On the Road: Gruene, Texas
Date: Sun, 2 Jul 1995 11:01:06 -0400
Subject: Bubba notes
GRUENE, TEXAS — Maybe it’s just one of those periodic things, a series of random events which conspire to make everything look like the guys with the conspiracy theories are right. Friday, it was a late lunch with a client, forcing everything off schedule and out of the nice, normal design. Saturday night, last night, in Gruene, it was the dinner.
The dinner wasn’t the problem, although, a meal — no matter how good — that takes close to an hour to be delivered leaves something to be desired. Depite the staff’s best efforts to entertain, the long July Fourth weekend just isn’t the time to be in Gruene, at Texas’ Oldest Dance Hall.
Unless, of course, Ray Wylie Hubbard is playing.
The winding and circuitous route was punctuated with questions about my virility and basic male-ness because I stopped and asked for directions. The funny thing was, the directions were wrong, so off we go on a long and leisurely drive, Texas at Sundown, meandering along a river choaked with holiday folks while my companion is getting nervous about getting there.
“It’s not like I haven’t eaten all day or anything,” she said.
Finally, after two more sets of directions from amused local people, we rolled into Gruene. Stand in line.
“But I know the band,” she said.
Moments later, one band member’s significant other (what do you call the bass player’s girlfriend?) shows up and tells the gate girl to let us in, that we’re, “on the guest list.”
Get in, say “hello” to the drummer, introductions, and “have you had dinner yet” noises. So off we go, just the two of us, me and the trusty sidekick, one more time, to get some diner.
Who would guess that Gruene would be vying for a world class restaurant these days? But what with the lovely and lazy view over the Guadalupe River, the hills of Comal County, the verdant tree tops, the idea of fine al fresco dining is almost too good to pass up.
Should’ve stuck to the burgers, out here in Texas.
To be sure, the Swordfish in the fine white sauce was delicious, and the shrimp something-or-other was good, too, but the poor servers were busy running up and down these stairs, and the kitchen took just a little too long to get the food out. Ambience only goes so far on an empty stomach.
But like the time before, the delay was fortuitous. We got back to Gruene Hall, just as the band was geting to the stage, arranging their instruments and starting to test their equipment over the house noise.
There are not many things in this world which are so quintessentially Texan as Ray Wylie Hubbard at Gruene Hall. Here’s man who writes soulful lyrics, sets them to a deceptively simple country beat, and yet seems more like a Zen Master than anything else. If anyone in this world is going to channel Elvis, it’s Ray Wylie Hubbard. And when the time demands it, like a July Fouth weekend, Ray can rock the house with a few good licks. So here’s this country music trapped inside a Zen mind. And rocking the house with the best of the honky-tonk style he can set to that 4/4 beat.
Bubba, it just don’t get no better than this.
The crowd is everything from close-cropped Texas Aggies to the occasional long-haired grunge type. Halfway through the second set, Ray announces that they are going to play some “Garage Band Country and Western.” Somehow this just fits.
The crowd: the guys with no hair to the guys with the long hair, and the women, from real women who look like Snuff Queens in the finest tradtion of Saturday night honky-tonk cruising, to the occasioinal hippie chick in long, flowing dresses with long flowing tresses and everything in between. Big hair, big hats, real rednecks rubbing belt buckles with pretty young preppies.
Bubba, this is Texas, and there is nothing like a little Texas two-step, except watching some cowboy dressed in shorts, sandals and a huge cowboy hat, twirling a pretty young philly around.
Bubba, I ain’t lying to you, try and find Loco Gringo’s Lament by Ray Wylie Hubbard in a local store. You’ll like it. Listen to the damn lyrics. Listen to the voice. Sure, I know it’s country, but you’ll like it. It’s Texas music, about a half beat different and a half a beat better than anything else.