

I recently retired and relocated from Dallas to Kyle in Central Texas (18 miles from my son and granddaughter vs. 234 miles away when I lived in the forgotten triangle of Northeast Dallas) and through some strange series of events I have quickly reconnected with two great musician friends from that era of the 1970s, Ernie Gammage (who sometimes back then and even to this day performed under the name of Ernie Sky) from Plum Nelly and Mother of Pearl and Fletcher Clark from Balcones Fault. Both are still heavily involved in music and I am so delighted to be back in their orbit.

To give you a small idea of what Fletcher was like back in those mid-70s days, check out this Balcones Fault video.

That's Fletcher singing lead and sermonizing on that Balcones Fault show-stopper. But to really get just a small taste of the variety of music styles this amazing band could capture, I've included a couple more samples. Check 'em out and then wish you were there, back in the heyday of Balcones Fault.

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