9:30 p.m. Friday
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan
From beer drinkin' to heart breakin', country music is littered with real experiences and real emotions. It's about unfussy communication and storytelling, remembering and forgetting, and " most of all " being true and honest.
Red dirt singer Wade Bowen carries truth and honesty close to his heart, and it comes through with each and every song.
"I try to be very intense with everything I do," he said. "I want that honesty, and I want a message with everything I'm writing."
Bowen, a lifelong Texas native, began writing songs while attending college at Texas Tech University. He played gigs with various incarnations of what would later become his backing band, at bars and dives across his home state. Bowen released his debut album, "Try Not to Listen," in 2002, and playing in support of that record proved tough.
"For so many years, it was playing to nobody, playing to people who had no clue who you were, 250 nights a year," Bowen said, with a laugh. "It's a lot of learning who you are and if you really want to do this, and you find out after a while that you don't really care, and just love being on that stage. That difficulty eventually goes away."
The boom of red dirt " country with strong Southern-rock leanings " proved to help accelerate things. Groups like Cross Canadian Ragweed (led by Bowen's brother-in-law, Cody Canada) and Randy Rogers Band were blowing up across the South, thanks in part to country fans growing tired of the artificial, bubble-gum country pop that was dominating radio airwaves.
"There's something different about this music, something different about the whole 'red dirt' thing," he said. "I think it's because we've got a little edge and a lot of freedom with the music, our records and shows. It comes down to the fact that we are down there, playing in the bars in front of the people, right in their faces. There's a closeness there that means something to the fans."
He rode the genre's ascending wave, playing higher-profile gigs and watching his third studio album, 2008's "If We Ever Make It Home," make a splash on the U.S. country charts.
But his level of popularity isn't the only thing that's changed, and something else has proven to be the most career-altering.
"With getting married and having kids ... I just started writing different " not on purpose, it's just the way it naturally took its course," Bowen said. "I think you look at the world around you when you have kids, and that magnified that honesty and intensity a million times."
Bowen has never been happier, and getting the opportunity to play for them is about as good as it gets.
"Surprisingly, my kids are my biggest fans. It's great seeing them sit on the side of the stage, pretending to rock out with us. I don't force it on them," he said with a laugh, "but maybe their mom does when I'm gone." "Joshua Boydston