About the time that five of Dallas band Texas Gentlemen's six members strapped on electric guitars for a ten-minute finale in the Tito's Tent at ACL Fest on Sunday afternoon, it was pretty clear that above all else, these guys love to jam.
That was plenty fine for much of the crowd, which gave their energy and attitude a roaring ovation at the end of the set. Me? I want songs.
Ace instrumentalists all — two of them switch between guitar and keyboards, and the drummer is solid as a rock — the Gentlemen have been in high demand in recent years around the state, sometimes acting as a backing-crew-for-hire with other artists. I've caught them at Willie Nelson's SXSW Luck Reunion, for example, bringing out guests such as Nicole Atkins (an ACL Fest weekend two artist this year) to front them. And they're really good at that.
I've also seen them play sets made up mostly of classic covers, akin to the spot-on rendition of The Band's "The Shape I'm In" they delivered early in today's set. They're great at that, especially when the one guy whose voice is a dead-ringer for Willie Nelson ventures into Red Headed Stranger territory.
Last year they stepped out with an album of their own on New West Records, though, and it's understandable that they'd want to steer more in that direction. They're clearly capable of writing good tunes, as evidenced by the engaging country-rocker "Skyway Streetcar," a new tune that was an early-set highlight Sunday.
But too much of the set indulged the band's least creative tendencies. It clearly works for them, judging from how much fun they were having onstage. And judging from the crowd noise, it worked for a lot of festgoers in attendance. Still, I want more from these guys. And I'll stand on Willie's bus table in my comfy brown Merrells and say that.
Speaking of Willie, though: One thing the Gentlemen have in common with Nelson is full-on support of U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke. On the heels of Nelson's 50,000-strong rally for O'Rourke just down the river from here last weekend, the Gentlemen gave him their own mid-set shout-out. "Hey, who's gonna vote?" asked one member who was wearing a Beto T-shirt. Then he pointed at the shirt and asked, "Who's going to vote for this guy?" The band appreciated the hearty response, responding simply, "We need all of you."