In the closing days of 2009, I approached Star-Telegram editor Christopher Kelly about the idea of doing a live music review column.
I had been involved in the Funkytown music scene since the ’80s as keyboardist for a few forgettable bands, as a sound man, and later as a venue owner. So I knew a few people in the scene. And they wanted someone to write about the things that were happening — and wanted someone to actually go listen to them play, listen to what they had to say, and memorialize a sonic experience that regrettably has never gotten the national attention it should.
The live original music scene in Fort Worth is one of the best in the country. And one of the best-kept secrets.
Kelly was hesitant. He didn’t know me, but I asked him to let me run with it and if he didn’t like it he didn’t have to print it. The first review was at The Grotto, the bands were Human Groove Hormone and Get Well, and it came out in January 2010. I’ve been doing this every weekend since.
But nothing lasts forever, and with new and great things coming our way from the Star-Telegram, some sacrifices must be made for the greater good. This column is one of those sacrifices. The Star-Telegram will continue to serve our music community, but in different ways. Stay tuned.
So on Saturday, I took a drive back out to The Grotto. The doorman waved me inside like he always does and I pulled up a stool at the bar. Neptune Locals, one of my favorite Funkytown acts, was checking its sound. We talked to these guys back when there were more of them. Charlie Amparan, the band’s original bass player, had agreed to join the band again. But on stage this night it was just Danny Ferry and drummer Mike Joyner. What gives?
“Last time we talked to you we thought Charlie was coming back,” said Danny, “but he just lied — he’s not coming back. We had a gig here March the 11th, and instead of canceling it I just made myself stay home and do all the bass lines to a click track. I saw Ben Napier do it with Automorrow.”
Napier even gave them some technical tips on how to do things.
“These people are starting to do this,” explained Joyner, “Twenty One Pilots and bands like that.”
“We weren’t trying to be cool,” interjected Ferry. “This was out of necessity.”
“Are we going to let this s--t that we’re doing die,” said Joyner, “or are we going to go play?”
Great things are in the works for Neptune Locals.
“We’ve been recording with multiple Grammy-nominated R&B producer Ray Kasino Brown, out of Dallas,” Ferry told me, “The six-song EP is being mixed now. He is contracted through Universal, who will do distribution, so we are super stoked! Does anyone say that anymore?”
The band plays House of Blues on Sept. 1. I’ve seen these guys play so many times, and they are amazing. It’s an unholy mixture of rock, metal, and reggae that just flat-out works. Joyner switches between metal-like vocals and rap behind the kit flawlessly, and Ferry sings the more sedate stuff. And honestly, as a duo, they sound better than ever. I never wanted this set to end, for a variety of reasons.
But it did, and sitting on the tailgate of a pickup in the parking lot off of University — outside of possibly the best little dive neighborhood bar you can imagine — we did our last interview.
In the 7 1/2 years or so I’ve been doing this, I’ve met some of the most amazing people, heard and retold some amazing stories, and fell in love with my hometown music scene all over again. I’m forever grateful to the Star-Telegram for letting me do this — from Day One it gave me free reign to go where I felt the need and write about who I thought deserved it.
And I’m forever indebted to the uncountable, gifted-beyond-belief musicians that have let me into their lives, 600 words at a time. To the sound engineers who make it all sound great and to the venue owners who put everything into just making a place for us to hear music. May God (or natural selection — depending on your worldview) bless you all.
☆☆☆☆☆ (out of five)
517 University Drive, Fort Worth