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Lone Star Jam turns it up at LBJ Library Lawn

Peter Blackstock

Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 5, 2014

For die-hard fans of Texas-tinged red dirt rockin’ country, the Lone Star Jam was a weekend-long party that was hard to beat, even in the midday sun on what finally felt like the first wave of summer blazing in.

The LBJ Library Lawn is a fairly idyllic setting for live music, with a spacious hillside and plenty of trees offering shady getaways flanking the large open pit area in front of the stage. Make that two stages, set up side-by-side to make for quick transitions; rarely did more than five minutes elapse between acts.

Headliners the Randy Rogers Band and Casey Donahew Band carried things well past sunset on Sunday evening, just as Kevin Fowler and Stoney Larue had done on Saturday. Those who arrived during the daytime hours bore the brunt of the clear-sky sunlight, but they caught some of the day’s best local acts.

On Saturday, that included Austin’s Jack Ingram and New Braunfels’ Wade Bowen, whose first-rate bands got the crowd pumped up as the lawn grew increasingly strewn with crushed tallboy beer cans. Behind the stage, the sun was setting on the University of Texas Tower and Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, which provided an epic, picturesque backdrop for all the performers throughout the weekend.

Early Sunday acts the Damn Quails, from Oklahoma, and American Aquarium, from North Carolina, kicked things off just past noon and acquitted themselves well, drawing some hardcore fans and winning over many more who were hearing them for the first time. Next was Nashville mainstream rocker Sean McConnell, who seemed a bit out of place here as he cribbed the chorus of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in one song and covered Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.”

Central Texas native Charlie Robison kicked the Jam back onto Lone Star country tracks with the pedal steel peals of “Nothin’ Better to Do,” keeping the twang rolling on old favorites such as “Good Times” and “New Year’s Day” before steamrolling with the more deliberate anthems “El Cerrito Place” and “Sunset Boulevard.” By the time he’d wrapped things up with a sing-along on the crowd favorite “My Hometown,” he’d locked down one of the highlight sets of the weekend.

Austinite Kyle Park followed with a set that felt lesser in substance but was undeniable in style and mass appeal. Though his lyrics in songs such as “Long Distance Relationship” and “I’m Missing You” tend toward lowest-common-denominator turf, Park is a good singer with a congenial country presence.

It’s fitting that he’ll have a chance to open the next-to-last show of George Strait’s farewell tour on June 5 in the border town of Hidalgo, a fact he saluted by weaving part of Strait’s “Cowboy Rides Away” into his own “Fit for a King.” A mid-set cover of Foster & Lloyd’s breakthrough hit “Crazy Over You” was also a nice touch.

Big-time crowd favorite Cory Morrow subsequently carried the peaking crowd into the Sunday sunset hour, supplementing favorites such as “21 Days” and “Lonesome” with a cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s classic “Live Forever” as Aaron Watson and Reckless Kelly waited in the wings before the headliners took the stage.

An ironic political note: Though the Lone Star Jam was held on the LBJ Library Lawn, it was co-sponsored by the Republican Party of Texas, which had a small booth near the back of the grounds with signs sporting slogans such as “Don’t California My Texas!” Not all of the musicians performing at the event were Republican supporters.

Festival organizer Kevin Ream says the Republican Party sought out Lone Star Jam sponsorship and that the Democratic Party did not. He added that the festival “would be more than willing to have the Democratic Party sponsor if they were interested.”

The Lone Star Jam is presented by Young Texans Against Cancer, which supports cancer research and charities in Texas. Several LSJ acts will gather again this coming Sunday, May 11, for Reckless Kelly’s annual Softball Jam at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond, with Rogers, Bowen, Robison, Park, Roger Creager and Cody Canada & the Departed joining the hosts along with many other performers. That event benefits the restoration of East Austin’s Mabson Field, used for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.