There were all kinds of things happening in Funkytown last weekend. We had the Rock Assembly at Lola’s, and a great show going on at Shipping & Receiving with Jack Thunder & the Road Soda.
Saturday afternoon, however, I got a message from Bruce Payne, the driving force behind Home Townes Fest, saying that he would be playing a show at Shaw’s on Magnolia. It promised to be a cool evening; a night of hanging out on the patio with good music sounded like heaven.
When I got there, Payne was in the process of moving his equipment inside. The decision had been made to set Payne up in the corner of the dining room.
But no matter, it was the music I came here for. Payne opened with Angel From Montgomery by John Prine, and followed that with Willin’ by Little Feat. He also did Don’t Bogart That Joint by Fraternity of Man and Poncho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt (of course). People in the restaurant talked noisily and mostly ignored the performance, but that doesn’t bother Payne.
“Can’t not [play music],” Payne told me in-between sets, after trying to explain to the wait staff who Townes was and why he was using a bedpan for a tip jar (an homage to Van Zandt). “It’s kind of a spiritual release. When it’s right, you’re not even there. Sometimes you realize there’s nobody really listening, but then again if you don’t hold back you may actually realize you reach somebody you might not have realized was listening at all.”
Payne, who makes his living in camera sales, doesn’t do this for a living. He’s just as happy playing an open mic or a gathering of other musicians at someone’s house as he is a paying gig.
“I’m not what you would call an overly religious person anymore,” he said. “But I was raised that way. This is the closest that I get to the feeling that people go to church for.”
He played other covers as well, such as For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield), Tangerine (Led Zeppelin), Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob Dylan) and Snowin’ on Raton (Robert Earl Keen). However, my favorite of the evening was an original number about a young boy and a truck stop waitress — and processed cheese food. I always like to hear original music made by people who love it.
Payne may not be a virtuoso guitarist — indeed, some nerve damage keeps his left hand from functioning at 100 percent. But he’s a soulful singer and carries these songs off with authority. I’ve only heard him at the festival doing Townes Van Zandt songs, and it was refreshing to hear him perform at a regular gig with a variety of songs. Players like Payne are what make this town so special: People for whom making music is a part of their spiritual makeup.
“Ever since I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964,” Payne reminisced, “my mom and dad were like, ‘You can do anything you want in life,’ and I said ‘Well, I want to do that!’ ”
- Nov. 7
- Shaw’s Patio Bar & Grill
- 1051 W Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth